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The presidential candidate preferred by Catholics

English Spanish Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ Profile

Last February 1st, in Iowa, began the slow and complex process that will give the United States a new president on the second Tuesday of November.

Over the coming months, especially after the party conventions, many Catholics will wonder to whom they must in conscience give their vote.

Obviously, the Conference of Catholic Bishops will not say a name and a surname. That's not necessary because the profile of a desirable leader is in the Catholic teaching on life in society.

For example, chapter 8 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church presents a rough portrait of the suitable candidate. That chapter is titled "The Political Community."

The Church recognizes political power as necessary. It is derived from human social nature. Let’s say that it is God's will that there be government in every human community.

The good politician, delegated by the people to govern, seeks the full development of all members under his jurisdiction. The goal of this search is known as the “common good,” the good of every person and of all the people. Although material goods are necessary, a good leader does not focus on things but on people.

Given the migration phenomenon, the presence of minorities is a given in the large societies that we call countries. The government must respect the existence of such human groups and recognize the right to preserve their culture. Minority groups also have duties, of course, especially the obligation to cooperate with the common good of the country in which they live, and cultivate harmonious relations with the majority culture.

The leader has the primary duty of promoting and defending human rights that are considered fundamental and inalienable, beginning with the right to life. The leader should ensure that positive law serves the human needs of all members of the population. An imbalance that favors the welfare of a few above the rest should be avoided. If anything, the government should favor the weakest and most vulnerable.

The delicate and subtle task of any government is to promote what St. Thomas Aquinas called "civil friendship." The bonds that naturally tend to occur between those born within the same territory and share many cultural elements should strengthen the nation. An enlightened government will help strengthen the civil friendship, that warm brotherhood among citizens.

The leader must avoid any shrillness and divisiveness that threatens the construction of what Blessed Paul VI called the "civilization of love." The Judeo-Christian commandment of loving our neighbor illuminates the deepest meaning of political life. A balanced and moderate leader is considered successful when his expressions and actions create an atmosphere of trust, solidarity and concern for the good of others.

Good citizens should feel compelled in conscience to obey their leaders as long as these act within the limits set by the moral order. The successful leader is aware that there is a moral law, a natural law that everyone, starting with him, must follow. He will only impose obligations that are in tune with morality.

The authorities are responsible for proposing laws that apply to the dignity of the people, laws derived from right reason. Laws that are contrary to morality, and therefore contrary to reason, must be considered unfair. The unjust leader loses legitimacy.

People cannot but react with the so-called "conscientious objection" when faced with unjust and immoral laws. Therefore, the leader who wants to maintain a climate of peace in the country should ensure that decreeing and legislating are done in keeping with morality.

Although necessary, the application of corrective measures and punishments is a small and not very pleasant aspect of the exercise of authority. When it comes to criminals, the government has an obligation to punish with penalties proportionate to the offense committed. The criminal justice system should be directed towards the rehabilitation of offenders. The Church teaches today that the death penalty violates the dignity of the human person.

Catholic voters know that the ideal or perfect candidate does not exist. But they will look in the Conciliar documents (Vatican II), in Papal encyclicals and in the bishops’ pastoral letters for the criteria to evaluate candidates before the decisive day comes, November 8, 2016.

Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
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