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NEW YORK – With contentious 2022 midterm elections in the rearview mirror, the lone bishop of Maine is encouraging the faithful to assess their voting process in the new year, reminding themselves where the church stands on a number of key issues.
“In the aftermath of yet another contentious campaign period, it would be easy and perhaps preferable to move on with our daily lives and put the acrimony and issues behind us,” Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland wrote in a new pastoral letter.
“But I believe it is important, particularly in this time of division, to reflect on the election that was – not the results per se, but on how the lessons gleaned from the experience and what we learned about ourselves in the process can better prepare us as Maine Catholics as we move forward in facing future decisions,” he said.
“How did our values, the values of the Catholic Church, interface with how we voted on November 8?” Deeley asked.
Going into the midterm elections a so-called “red wave” was expected, where the Republican party would take over both chambers of Congress. That didn’t happen. The Republicans retook control of the House by a slim 222 to 213 seat margin, but lost a seat in the Senate, giving the Democrats a 51-49 majority.
On the state level, much of the country was eager to see what would happen with abortion referendums on the ballot in multiple states. In a blow to pro-life voters, voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont chose to enshrine abortion protections into their state constitutions with few restrictions. Meanwhile, voters in Kentucky rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have denied constitutional protections to abortion.
Catholic leaders in those states described the results as devastating, tragic and disappointing, with one even admitting that the outcome “certainly does not bode well for the future.”
Deeley, though, in his letter doesn’t focus on a particular issue or how the voting turned out. He instead offers a reminder that Catholics have a “dual calling of faith and citizenship.” He references the U.S. bishops’ voting guide “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” as an important tool to help Catholics shape their political choices in a Catholic light.
The U.S. bishops voted at their general assembly in November to add an introductory note to the voting guide ahead of the 2024 election that will incorporate more recent papal teachings and policy developments, and then tackle a full “re-examining” of the document after the election.
Even without any updates or changes, Deeley advises Catholics to refer to it to make voting decisions related to marriage and family, religious freedom, economic justice, unjust discrimination, health care, welcoming the stranger, and ways to “promote a respect for human life and peace in our time.”
“The material is perhaps even more instructive and impactful when studied outside of the rancor and noise of election season,” Deeley said. “We are not currently engaged in political contests. It might be a good time to reflect on how we might apply the principles of this document to our future participation in this most fundamental responsibility of voting.”
The bishop highlighted in particular the importance of “care for creation” – the environment, born and unborn children, and the poor and vulnerable among us.
“[Care for creation] goes beyond our stewardship of the earth and refers to our responsibility to support candidates and causes that promote the protection of born and unborn children and those who are the most poor and vulnerable, helping them build productive futures and lives for themselves and their families,” Deeley said.
He concluded that elections are not the only time for Catholics to consider these principles, adding that Catholics should always be asking the question “how can we make the world a better place?”
“Our mission as Catholics is to bring our faith and a consistent moral framework to our community each day,” Deeley said. “Respect the dignity of each human person and focus on the common good, not our own personal interests.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg