Oregon's primary season has passed. As we prepare for our local elections, let us ask St. Thomas More, whose feast day is June 22, to grant the gift of wisdom and statesmanship to all politicians and people engaged in politics.

Should Catholics be political?  The opportunity to shape and better the community/state/nation in which we live is a right of citizenship and a responsibility incumbent on all who are part of this world, this big messy planet earth where everyone is our neighbor. Catholics could and should be leaders, leaven, in the body politic.  We can be nonpartisan but never apolitical. Addressing the issues that affect moral life, in light of Catholic teaching, is political; it is our cherished responsibility.

The brightest light in our Catholic teaching is the gospel of life, which demands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus summarizes the entire Gospel with these words: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. … Love your neighbor as yourself." Therefore, Catholics must ask, “In my individual political choices, where is love? Collectively, in the policies of our government, where is love? Do I try to separate public life from private life or do I allow the Gospel to inform my way of living?”  "The democratic ideal is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person." When government fails to meet this obligation to love, it ceases to be a legitimate democracy.

In the mature person, the central obligation to uphold the dignity of others is no mere intellectual exercise but a demand for authentic compassion animated by love. In order to be authentically animated by love, each person has a moral responsibility before God to form his or her conscience by truth and justice.

Conscience is “the voice of God in the nature and heart of man,” (J.H. Newman) -the voice of love. A formed conscience, therefore, leads one to act in the polis with the love that is purified and strengthened by truth and justice.

St. Thomas More said, “Little as I meddle in the conscience of others, I am certain that my conscience belongs to me alone. It is the last thing that a man can do for his salvation: to be at one with himself.”

Equipped with an increasingly formed conscience, Catholics contemplate benefitting a broader community than just ourselves. Pope Francis observed, "What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted." Far-sighted politics would judge each action, each vote, and each law by the following criteria, namely, our Catholic principles:

  1. Does this law protect human life and dignity?
  2. Does this vote promote the common good?
  3. Does this choice build a civilization of love?

In this political season, when people are asked what we brought to the conversation, let the answer be love; may they say Catholics brought God’s love into the political discourse.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Father Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.