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Catholics in the politics: ‘We all have the right to shape the direction of our country’

By Klysha Best

People always say there are three things you don’t talk about – religion, politics, and money.

Fr Stephan Alexander, General Manager of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, says the Church has no issues with respect to the participation of the faithful in elections.

Speaking during the August 11 episode of Altos – three days before the August 14 Local Government Elections – Fr Alexander said, the Church’s teaching is very clear in respect of this.

“The Church invites the Catholic faithful to understand their responsibility, their obligation to be citizens and to participate as citizens in the life of the governance of their country, which means several things. It could mean putting yourself forward for electoral politics or it could mean the simple act of voting.”

But, interestingly enough, he said, “The Church does also recognise the right of the person who decides not to vote.”

Fr Alexander pointed out that, “this is where candidates in an election seem to be more towards the ‘evil’, which is a word that has appeared in documents from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, giving that right to persons when the options before them are so against the common good, then the ability to abstain as well is recognised by the Church.”

Pope Francis has in the past rejected the idea that Catholics should not meddle in politics, to which Fr Alexander agreed.

He said as citizens, we all have the right to shape the direction of this country: “Rather, the Church teaches that we have a moral obligation to participate in the life of the country, and the direction of it.”

When asked if it is an oxymoron to be a good Catholic and participate in politics, or even be a good Catholic and a politician at the same time, Fr Alexander said “no”.

“They aren’t opposed to each other. I would say actually that the goal is that they would feed into each other and that isn’t something that is new or coming up….And being a good person is the whole part of what it means to execute your responsibility, your moral responsibility, your legal responsibility etc. to bring about the common good,” said Fr. Alexander.

He said the obligation upon Catholics, and everyone else, is to look at the options in good conscience and make a decision.

With reference to the tribalistic way in which T&T appears to vote, polarised along ethnic lines, Fr Alexander pointed out that all voting is tribal in some form.

However, if the only indicator is tribe, then Catholics are not doing what the Holy Father has said, “which is praying, looking and considering in good conscience, we’re not really executing.”

“So, the invitation is really for us to do our homework, make conscious decisions and to recognise as well that until we do that, we actually aren’t carrying out or executing our moral responsibility to the fullest.”