Tucked among the various devotions and litanies on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website is a prayer for those heading to the ballot box:
Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity,
especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,
Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment
so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,
live your love,
and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
If that sounds nonpartisan, there’s good reason: the Church “does not and will not engage in partisan politics” and parishes are warned to avoid “any action that reasonably could be construed as endorsement or opposition,” the bishops state. If one candidate gets invited to church property, all get invited. Church facilities are not to be used for partisan political purposes, and distributing any materials “that support or oppose—or exhibit bias for or against—any candidate or party” are unauthorized.
“While it is important to be clear about what we can’t do, the most important thing to focus on is what we can do. In a democracy, loving our neighbor and caring for the least among us means supporting leaders and policies that promote the common good and protect society’s most vulnerable members,” says the bishops’ guidance. “Helping Catholics to recognize and act on this dimension of their faith is an essential task for parish leaders.”
They suggest this blurb for parish bulletins:
We strongly urge all parishioners to register, to become informed on key issues, and to vote. The Church does not support or oppose any candidate, but seeks to focus attention on the moral and human dimensions of issues. We do not authorize the distribution of partisan political materials on parish property.
The patron saint of politicians is St. Thomas More, former speaker of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor who was beheaded by Henry VIII in 1535.