A Catholic friend has sent a link to a pastoral letter from Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. That country, like the USA, has elections in the offing, for the highest offices in the land. In his letter, the prelate offers some guidance to help voters choose "God-fearing leaders who are also bravely and stubbornly loyal to the flag and to the people."
To know which candidates are God-fearing and deserving of our vote, Archbishop Villegas says we should use the age-old standards of our Judeo-Christian tradition, as set out in the Ten Commandments. Here are the questions we need to ask them, and ourselves. (The Commandments, in a modern translation, follow the numbering in the Catholic Bible, as it has been since 382 AD.)
I. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me. Do not vote for an atheist or for someone who makes fun of the name of God. A Catholic cannot support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life, or whose ideology binds him or her to make of the country a secular state that has no tolerance for religion in its public life.
II. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Do not vote for candidates who have a history of violating oaths they have made. A person commits perjury when he makes a promise under oath with no intention of keeping it, or when after promising on oath he does not keep it. Perjury is a grave lack of respect for the Lord of all speech. Nor should one pledge oneself by oath to commit an evil deed.
III. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. If the candidate professes to be a Christian, how does he or she look at Sunday worship, Sunday rest especially for the poor, Sunday time with the family? Has the candidate fallen to the pursuit of some sort of "ideology of performance" introducing a harsh, impersonal and self-centered attitude, contributing to the culture of heightened anxiety, hyper-activism and success orientation, without God in public policies?
Archbishop Villegas spoke of the trend to "dynastic politics", which is even more apparent in the Philippines than in the USA, when he wrote:
IV. Honor your father and your mother. Do not vote for family members running for the same positions as family members before them to perpetrate the family's hold on public office. Christian voters should prudently choose others who may have equal if not superior abilities and competencies for the position.
V. You shall not kill. A Catholic voter commits a grave sin in voting for candidates who oppose the Lord's teachings on the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death. Please demand that the candidates state in clear terms their position on issues such as abortion, the return of the death penalty, euthanasia and extra-judicial killings.
VI. You shall not commit adultery. The Church’s position on marriage and human sexuality is positive and uplifting. The Christian view of sexuality and marriage presents the dignity and authentic freedom of single and married life that is truly fulfilling, desirable, and fruitful. How does this candidate view marriage and sexuality? How does this candidate live the marriage commitment? What is his position on divorce? Does he mock the institution of marriage?
VII. You shall not steal. Is the candidate committed to the common good? Has this candidate stolen public money and remains obstinate and stubborn in making the required restitution of stolen goods?
VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Lying is the intentional misrepresentation of the truth by word, gesture, or even silence. To deliberately intend to mislead other persons who have the right to know the truth can do real violence to them. For it denies them the knowledge they need to make their judgments and decisions. Beware of liars. Lying is a devil with many faces. Be wise. Watch out. Do not vote for liars.
IX. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. Does the candidate treat women with respect? In providing sex education for children, does the candidate promote healthy interpersonal relationships and proper bodily expressions? Does the candidate promote an adulterous lifestyle by his life example? Does the candidate support or promote the ideology of a homosexual lifestyle without respect for modesty and right conduct?
X. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. What has the candidate done for the poor? Have his programs for the poor led to the liberation of the poor from the shackles of poverty or has this candidate promoted a culture of patronage so that the poor may be perennially dependent and hence easier to manipulate? Do we see signs of unjust craving for victory in elections, envy at the success of others? A candidate who spends his time demolishing the reputation and tarnishing the good name of fellow candidates may have nothing positive to offer, and he debases the level of political discourse by calling attention to the shortcomings of his rivals and competitors.
Archbishop Villegas concludes his exhortation thus: You are called to be authentic Catholic voters who decide from prayer and conscience. You are called to take courage and make moral decisions. Your vote can make heaven come down and make our country beautiful and good as God desires it. Be free from the tyranny and pressure of trends and herds. Do it right! Choose what is right according to the Ten Commandments. Lord guide us with your grace. Amen.