Discerning signs of the times for voters

Bob McKeon

JOURNEY TO JUSTICE

September 14, 2015

The federal election is now well underway. We regularly hear party leaders and local candidates asking for our vote. The phrase "discerning the signs of the times," introduced by Pope John XXIII is apt here.

What are the urgent issues of our day that the Spirit is calling us to speak to and act upon? One practical way we can do this is through participation and casting our ballot in the current federal election.

For many years, the Canadian Conference of Bishops (CCCB) has published an election guide for each federal election. Last month, the Justice and Peace Commission of the CCCB published a 2015 Federal Election Guide titled Making Our Voices Heard. It is a short document, only three pages long. It does not say which party or candidates to vote for or against. Interestingly, it is almost word for word from the CCCB statement for the 2011 election.

CRITICAL TO VOTE

The statement starts by saying it is important for Canadian Catholics to exercise their right to vote. Our participation contributes toward the common good.

The statement is rooted in Catholic moral and social teaching principles including respect for human life and dignity, support for family and community, concern for the vulnerable, and care for creation.

Forty-two specific issues are named. The vast majority (36) are repeated from the previous 2011 CCCB statement.

Significantly, the CCCB names three new issues in 2015: physician-assisted suicide, respect for the freedom of conscience and religion for all, and adequate government funding for Aboriginal education, health and housing.

Issues of continuing concern include respect for life for the unborn, fighting child poverty, arms controls and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the issues are named at a general level, such as "honouring international treaties on human rights," rather than by referring to specific laws or programs.

ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS

Readers are encouraged to ask questions about these issues with respect both to the positions of the political parties and what local candidates are saying. It is important to note that this extensive list of specific issues is not priorized or rank-ordered. One issue is not given precedence over other issues.

Each of us are asked to make "enlightened" and "well-thought-out" judgements as we prepare to exercise our right to vote. However, Catholic teaching does provide a bottom line: "a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or a particular law in which the fundamental content of faith and morals is replaced by the introduction of proposals differing from this content or opposing it."

No examples of such a law or political program are named.

The CCCB 2015 Federal Election Guide is posted prominently on the CCCB website www.cccb.ca. In addition to this statement, there are links to two other faith-based election guides.

One is produced by Development and Peace, a six-page electoral guide addressing the international issues being raised by partners working in the Global South, such as climate change, energy policy, agriculture and food security policies in support of small farmers and increasing Canada's government-funded international development assistance.

The second election guide linked to the CCCB website has been produced by a group of ecumenical organizations including the Canadian Council of Churches, KAIROS and Citizens for Public Justice.

This ecumenical resource addresses 12 issues including a national anti-poverty plan, restorative justice approaches for prisoners and victims of crimes, a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and the global elimination of nuclear weapons.

NO COMMANDMENTS

These election guides will not tell us who to vote for. One hopes they can help each of us start a reflection and discernment of the "signs of the times" where our deeply-held faith values engage the challenges and opportunities before us during this federal election.

Each of us can be creative in "making our voice heard" during this extended election period, whether by a quick exchange with a candidate at our doorstep, a letter to the editor or participation at a community forum.

Then on election day, be sure to vote.

(Bob McKeon: rmckeon55@gmail.com)