The resources listed below can be helpful to guide political activity, inform dialogue and conversations, and educate others during this political season – and beyond. Related information, including a discussion guide, can be found here.
It is important to know what types of political activity Catholic organizations or representatives of the Catholic Church are allowed and encouraged to engage in. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of General Counsel has clear “Guidelines for Political Activity for Parishes and Catholic Organizations.” The July issue of Compassion, this province's social justice newsletter, offers a one-page summary of this document that lists acceptable and unacceptable political activities, especially during election cycles. In short, voter education, vote participation and education on Catholic social teaching are encouraged; any kind of partisan activity is discouraged.
The official teaching from USCCB, put out every four years before the presidential election, is Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the bishops' teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. (En Espanol) This website has a number of resources for schools and parishes, including liturgy and prayer resources, videos, bulletin inserts and announcements, and lesson plans.
While the bishops do not use Faithful Citizenship to put forward a platform, they do state their positions on a number of issues including:
This is a major go-to resource, a virtual “one-stop shop” for teachings and resources related to political responsibility.
This new resource from the Ignatian Solidarity Network calls us to be contemplatives in action. This examen, developed specifically for this upcoming election cycle, is an invitation and a method for talking with God in specific ways about the interrelationship between Gospel values and political engagement. The examen can be done individually or as a group prayer experience. Copies can be ordered for .40/pamphlet, (including shipping) with a 10 pamphlet minimum. Find it here: http://ignatiansolidarity.net/ignatian-examen-for-civic-life/.
The Conference of Major Superiors of Men and a Catholic coalition of different Catholic congregations and organizations recently issued "A Revolution of Tenderness: A 2016 Election Pope Francis Voter Guide." The introductions states, "We invite our fellow Christians ... to consider carefully how candidates do and do not embrace that vision and those values, and to make prudential judgments about which candidates best reflect Christian love ... We offer this guide to show how we apply the teachings of our Church to the problems of our day with a heart of mercy." The guide looks at many of the same issues as USCCB, starting each section with a quote from Pope Francis, providing brief analysis, and concluding each section with two questions to consider when reading about or listening to candidates. A one-page condensed version of the voter guide is also available.
This diocesan-wide campaign was developed to encourage civility and dialogue during this election season. Civilize It is running almost like a political campaign – using yard signs, social media, buttons, bumper stickers, pledges, etc. – all with the aim of promoting more values-oriented discussion of contentious political issues. From a recent article in the archdiocesan paper:
“Civilize It is a non-partisan movement and a call for all of us to help change the tone, follow our faith, and quiet the quarrels in our day-to-day lives. Parishioners have signed letters to our candidates, urging them to keep their campaigns respectful and consider the full slate of Catholic social teaching in their platforms. Wherever you are, take the pledge! Tell yourself, friends and family that you are part of a movement to infuse civility, clarity and compassion into our political engagements."
Some of the materials, including the pledge available on their website, could easily be adapted and used by parishes and schools.
In CRUX, an independent Catholic news site, Dr. Charlie Camosy, Associate Professor of Theology at Fordham University, has a thought-provoking interview with Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, about the difficult choices that Catholics are faced with during this upcoming election cycle. The question Dr. Camosy posed is “What can Catholics do when faced with an impossible choice of platforms in this year’s elections?’’ Bishop Flores gives a number of insightful answers, including some strong spiritual advice: “discern, meditate, read the Sermon on the Mount, say the Rosary, and see the face of the crucified Christ ‘in the consequences of our decisions.’”
This discussion and prayer guide is being designed by UCS staff and Jesuits to help Jesuit communities and those in Jesuit works reflect on how they can be bridge builders AND bearers of good news in this time of political and moral division. It will be available on this site by September 1. The guide attempts to model the components needed for constructive dialogue with people who have opposing opinions on issues, platforms, and – yes – even candidates. Ideally it could be completed in one 90-minute session or divided up and used over several shorter sessions. It could also be adapted as a type of civil discourse for use with participants who have differing opinions. It is not a guide for having a political discussion on opinions about political candidates or parties.