Franciscans on Moral Discernment in an Election Season

In the middle of this crazy election season, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful leadership of the Franciscans in how to approach difficult decisions.

The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate is presenting short pieces to help introduce particularly Franciscan and Catholic approaches to the decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt from their first installment. I urge you to read the whole article:

In the election sphere today, there is often an attempt to link our Catholic faith squarely with one political party. Although most religious leaders assert that our faith is not adequately represented or served by the platform of any particular political group, some, overtly or tacitly, strain to demonstrate how one party is the only morally acceptable choice. Such effort is wasted. The world is a morally complex and ambiguous place, especially when it comes to political decisions.

Taking a wider view as Catholics inspired by the Franciscan path of following Jesus, how can we approach the elections? Is there a political party or candidate for whom it would be morally unacceptable to vote? Does our faith compel us to pull a particular lever in the ballot box? If not, is it all just relativism?

The problem is not the clarity of our moral foundations; these are clear. The challenge comes from the complexity of our globalized world, the pluralistic society that is our nation, and the limitations of our fallen, yet still blessed, human condition. While our faith tradition offers us principles by which to live in a complex world, they don’t translate into a litmus test for choosing between candidates. Rather, our faith invites us to engage in moral reasoning—weighing the pressing issues of our day in the light of our tradition. While this is a process that often yields no categorical answers, it does provide us a method of discernment to guide us through troubling ambiguity as we make our decisions.

Our Franciscan tradition offers us a framework of five interconnected parameters that can guide our discernment: care for creation, consistent ethic of life, preferential option for the poor, peacemaking and the common good. …

Read the rest of “Franciscans are not ‘party animals'” (Part 1).

Weak Republicans = Weak Obama?

Kai Wright
ColorLines editor Kai Wright always provides incisive commentary. As the Republican candidates move from New Hampshire to South Carolina and on to Florida, I’m wondering how to push Obama to change abusive economic policies and practices that “crush my people, and grind the face of the poor into the dust” (Isaiah 3:15). Wright says that the collapse of the Republican party may allow Obama to maintain a politics of the mushy middle, rather than the progressive reforms he campaigned on. Here’s an excerpt from Wright’s recent column:

” … [O]nce we set the horse race of partisan politics aside, the Republican collapse begins to look less gratifying. Here’s the thing: Elections are for incumbents all about being held accountable for their choices. And what the Obama White House needs more than anything at this juncture is a jolt of accountability from the social justice reformers who believed in the change it sold four years ago.

Democratic Party leaders have for generations distracted their own base with the horrific threat of their Republican challengers. From LGBT people to unionized workers, the message is too often the same: Never mind our failings, look at the scary other guys. That’s long been a winning strategy for uniting the Democratic coalition. But the Obama team has wielded it against progressive critics with particular vengeance. Indeed, the tea party has in some ways been as helpful a distraction for the White House as it has been an obstructionist tool for the Republicans.

In this light, the Republican field that’s emerging from Iowa and New Hampshire is tailor made for the Obama administration to avoid a much needed reality check with its own reformists supporters. The president will be able to run simultaneously against the lunacy of a Rick Santorum—or, whoever wins the so-called “conservative primary”—and the weakness of Mitt Romney. The latter poses little threat with voters and the former keeps picky progressives off his tail. As long as he faces no meaningful challenge, the president has little reason to vow a course correction from the choices of his first term. …–Excerpt from Why The GOP’s Spectacular Collapse Isn’t Good For Social Justice by Kai Wright