Catholics called to form consciences, vote

A student at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., sanitized his hands after voting in the presidential primary election April 7, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS Photo by Dan Powers, Appleton Post-Crescent, USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)

Individuals in the Archdiocese of Louisville have just a little more than a month left to register to vote in the 2020 general election.

In a 2013 address, Pope Francis said, “sometimes we hear a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: Good Catholics immerse themselves in politics so that the leader can govern.”

Jason Hall, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, which represents Kentucky’s four bishops on matters of public policy, said Catholics in the United States “are called to engage as citizens.”

“We are called to bring our faith to the public square. While voting is not the only way to do that, in our system of government it is a very important way to do that,” Hall said in an interview last week.

The 2020 general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3. The deadline to register to vote in Kentucky is Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. To register or update your voter registration visit GoVoteKY.com.

All Kentuckians are also able to request an absentee ballot this year. Among the reasons listed to request an absentee ballot are concerns “about contracting or spreading COVID-19.” The deadline to apply online for an absentee ballot is Oct. 9. Ballots will be mailed to voters beginning in mid to late September, according to GoVoteKY.com.

While the Catholic Church encourages voting, Hall noted, the church does not tell people how to vote.

“The church seeks to educate people on the kinds of things you should consider,” he said. “Ultimately we must use prudential judgment when deciding how to vote.”

A Catholic, the church teaches, must evaluate the candidates according to his or her faith and values with the help of a well-formed conscience. And, the church can aid Catholics in forming the conscience. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regularly updates a document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” In the teaching document, the bishops discuss the political responsibility of Catholics.

The non-partisan guidance seeks to “help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching.”

Clicker here to read the Faithful Citizenship document.

Hall also noted that many people who were previously disenfranchised may now register to vote again. Last December, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order automatically restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with convictions for most non-violent felonies, provided these individuals have completed their sentences.

“This is a significant opportunity for many who were previously shut out of the political process,” Hall noted.

The order does not apply to people convicted of crimes considered violent, including rape, sexual abuse, homicide and assault, and those convicted of charges of treason and election bribery. This order would not apply to future disenfranchised individuals. In order to restore voting rights to former felons in the future, an amendment to the Kentucky constitution is needed. Gov. Beshear has indicated he would support such an amendment.

To find out if you are eligible under this order, visit civilrightsrestoration.ky.gov.

The Catholic Enrichment Center, 3146 West Broadway, has voter registration cards. For more information, call 776-0262 and speak with John Reed.

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