While many of us may be tired of the campaign flyers filling our mailboxes and political ads dominating our favorite television shows, the fact remains that Election Day provides an opportunity to American citizens over the age of 18 to make their voice heard.
It's a responsibility the Catholic Church takes very seriously, creating the Faithful Citizenship campaign to encourage and educate voters about the issues the faith deems important.
To help Catholic voters stay informed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Faithful Citizenship campaign to target issues such as the promotion of the pro-life ideology, war and peace, the continued education and formation of children, care for the poor and vulnerable, and access to health care for all people.
While the USCCB does not endorse a political candidate, Faithful Citizenship encourages Catholics to research candidates on their stance on these important doctrine issues and vote with a fully formed conscience.
"The United States Constitution protects the right of individual believers and religious bodies to participate and speak out without government interference, favoritism or discrimination," explains the USCCB document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship." "In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. Catholic lay women and men need to act on the Church's moral principles and become more involved (by) running for office, working within political parties and communicating concerns to elected officials."
The major race on the minds of most New Yorkers these days is the one for governor. Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo is seeking his second four-year term in the state's top chair, and he is a perfect example of the kind of politician that vexes many bishops.
A practicing Catholic, Cuomo has supported the causes of gay marriage and pro-choice movements. His cohabitation relationship with Food Network host Sandra Lee has also inspired Edward Peters, a Vatican Canon Law advisor, to proclaim Cuomo should be denied Holy Communion for "publicly acting in violation of a fundamental moral expectation of the Church."
On the other hand, Cuomo has been supportive of several social justice issues friendly to Catholic teachings, such as establishing the Office for New Americans to help immigrants earn citizenship, creating the FreshConnect program that delivers fresh food to poor communities, and continued support of other hunger and nutrition assistance programs.
His main opponent, Rob Astorino, is the Republican nominee and currently serves as the county executive of Westchester County. A practicing Catholic who previously worked as station manager of the Catholic Channel on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio, much of Astorino's platform advocates cuts in taxes to grow the economy, expand natural gas exploration throughout the state and repealing Cuomo's controversial gun-control measure, the SAFE act. But judging by his website, Astorino doesn't have a lot to say about social issues, as there is little to nothing on it about abortion, same-sex marriage or immigration.
A brief overview of both candidates' comments and record about hot button Catholic issues follows (for more on each candidate, visit their websites):
In the past, Cuomo has supported an abortion measure that would allow women the right to terminate pregnancies after 24 weeks, but the law, as part of an overall women's equality bill, has never passed the legislature. Astorino is against that measure but is unlikely to push any legislation to curb abortion.
Both Cuomo and Astorino have publicly supported the Education Investment Tax Credit, which would encourage donations to private school scholarship funds and public education coffers. But in his four years as governor, Cuomo has never gotten the proposal past the legislature and into law.
Cuomo lobbied for same-sex unions with the Marriage Equality Act, which passed in 2011. Astorino feels the issue has been settled after the state legislature passed the law allowing gay couples to marry.
The Office for New Americans, which helps immigrants learn English, prepare for U.S. citizenship and create and find jobs, was established under Cuomo. Astorino has criticized Cuomo for failing to take a stand on allowing migrant immigrants the opportunity to vote, obtain a driver's license or welfare, all of which Astorino is against. Astorino called for immigration reform and border security on the federal level.
For more information on Faithful Citizenship, visit the website.