Pope Francis reminds us that being involved in the political process “is one of the highest forms of love, because it is in the service of the common good.” For your reflection as you prepare to go to the polls we offer you some excerpts from A Revolution of Tenderness: A 2016 Election Pope Francis Voter Guide.
“Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. Money must serve, not rule!”—Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium 53)
The key economic issue facing the country today is income inequality and the resultant increase in poverty. This is exacerbated by unjust minimum wages, unequal pay for women, lack of federal paid family leave laws, systematic attacks on labor rights, and high rates of unemployment and incarceration among youth and in communities of color.
Unemployment and underemployment harm the long-term fiscal health of our economy. Unemployment also exacts an enormous human toll on our society. When people lose their jobs, they often lose their family’s health insurance as well. Parents who cannot provide for their children are beset not only by bills but too often by emotional struggles as well. College age students who are unable to afford tuition either postpone college, deferring their dreams and facing uncertain job prospects, or work two jobs, thereby making their education less effective. Elderly persons who live on fixed incomes must often choose between heating their homes, taking their medications, or buying their groceries.
This economic picture, however, does not extend to all Americans. Large corporations continue to rack up record profits. Hedge fund managers, able to manipulate the tax code, pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries or the people who mow their lawns. In 1980, the wealthiest one percent of Americans garnered ten percent of the national income. Today that same top one percent receives twenty-one percent of national income. This increasing gap has significantly distorted our political system due to the role of money in politics, funding candidates, lawmakers, and robust lobbying firms. We need to curtail this trend if we are to have any hope of developing just policies and a genuine democracy.
In this rich country of ours, it is a scandal that, instead of focusing on jobs and a living wage, too many in the political class seem focused on budget cuts that will only further constrict economic growth and result in layoffs of those who provide vital services such as firefighters, emergency medical personnel, teachers, and childcare workers.
It is appalling that social programs which help the poor are being cut while the super-rich are not asked to contribute their fair share of tax revenue. It is absurd that Congress entertains the idea of cutting Medicare or raising the Social Security retirement age, but refuses to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and the largest, most profitable corporations.
Funding to States for federal/state partnership programs must be enhanced. However, mandatory programs supportive of the most vulnerable among us must remain federally mandatory programs, both to protect individuals and households from being considered ineligible and to ensure that funding cuts do not reduce funding levels below what is needed to meet needs of those who qualify. If we don’t ensure these basic needs are met, then we often get stuck in an idolatrous worship of the unregulated market, contrary to the lessons of history and the instructions from our bishops. Such a failure would be impossible to reconcile with the social mission of the Catholic Church.
Both corruption and a global economy that considers transnational profits more vital than human lives and human flourishing keep the poor of the world mired in their poverty. In our own country, too many regularly denounce the pittance our nation spends on international development. Inadequate funding allows new diseases, and old, to continue to kill millions of innocents. We fully support the efforts of organized labor to promote better working conditions for those who labor in sweatshops for substandard wages. We hope the U.S. will pay closer attention to the socio-economic needs of our neighbors in Latin America, where America’s thirst for drugs and abundance of weaponry for export wreak havoc on still fragile democracies.
We believe the moral measure of any economic policy must be the measure supplied by Jesus himself: “Whatever you do for these the least of my brethren, you do for me.” (cf. Matthew 25:40)
Questions to Consider When Reading About or Listening to Candidates:
- How does each candidate respond to questions about the wealth gap in this country? What ideas does she or he have for addressing this?
- What is each candidate’s position on health care reform? What is being proposed to ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare?
This voter guide was put together for your prayerful reflection by the following coalition of national Catholic organizations:
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Faith in Public Life: Catholic Program
Franciscan Action Network
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
Pax Christi USA
Pax Christi International
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Extended Justice Team
The complete document can be accessed at https://franciscanaction.org/article/revolution-tenderness-2016-voter-election-guide.