In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. The responsibility to make political choices rests with each person and his or her properly formed conscience.
Catholic voters are called to properly form their consciences in preparation for voting and for the continued advocacy for just laws and policies required after voting. This process should focus on moral principles, the defense of life, the needs of the weak, and the pursuit of the common good. It requires constant prayer, understanding of Church teaching, and discernment that goes beyond campaign rhetoric and partisan politics.
Ohio Ballot Issue 1 November 2018
There is one statewide issue on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Issue 1 will amend Ohio’s Constitution to reduce penalties for crimes of obtaining, possessing, and using illegal drugs, and put savings obtained from these measures into rehabilitation and crime victim programs.
The Catholic Conference of Ohio has not taken a position on this issue. We offer these reflections as an aid to one’s discernment process.
This issue requires prudential discernment. “…Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.”
State Issue 1
To Reduce Penalties for Crimes of Obtaining, Possessing, and Using Illegal Drugs
This Constitutional Amendment will:
• Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25% if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming.
• Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.
• Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual's third offense within 24 months.
• Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence.
• Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state-administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds.
• Require a graduated series of responses, such as community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations. Catholic Conference of Ohio Reflections
We affirm the good intentions behind Issue 1. Our dedicated prison ministers, social services workers and the formerly incarcerated cry out for new approaches and additional funds to combat the drug crisis. Too many of our current approaches are not fully restoring and rehabilitating people. It is indeed critical to be suggesting new alternatives.
Catholic social teaching supports many of the goals of Issue 1 such as: increased programing for rehabilitation, substance abuse treatment, community reentry, and crime victim support. The question before us involves a prudential determination as to whether Issue 1 is appropriately conceived to achieve these and its other stated goals. Are the provisions the right prescription for the problem?
We encourage your careful and prayerful discernment of the pros and cons of this issue. Our Conference website, listed below, offers links to such informational resources.
Regardless of the outcome of this issue, we encourage continued advocacy in addressing these important aspects of restorative justice.
1. Will passage of Issue 1 promote the value and dignity of the human person and advance the common good of persons in the state, especially the poor and vulnerable?
2. Are the provisions in Issue 1 well-conceived, implementable, and enforceable?
3. Will passage of Issue 1 improve public safety while providing additional funds for needed treatment services?
4. Will the provisions in Issue 1 result in changes that will help, or hinder, in the fight to address drug abuse?
5. Does Issue 1 belong in Ohio’s Constitution, or is this an issue better addressed by the Ohio Legislature? What is the likelihood that the legislature will enact similar legislation?
Reflections on Choosing Political Candidates
As Catholics, we are part of a community with profound teachings that help us consider challenges in public life, contribute to greater justice and peace for all people, and evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates’ promises and actions in light of the Gospel in order to help build a better world.
WALKING WITH GOD
“We take up the task of serving the common good with joy and hope, confident that God, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son," walks with us and strengthens us on the way (Jn 3:16). God is love, and he desires that we help to build a "civilization of love"-one in which all human beings have the freedom and opportunity to experience the love of God and live out that love by making a free gift of themselves to one another.” Introduction, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
RESPECTFUL, THOUGHTFUL AND CIVIL DIALOGUE
“For some years now, many of us in the Catholic and other faith communities have been lamenting the disintegration of civility and substance from one major national election to the next…. I invite everyone to take the pledge to promote civility, clarity and compassion this election season. You can do so by going to www.CivilizeIt.us, where you will also find simple tips to create respectful dialogue.” Most Rev. Dennis Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, 2017
“The Church’s teaching is clear that a good end does not justify an immoral means. As we all seek to advance the common good— by defending the inviolable sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, by promoting religious freedom, by defending marriage, by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, by welcoming the immigrant and protecting the environment—it is important to recognize that not all possible courses of action are morally acceptable. We have a responsibility to discern carefully which public policies are morally sound. Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.” #20 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
What is the candidate’s commitment to protect all human life, from conception to natural death?
What is the candidate’s commitment to addressing threats to marriage and family, as understood by the Church, as well as other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy?
How does the candidate measure up in both words and actions with the totality of Catholic Social Teaching?
What would be morally grave reasons to support and/or oppose a candidate? (Please refer to the U.S. Bishops document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, paragraphs 34 through 37). What is my assessment of the candidate’s personal integrity, governing philosophy, performance and ability to influence a given issue? Has the candidate demonstrated sufficient competency to hold such an elected position?
Examining party platforms in light of Catholic teaching may be a helpful consideration, especially when a voter faces a dilemma in a voting choice.
FOR MORE INSIGHTS, VISIT THE CATHOLIC CONFERENCE'S WEBSITE BY CLICKING HERE.