Questions for Catholics to answer ahead of primary elections

Published: April 19, 2018

By Sister Joan Pytlik, DC
Social Justice Advocate

With primary elections May 22, and early voting starting May 7, I’m reminded of how pollsters used to speak of the “Catholic vote,” and now say you cannot pigeon-hole Catholics.

I contend that if a Catholic is faithful to their confirmation commitment to Jesus through the Church’s teaching, you should be able to track his or her vote on some issues. Here are five that both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor have commented on recently.

Bishop Taylor is very vocal in teaching a consistent ethic of life in which human life and human dignity must be protected from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between. He prayed for this at the Mass for Life in January, but refused to march since the keynote speaker would be Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, whom he said, “this last year worked tirelessly to secure the execution of four criminals who posed no further threat to society.” The bishop pleaded for clemency for these four men.

I contend that if a Catholic is faithful to their confirmation commitment to Jesus through the Church’s teaching, you should be able to track his or her vote on some issues. 

1. Which primary candidates will vote to end abortion and the death penalty, and to protect the life of every one in between?

Bishop Taylor’s first action as our shepherd in 2008 was to write a pastoral letter titled, “I Was a Stranger,” in which he quotes 19 excerpts from Scripture in which God favors welcoming the alien/immigrant. The bishop has taught us that anti-immigrant laws are bad laws because they go against the Divine Law. Recently, Bishop Taylor wrote to our political leaders regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals bill (DACA), imploring them to treat dreamers with dignity.

2. Do your candidates support DACA and comprehensive immigration reform?

After the Parkland, Florida, school shooting Feb. 14, which left 17 people dead including students and staff, Bishop Taylor wrote to the Arkansas congressional delegation. He stated, “For more than four decades the U.S. Catholic bishops have been calling for legislation that controls the sale and use of firearms, and not enough has been done … Now is the time to enact reasonable, life-saving regulations on firearms that include: a civilian ban on assault-style weapons … on large-capacity ammunition magazines and bump stocks; raising the minimum age to purchase a gun from18 to 21; an improved, stricter background check system for all gun purchases … and more access to mental health care for people who may be prone to violence.”

3. Which candidates have the courage to pass legislation for gun control?

In February 2013 Bishop Taylor wrote an article for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette asking the Arkansas General Assembly to expand Medicaid access to those living below the poverty level as allowed in the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). He said the sanctity and dignity of the human person calls for affirming life at all times. This includes health care for everyone, with particular concern for the working poor. This year the bishop wrote to members of Congress, asking them to reauthorize funding for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which supports ARKids first.

4. Will you vote for the candidate who supports these health care programs for those in poverty?

In 2015, U.S. bishops wrote to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, regarding sentencing reform, quoting Pope Francis in his Philadelphia visit to prisoners. “This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road … All of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation.” The bishops advocated for reforms to our nation’s criminal justice policies.

5. Which candidates support rehabilitation rather than vengeance?

Get to know the candidates’ positions on these five issues and remember your Catholic civil duty to vote, even in the primaries.

Understanding Our Church