The Eucharist and voting our Christian conscience – Catholic World Report

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

To cast a vote for a candidate who calls evil good and good evil is, in effect, “to lay violent hands upon Christ” (CCC, 598) rather than to allow his blood to purify our conscience. It is to rupture the unity between the Eucharist and daily life.

The Eucharist and voting our Christian conscience – Catholic World Report
The Eucharist rests on a paten at the altar in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, Del., May 27, 2021. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11:28). St. Paul’s admonition regarding the worthy reception of Holy Communion is applicable to the entire life of a Christian because the liturgy is intended to bear fruit in the lives of Christians by making them a “spiritual sacrifice made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5). This includes the exercise of the right to vote.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church frequently insists on the unity of faith, worship, and life. The liturgy, and especially its summit, the Eucharist, is meant to “produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful” (1072). The liturgy “enables us to live” the “spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation” (1095). Full, active, and conscious participation in the liturgy is “the precondition both for the reception of other graces conferred in the celebration itself and the fruits of new life which the celebration is intended to produce afterward” (1098). All of the faithful are called to “live out the meaning of what they hear, contemplate, and do in the celebration” (1101).

The very word by which we name the celebration of the paschal mystery at Mass conveys this strict correlation between liturgical life and daily living of the faith: It is called “Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God’s will in their daily lives” (1332). Certainly, by reason of its relative infrequency, but especially because of its monumental consequences in the moral realm, voting and how one votes is one of the acts of Catholics that must be linked to the Eucharist as a most important fruit in their daily lives.

It is above all the Christian conscience that assures the continuity of faith, worship, and life. It is no accident that at the beginning of Mass the celebrant invites the assembled faithful to examine their consciences as the most appropriate way to become disposed to hear the word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist: “Brethren, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” This liturgical examination of conscience and act of contrition renews the graces by which Christians receive the gift of a conscience purified by the blood of Christ, that is, the love of Christ: “the blood of Christ will … purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” (Heb 9:14) Baptism confers precisely this grace of a purified conscience that enables us to serve God in liturgical worship and in daily life directed by faith that makes all of life “spiritual sacrifice made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5). Indeed, it is eucharistic communion with the lord that perfects this baptismal grace of a purified conscience: “Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ … preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism” (CCC, 1392).

This understanding of the links that unite Baptism, the Eucharist, and conscience sheds light on the seriousness of the exercise of the right to vote by reason of its moral implications. The warning of Isaiah is apropos: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). There are among us those who call good things that are evil that can never be good: abortion; same-sex unions and “marriages”; unwarranted medical interventions to alter children’s bodies to suit their wishes; and the usurpation of parental rights by school boards and governmental bodies. By the dictate of elementary logic, they thereby call evil things that are good: the right of preborn persons to life; marriage defined as a covenant of love between one man and one woman; respect for innate sexual determination; and the divine order according to which parents are entrusted with the mission and responsibility, and corresponding right, to educate their children.

Isaiah’s judgment against those who call evil good and good evil extends to those who vote: “Woe to those who vote for those who call evil good and good evil.” To vote for a candidate who calls evil good and good evil on a matter of divine and natural law because the candidate holds that position is to be complicit in building an anti-human culture of self-destruction and death, and to qualify as a recipient of Isaiah’s denunciation.

The right to vote is both a privilege and a duty. In fact, it is “morally obligatory … to exercise the right to vote” (CCC, 2240). Voting is one of the primary ways in which citizens exercise political participation. And because politics inevitably entails moral values, voting is a primary way to contribute to a culture of love that is worthy of human dignity. By reason of the baptismal gift of a conscience purified by Christ’s blood, Christians have internalized God’s law, which boils down to love:

In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 16)

All moral values are, in the end, about love. In other words, moral values are about the true good of the human person, made in God’s image. And we know these values ordered to the true good of the human person when our consciences are rightly formed. Thus, a rightly formed conscience makes known the law that is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. By holding to the truth about love and the true good of the human person, well-informed Catholics are the best of citizens, especially in a country like our own, which is founded on the principle of being one nation under God. For, a well-trained conscience detects the law of God.

In every action, be it political, educational, financial, or cultural, we are called “to be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (Gaudium et spes, 76). The Second Vatican Council also teaches: “It is the special mission of the lay faithful, whose vocation is to foster the Kingdom of God through engagement in secular activities, “to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city” (Gaudium et spes, 43). To live in that unity of faith, worship, and life, the Catholic faithful must “distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society.” At the same time, and lest this distinction in principle become a rupture in life, they must “reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (Lumen gentium, 36).

Voting for candidates who uphold “the universal natural law and its all-embracing principles” is one of the most important ways that Catholics can obey God, his law, and their own consciences, which judge human activities according to these principles. A well-formed Christian conscience assures that such judgments are the judgments of God himself. For, we hear God’s voice in our consciences, and his voice can only echo the order that he has placed in his creation and to which we must, by reason of the order he has placed in us, always conform our freedom.

As we exercise our right and fulfill the duty to vote, we should keep in mind that God became man and suffered and died on the cross in order to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb 9:14). Dead works are actions that bring death to both body and soul. To violate God’s law by supporting candidates who overturn his law is to “nullify the grace of God” in that action by violating God’s law. For a Catholic to withdraw that action from the influence of his grace is a scandal that, in effect, shows that “Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21).

We should also keep in mind that to serve God is at the same time to serve our fellow human beings. For God’s values constitute the true good of every person. To put God and his law and his values first is the best way—in fact, it is the only way—to promote a civilization of love that is worthy of human dignity.

Our system of voting goes to great lengths to assure each voter’s privacy in casting a vote. This helps to root out undue influence from others who might exert pressure on us to vote in a certain way. No one will know how we vote unless we tell them. But this is not true for God. God sees everything, even our thoughts and intentions. God has granted us the dignity of being free, but he has also placed limits on our freedom. We are called to responsible freedom, which is freedom guided by the truth—God’s truth, the truth about the true good of every person made in his image and likeness.

This responsible freedom is precisely what we experience in every moment of truth in our consciences. The word, conscience, means “knowledge with God.” It means that we are aware that we are never alone when we engage our freedom. It means that we are aware that God is always watching, as we read in the book of Wisdom: “For sovereignty is given to you by the Lord and power by the Most High, who will himself probe your acts and scrutinize your intentions” (Wis 6:3). As in every use of our freedom, in voting we either submit our freedom to the truth or refuse to do so. Christ is the truth, and has fully revealed the truth about God and the truth about man.

To cast a vote for a candidate who calls evil good and good evil is, in effect, “to lay violent hands upon Christ” (CCC, 598) rather than to allow his blood to purify our conscience. It is to rupture the unity between the Eucharist and daily life. It is to be ashamed of him in the act of voting, and thus to be subject to his warning: “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Lk 9:26).

To be guided by a Christian conscience when we vote means, in effect, that we are not alone when we vote. It means that we vote as ambassadors of Christ’s love by supporting candidates who hold to the principles of the law of God. For, only in this way can our votes contribute to the building of a culture and civilization of love in keeping with human dignity and thereby bear witness to Christ’s paschal mystery and our celebration of it in the Eucharist.

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