Mass. bishops remind Catholics of importance of voting

BRAINTREE -- With voters heading to the polls on Election Day, Massachusetts' Catholic bishops have issued a statement reminding Catholics of the importance of their civic duty and their roll in the electoral process.

The statement, issued on Oct. 25 by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, described voting as "an exercise of reason inspired by faith" and discussed the issues that should be important in the Catholic conscience -- namely the dignity of life, traditional marriage, religious freedom, and the welfare of the poor.

"Our participation as citizens in the electoral process allows us to propose our vision for this country and about our future as a democracy," the MCC's statement said in part.

The statement went on to say that voting is an opportunity for Catholics to bring our insights "to the civic discussion nationally and locally, thereby inspiring social change consistent with our country's foundational values."

While choosing the right candidate is not a simple decision, the statement conceded, "there is a measuring rod by which all electoral choices must be evaluated: will my vote enhance human dignity?"

The bishops' statement is printed in its entirety in this week's edition of The Pilot.

"The bishops wanted to reaffirm the notion that voting is important," said MCC Executive Director Gerry D'Avolio.

This year, Catholics will head to the polls amidst heightened degrees of economic uncertainty.

"We're in a very volatile time in terms of the attitude of the citizens," said MCC Executive Director Gerry D'Avolio. "The mood of the country is not good because of the present state of the economy and in terms of the middle class."

The results of an Associated Press poll of nationwide voters reported on the U.S. News and World Report's website Oct. 25 indicate that 59 percent of likely voters thought the country is headed in the wrong direction, and the same poll said 50 percent preferred a challenger over an incumbent in electoral races this year.

One-third of those polled said they are undecided on whom they will vote for or could change their mind before Election Day.

Many legislative seats are in play across the country, and political pundits have been discussing the possible changes in party makeup of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Voters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be asked to select candidates for various seats in the House of Representatives, as well as their next governor.

Notable races being watched closely are the gubernatorial race, with incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick leading his Republican challenger, Charlie Baker, by roughly five percentage points according to the latest polls.

Polls also indicate District Attorney William Keating is four points ahead of Republican State Rep. Jeffrey Perry in the state's tenth Congressional district, according to an Oct. 25 Boston Globe poll. For the last 14 years, the seat has been held by Democrat Bill Delahunt, who is retiring.

The district includes many South Shore communities within the Archdiocese of Boston.

The same Globe poll indicates longtime Rep. Barney Frank, of Newton, has a double-digit lead over his Republican challenger.

Voters will also decide referendum questions -- one of which has drawn significant interest from the state's bishops.

The MCC, along with the archdiocese's Planning Office for Urban Affairs, has been urging voters to vote "No" on Question 2, which asks if voters wish to repeal the state's Affordable Housing Law.

Also known as the Chapter 40B zoning law, the measure allows developers to sidestep various local zoning ordinances in building affordable housing in towns where less than ten percent of housing stock is considered affordable according to certain state standards.

A no vote on the question supports maintaining the current law.

Voting, D'Avolio says, carries moral ramifications.

"It is a moral obligation to go vote and exercise your right, that your vote might make a difference," he said.

D'Avolio said that the frail health of the economy produces an increased demand for social services, which he also says lack funds in a sour economy.

"The economy affects all of us and the most in need," he also said. "It affects them most directly."

D'Avolio said that voters should take into account the country's immediate needs as well as the potential long-term impacts of a candidate's policies could have on society when marking their ballots.

"I'm sure they're concerned about their children and what impact does the government have on the future of their country and the impact on their children," D'Avolio said.

D'Avolio and the state's Catholic bishops are encouraging Massachusetts citizens to put their faith into action as they become a part of the electoral process.

"They should exercise their right to vote and be part of what's going on on Tuesday," D'Avolio said.