Fr. Corel offers guidance on electoral discernment

Builds discussion around U.S. bishops' "Faithful Citizenship"


Like it or not, election season has arrived.

Missourians will head to the polls for a primary election on Aug. 4 and will return to the voting booth Nov. 3 to help elect a president and other state and federal officers.

With that in mind, Father Joseph Corel, pastor in solidum of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Sedalia, offered timely information on how Catholic voters are to approach their important civic duty.

His insights, presented July 16, were part of the St. Vincent de Paul parish’s regular “Tap into Faith” series and were livestreamed over Facebook.

“My hope is that we can bring civility into a time in which there is a lot of controversy, arguments, and disagreement,” said Fr. Corel. “We need to be charitable in what we are about to do and try to place ourselves in the presence of Christ in the midst of conflicts and difficulties that will be coming up.”

Citing Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and numerous Church documents, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” he asserted that Catholics are called and obliged to participate in the political process.

“We are called to enter into the political discourse because as Catholics, we have teachings that reflect the dignity of the human person,” he stated.

“At the heart of every (electoral) issue, is the dignity of the human person,” he explained. “The Church will always side on the dignity of the human person and the protection of the weak.”

He went on to explain that the Church is not an ideology but rather a repository for what is true and right.

“She is the voice of Jesus Christ, Who gives us the truth,” he said. “As the Catechism states, the Catholic Church is an expert on humanity because God created humanity and gave us Jesus Christ to perfect humanity and then gave us the Church to show us how to be fully human.”

Armed with the truth, Catholics have an obligation to teach others by sharing the Good News. The political process is one of many important ways to do that.

“Politics is about people and the betterment of humanity,” Fr. Corel noted. “Our faith life needs to influence our political life and not the other way around.”

The key is to develop a well-informed conscience. Fr. Corel presented a three-step process:

  • Read Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and pray over it;
  • Practice the virtue of prudence;
  • Take action, doing good while avoiding evil.

“Avoiding evil is not enough,” the priest emphasized. “We have to do good. In politics, that means we have to do things that promote good.”

He concluded with four principles the Church instructs voters to carry into the voting booth with them in the coming months:

  • the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death;
  • subsidiarity — the idea of keeping politics and policies as close to the local level as possible;
  • promoting the common good — namely, seeking to determine what is best for the most people.
  • solidarity — standing with those who suffer.

“The Church cannot champion any candidate or political party,” Fr. Corel noted. “Our cause is the defense of human life and the dignity and protection of the weak and vulnerable.

“We welcome dialogue with political leaders and candidates,” he said. “We seek to encourage and persuade public officials. Events and photo-ops cannot substitute for serious dialogue.

“We cannot compromise basic principles or moral teaching,” he said. “We are committed to moral teaching with clarity.

“Let us focus more on moral principles than on the latest polls,” he stated. “Let us focus more on the needs of the weak than the benefits of the strong. Let us focus on the pursuit of the common good rather than the demand of the narrow interest.

“This kind of the political participation reflects the social teaching of the Church and the best traditions of our nation,” he said.

A video of Fr. Corel’s talk can be found on Facebook, by searching “St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Parish.”

The U.C. Catholic bishops’ teaching document titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” can be found at: