The Church teaches that Christians have a moral duty to be responsible citizens, actively working toward the common good in our society. The attitudes and habits of responsible citizenship are formed long before kids are old enough to vote, however: As early as age five or six, children begin picking up on the political talk of their parents, older siblings, and peers—especially during a hotly contested election season.
Catholic bishops have done a great job over the years of summing up Church teaching on citizenship and political responsibility in their document, The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Precocious older children and teens might benefit from reading the summary bulletin inserts, also freely available from the U. Without trying to replace those documents, here are some of the highlights.
Think of as your checklist of attitudes and habits to teach your kids:.
But the Church argues otherwise: Since no political party perfectly reflects the Gospel, teach your kids to expect to be at odds with their preferred party at least some of the time. The following principles are key elements of Catholic social teaching, and older kids and teens should learn what they are:. Our conscience enables "Raising a catholic family" to use the power of reason to choose what is right and just.
The conscience can also make wrong judgments due to a simple lack of correct knowledge. Teaching kids to form their conscience is one of the most valuable habits parents can instill in their children. Kids who actively seek to form their conscience avoid the pitfalls of letting their consciences be passively formed by the "Raising a catholic family" of the media, and mainstream culture.
Prudence does not mean avoiding all risk; in fact, the bishops say that it must be accompanied by the virtue of courage, which empowers us to act for the good in spite of the risks. The virtue of humility, meanwhile, protects us from the delusion that we alone can judge what is good and evil, and helps us prayerfully seek the truth in the company of others.
Catholics cannot support intrinsically evil acts—that is, acts that are always, no matter what, contrary to love of God and neighbor. Catholic bishops list as examples of intrinsically evil acts the taking of innocent human life, as in abortion; and violations of human dignity, as in human cloning, racism, genocide, acts of terror, exploiting workers as tools of production, treating the poor as disposable, or redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning.
This is a short list; see the full document for a more complete list. However, Catholics may vote for a candidate who promotes an intrinsically evil act under certain circumstances: Furthermore, the bishops offer this guidance when all the options are bad:. When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.
The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods. Even more important than talking to your kids about faithful citizenship is modeling it for them, first and foremost by participating in civic and political activities.
Here are some ways to Raising a catholic family that. Speaking the Truth in Love. It is not enough that we know or believe something to be true. We must express that truth in charity with respect for others so that the bonds between us can be strengthened in building up the body of Christ. Cardinal Wuerl suggests seven rules for civil dialogue; you can find them at the end of this article. Candidates Raising a catholic family elected office are fond of raising the stakes: Elections matter, and leadership matters, as history teaches us.
At the same time, as St. Augustine taught, we are citizens of heaven first and foremost. Temporal politics are passing, but heaven is forever. As parents, we can model this attitude for kids by not becoming overly anxious over political matters; more importantly, we can model love for our opponents, and avoid the kind of hatred that poisons our souls. But if kids are going to grow up into responsible citizens, they need to know about other political offices, too.
In many ways, down-ballot races—for Congress, for the local city council or school board—will affect their lives more than the presidential race.
Moreover, individual citizens have more leverage over policies at the local level. A great pre-election activity for older kids and teens is to download a sample ballot, then check out all of the races—including the more obscure ones. In most instances, kids can go to the polling place with you on election day, which is a great way to get them started on a lifelong habit of voting. But as the Church teaches, citizenship goes beyond the "Raising a catholic family" booth, and there are lots of other ways for Catholics to exercise their civic responsibility, including participating in rallies and lobby days, writing to elected officials, and attending meetings of local government bodies.
Make it a point to pray with your kids on and after election day for the welfare of our country and local communities. Post Raising a catholic family rules in your home maybe by the dinner table.