Vote your conscience
I write as a member of Former Priests for Marriage Equality, which prepared and subsequently released a statement signed by 80, now 102, former Catholic priests that reads in part, “…we call on all people of good will to exercise their fundamental right to follow their conscience” and vote against the marriage amendment.
That conscience must rule is consistent with what all of us former priests learned in seminary. It is also consistent with what I taught college students in social justice classes during the ’60s at the archdiocesan minor seminary. When discussing human rights, I included Pope John XXIII’s teaching that every person possesses the right to honor God “according to the sincere dictates of his own conscience.” The rule is also consistent with the teachings of Pope John Paul II. He wrote that “People are obliged to follow their conscience in all circumstances and cannot be forced to act against it.”
That conscience must rule is also consistent with the current Pope Benedict XVI — who taught, while still Father Joseph Ratzinger, that “Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirements of ecclesiastical authority.”
Some Minnesota Catholics are conflicted on how to vote on the marriage amendment. This results from many Catholic leaders instructing Catholics that the church’s religious values bind the conscience to support the amendment, in effect making support a non-negotiable moral imperative.
These Catholic leaders are wrong. They have converted a political tenet into church dogma. Catholic readers should know that. They are being led astray.
There is no official Catholic teaching that dictates how one must vote on the marriage amendment. Catholics are free to vote their conscience on Nov. 6, regardless of what they may hear from the pulpit or read in their diocesan paper.
Ed Kohler, St. Paul