As Catholic social justice leaders, sisters, clergy, theologians and Catholic university presidents, we are compelled to speak out at a time when democracy and the future of our nation’s freedoms are threatened by powerful interests.
White Christian nationalism — an ideology heretical to authentic faith — represents a clear and present danger to building a multi-faith, multiracial democracy. Testimony and evidence from Congressional hearings on the violent insurrection against our country last January 6th have only strengthened our urgency to confront attacks against the principle that voters choose our leaders in free and peaceful elections.
We are increasingly alarmed by the signs of the times. Threats of political violence and dehumanizing rhetoric toward elected officials have increased in recent years.The Supreme Court, which in 2013 dismantled key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act, will in its upcoming term hear a case that experts warn could empower gerrymandered partisan legislatures to override the will of the voters in the 2024 elections. Lawmakers in states across the country have passed dozens of laws, many based on completely false political premises, specifically designed to make voting more difficult. These laws disproportionately impact Black and Brown citizens — a shameful echo of our country’s ugly history of racial discrimination.
Catholics must not be silent in the face of growing threats to voters, fair elections and democratic principles.
Our faith tradition teaches that every person deserves equal access to participate fully in our democracy. Pope Francis has said that “democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all.” The Second Vatican Council declared in Gaudium et Spes: “It is in full accord with human nature that juridical political structures should, with ever better success and without any discrimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders.”
Powerful institutions and political leaders are working to rig the system and erect racially discriminatory obstacles to voting and full participation in American life. Voter suppression is a sin and silence is complicity. The struggle to ensure our government represents and serves all regardless of color, class or creed is a defining moral challenge of our time. We urge our elected officials in Congress and in state legislatures, especially our fellow Catholics, to support legislation that protects and strengthens the freedom to vote without barriers or interference.
Democracies are fragile. In recent years, this timeless truth has been shown in stark ways as demagogues and nationalists in the United States and around the world have attacked the very existence of pluralistic societies. It’s now time for a renewed commitment to the common good that makes full, equal participation in political life a moral priority.
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