Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The heart of Christian discipleship is living out the commandment of love. Love is manifest not only in our single-minded devotion to the Lord but even more so in the actions that flow from our love of neighbor. Such love is realized in the practical charity of individual good works that we perform for the least of our sisters and brothers (Matthew 25:34-46). That love is realized in our pursuit of justice for the weak and vulnerable among us as a Christian community. Our pursuit of justice is integral with our mission as a church in which Christ compels us to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation (Mark 16:15). A guide called “Faithful Citizenship” published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops underlines these thoughts.
There are many challenges that humanity faces which have moral consequences. These challenges are at the heart of public life and the center of the pursuit of the common good (Faithful Citizenship, No. 2). The Church has an obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society. The Church does not support or oppose specific political parties or candidates for office. However, the Church does have an obligation to instruct the faithful on the basic principles to consider when making choices that would have moral implications for society.
In a democracy such as the Northern Mariana Islands, the people have the right to choose their government leaders. Our leaders, in turn, have the obligation to carry out their duties and responsibilities in accordance with the Constitution and duly enacted laws. When they do not do so, we hold them accountable. As Christians, we expect our leaders to also adhere to moral principles that further the best interest of the community. The electoral process at every election is the means by which we the voters decide whether we are satisfied with the performance of our leaders in office. This is the way democracy works. And this is the reason why the right to vote is so important.
As Christians, we choose as our leaders those individuals who will advance policies and legislation that do not contradict our faith and morals. This requires us, as voters, to have a well-informed conscience in choosing the individuals who will govern us wisely.
The November 2018 elections will be held in three months. The results of these elections can profoundly shape life in the CNMI for years to come. As individual voters and political candidates, as well as a community of disciples, we share a grave responsibility for the future we are shaping through our choices in the voting booth, and for those who are elected, in their respective offices. As your bishop, I urge you to take this responsibility with great seriousness. Don’t allow divisive politics, ideology, or even family ties to sway your decision in the months ahead. Rather, apply the basic moral principles of our faith to the unfolding political process, so that our political leadership will reflect the best of our community and adhere to fundamental moral principles.
The Church urges each of the faithful to carefully discern the issues affecting our community and to use your conscience in examining these issues. We should always remember that, as Christians, we must adhere to the basic moral principles of the Church that enhance the good of everyone in our community. Toward this goal, we will explore Catholic social teaching in the pages of the North Star between now and November. As part of our pastoral plan that we implemented this year, the Social Justice Commission will feature articles on this topic in the North Star. Please make use of these resources in shaping your decision in November and in your support for or opposition to various proposals in the months and years that follow. Be engaged in the political process. Allow your faith to guide and enlighten your political engagement.
Finally, I invite all of us to pray. Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.