Archbishop Alexander Sample on Oct. 9 appealed to voters to explore issues deeply and apply the principles of natural law before casting ballots.

Saying his job is to help form consciences, not endorse or condemn candidates, Archbishop Sample cited Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops during his latest Friday evening Chapel Chat, a talk delivered online from his Portland home.

While Catholics don’t seek to impose their faith on wider society, they do vote from a faith-based and widely-applied view on the dignity of the human person, the archbishop explained.

“We vote as disciples of Jesus Christ first and foremost,” he said, sitting in front of a tabernacle. He urged citizens to decide not from whim, sentiment or emotion but from objective moral standards and with a conscience formed to follow the mind of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus’ church.

While a conscience formed by Catholic teaching will care about a range of problems affecting human life and dignity, Archbishop Sample said the pope and the bishops have made it clear that abortion is the preeminent issue in public policy because it attacks innocent human life directly, takes place in the sanctuary of the family and because of the high number of deaths — 61 million in the U.S. since 1973.

Archbishop Sample, who sits on the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, reported that his committee chairman, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, asked Pope Francis earlier this year if opposing abortion should still be talked about as the church’s public policy priority.

The pope said, “Of course,” and noted that the right to life is the basis of other rights. Archbishop Sample expanded on the idea.

“You can’t advocate for economic justice and fairness for those who are not allowed to be born,” the archbishop said. “You can’t advocate for a right to a good education for those who are not allowed to be born. You can’t advocate for adequate health care for those who are not allowed to be born. You cannot fight against racism for those children of color who have not been allowed to be born. You can’t advocate for loving care of refugees and immigrants who have not been allowed to be born.”

The archbishop made it clear that Catholics are not to ignore other issues like poverty, the death penalty, immigration reform, racism, the environment and warfare.

The way U.S. political parties are structured, that often leaves Catholics in a dilemma. The archbishop said that it is cooperation in evil to vote for a candidate precisely because that candidate supports an intrinsically immoral act such as abortion or racist policy. But citing the national bishops’ document, he said that voters can decide to vote for such a candidate for other morally grave reasons. He told voters not to take the provision lightly.

In their election year document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops critique a culture that has abandoned a moral hierarchy and treats all ideas and practices as equal. That has clouded moral decision-making, Archbishop Sample said.

To read the entire U.S. bishops’ document, go to go.sentinel.org/3jqG4UC.