Bishop John Stowe on Catholic Voting


Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv discusses Catholic voting as addressed in the Paulist Press book, “Voting and Faithfulness: Catholic Perspectives on Politics.” He discusses his chapter, “The Interrelatedness of Pro-Life Issues.”

Bishop Stowe touches on his chapter, “I cover both a narrow definition of what it means to be pro-life or as I argued for, a much broader definition which I think sits appropriately within our Catholic tradition. When we talk about pro-life we should really mean that in the dignity of the human person. We are certainly talking about unborn children, but not only talking about unborn children.” He points out that Pope Francis has been speaking for years about the connectedness of issues that exist within the context of valuing the dignity of human life.

Father Dave asks Bishop Stowe for examples of the interrelatedness of pro-life issues. “We would talk about a womb to tomb approach to pro-life issues,” Bishop Stowe responds. “So we’re talking about obviously the unborn children, but we’re also talking about childcare and making sure that there’s appropriate nutrition and adequate opportunities for children to be raised in a loving environment. We go on to make sure that there’s opportunity for education, for human flourishing, the right to work, all of these kinds of things; but the traditional life issues would be the issue of abortion… We think about the beginning and the end. We have resistance to euthanasia and to capital punishment. The fight for a holistic approach to pro-life issues for Pope Francis expands even further. He talks about the issues of migrants and refugees, and how their lives are at risk.”

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“There is a logical consistency to calling the right to life itself as the preeminent issue, because without it, the other ones don’t come into play at all. But it doesn’t mean it’s the only important issue. If we begin with that reverence for life in the womb, it certainly can’t end there. We have to see that brother or sister that is in the immigration holding cell or crossing the border or escaping from violence. All of them are rights, just as the prisoner on death row has a right to life. So preeminent can mean that yes, that’s the most important thing, but it’s not the only thing. We have to remember that even though the bishops think about issues, because we have to teach about issues, we vote for people. We don’t vote for churches. So characters are going to be very important. The record of the person is very important.”

Father Dave asks Bishop Stowe how we can form our consciences for voting before election day. “Well, it’s going to sound simplistic,” Bishop Stowe responds. “But what would Jesus do? Question all the issues that we get so worked up about and feel our blood pressure rise and get heated about, what would Jesus be saying? What would Jesus be saying about the killings against black people, by law enforcement and a nation that claims to protect everybody? What would Jesus be saying about a policy that separates little children from their mothers at the border? What would Jesus be saying about the destruction of life in the womb? All of these things do have a connection to our faith.”

“That’s why US bishops say we have an obligation to participate in society. You don’t need an established religion for religion to flourish, but we do need to be a people with conscience. We do need to analyze things from a perspective of faith. So start with, what would Jesus do and think about life, think about the human person, and the dignity of the human person that we’re all made in the image and likeness of God.”