Edith Avila Olea

We are two months away from the 2020 presidential election. My social media, as I’m sure yours as well, are filled with extreme leftist and extreme rightist views. As usual, I find myself in an uncomfortable position, not fully fitting into either option that is presented.

As a practicing Catholic, this awkward position is to be expected. We do not fully fit into a Republican or Democratic agenda. We’ve heard this story told many different ways by now.

I have to admit that not being able to vote (because I am a Dreamer) is almost relieving. But I know it’s also not that simple. Even as a nonvoter, my responsibility is still to educate people on the truths of the church’s complete teachings. Our teaching doesn’t forget a single vulnerable being.

If you completely identify with one party or the other, then maybe this article is irrelevant to you. But if you are struggling with how to vote with your conscience, I offer these thoughts below.

When you vote, consider:
The life of the unborn; and
The children who suffer because of inequities in society; and
The incarcerated person who is unjustly punished; and
The homeless person who sleeps on the Earth’s cold ground; and
The Black person who is tired of being persecuted; and
The immigrant who lives in the shadows; and
The refugee forced to flee from home into treacherous routes; and
The environment; and
All of God’s children.

Truth be told, you won’t find a candidate who fully fits the needs of the United States and the world. Then we must ask ourselves, How are we going to educate the candidate who wins to better serve the needs of the forgotten?

How are we going to fight the hate and the division that run deep within our pews and the rest of society? We cannot expect a single political party to be the answer to all of the needs in America today or to bring about peace to our world.

Do not idolize a political candidate. Do not idolize a political party. Do not idolize politics.

If there is anything that I have learned in the past seven years as an advocate of vulnerable people is that yes, your vote matters. But you know what matters just as much, if not more, is what you do after you cast your vote.

As a Catholic, your vote comes with a responsibility. It comes with a responsibility to protect those who have been left out of the list of priorities. Yes, it’s also our job to protect the immigrant, the Black person, the incarcerated individual, the environment and the unborn.

Do not forget that all lives are sacred, a glimpse of God himself. Do not fall into the trap of vilifying a group of people because of their political party, the color of their skin or whether they hold legal papers or not. That is not of Christ’s teachings.

I think it’s important to clarify that not a single priest, bishop or clergy member can tell you how to cast your vote. As faith leaders, it is not our role to tell people how to vote. It is our role to help people form their conscience. We help each other by educating ourselves and others on the issues at hand, but do not be pressured into voting one way or the other.

If you need some more guidance, I invite you to pray. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). Ask for Our Lady’s blessing and let the Holy Spirit guide your heart.

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Edith Avila Olea is policy manager for the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Chicago. The 2015 winner of the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, she holds a master’s degree in public policy and a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication.