Voting, public places & morality: What one Catholic renders to Caesar and to God


Guest Column

I believe voting and our public places belong to Caesar and issues of morality belong to God.

First, voting: I disagree with those who argue that voting for a candidate who holds a view that they oppose is sinful. For me, voting is matter of applying informed judgment. As the U.S Catholic bishops say in their “Faithful Citizenship” document, no candidate supports all Catholic teaching. The church is responsible for articulating church teaching in discussion of public policy. We voters are responsible for judging which candidates and which public policies best put that church teaching into practice.

Second, public places: Government should stay out of religion. Religions can promote themselves. Saint John Neumann, the 19th century Philadelphia bishop, rightfully opposed requiring Catholic public school students to listen to readings of the King James Bible. Today, I oppose posting Shari’a Law in public places because I don’t want my taxes used to promote Islam. Muslims should have the same freedom from Mosaic Law.

Third, governments should be limited to protecting us from harm, and should not legislate morality. Turning government into our moral nanny is impractical. Gluttony and pride are capital sins, but we can’t afford to prosecute overeaters and boasters, much less pay for imprisoning them. More importantly, just as bishops and priests lack expertise in political science to tell us whom to vote for and against, politicians lack expertise in moral theology to impose their moral views on us. Politicians wrongly violate my religious freedom when they force me to help finance the Iraq invasion (which violated at least three of the four tenets of Catholic just war doctrine).

Which leads to the next point: Morality belongs to God. We Catholics believe murder, rape, stealing and lying are always wrong. God’s commandments apply to everyone in and out of government. As a Catholic, I’m responsible for fighting against using my tax dollars to break those commandments and to reject and refute the excuses for doing so. Here are some of the politicians’ excuses:

The end justifies the means: In 2016, one presidential candidate advocated murdering family members of terrorism suspects. The words, “national security,” never justify murder.

Comparing instead of opposing evil: Whether other people’s sins are worse than ours is irrelevant. God doesn’t mark on the curve.

Situational ethics: “Aw, gee whiz; there’s a war going on” was the excuse a local church official offered for the mass murder of Latin American Christians in the 1980s. Circumstances never change the inherent evil of murder. Period.

The “Marquis of Queensbury” argument: The Marquis of Queensbury, a British official, designed rules for boxing. Politicians pretend war is merely a sporting event to suggest our enemies’ breaking God’s laws entitles us to do the same.

Do we give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and to God that which belongs to God? Jesus condemned Pharisees who tried to hide their sins with phony shows of religion. What would he say about posting the Ten Commandments in public places and breaking so many of them in public policy?

The writer is a long-time parishioner at St. Benedict Church in Anchorage.

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