Minneapolis, Minn., Oct 31, 2016 / 02:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Bishop Andrew Cozzens was recently filling up his gas tank, a stranger approached him and said, “Father, I hope you are praying for this country!” “His sentiment captured what many of us feel about our country, especially regarding the upcoming election.
For conscientious Christians, many of us find our nation in a state of crisis,” Bishop Cozzens of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota said in an Oct. 27 column for Catholic Spirit. “But fear and discouragement ultimately are not real options for us as Christians,” he said, urging his community to trust in the ultimate power of God.
The Minnesota bishop shared his struggles with the upcoming Nov. 8 election, saying that “I find myself in a moral quandary greater than I ever have before.” But Bishop Cozzens is not alone in this sentiment — many other Catholic bishops have spoken out in this election, including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who called both major party candidates “problematic.”
Bishop Cozzens laid out his top priorities for a presidential candidate, saying that he wanted to vote for a leader who respected life in all stages, who would protect religious freedom, who would respect immigrants, and ultimately, who could be considered trustworthy.
“Though I do not expect elected officials to agree with me on every issue, I should at least be able to expect that they have the character to serve in the best interest of our nation’s people,” Bishop Cozzens said. “Unfortunately, I do not believe either of the two major candidates for president can be trusted to do so.”
Despite a challenging election year, Bishop Cozzen encouraged voters and Catholics to not despair, but remain in the call to be “people of hope,” grounded in the faith that Christ Jesus has “the greatest power in the universe.” “History has taught us that even when society goes astray from that love, Jesus Christ and his Church always remain.”
Bishop Cozzens pointed to voting guidelines published by the Minnesota Catholic Conference for discerning Catholics who are looking to both the Catholic Church and their own consciences to lead them in the election. For the Minnesota bishop, voting could come down to the disappointing decision of choosing between the lesser of evils, which he said includes casting a vote for a third-party candidate or even refraining from the presidential vote, which he called “a legitimate way to exercise one’s vote.”
Bishop Cozzens encouraged Catholics in the moral obligation to vote, urging them especially to keep Catholic values at the forefront in local elections. “Please don’t let your discouragement about the presidential race prevent you from voting in the many other important local elections. Much good can still be done right here in Minnesota to promote life, liberty and the common good by electing legislators who share our values.”
Moving forward, Bishop Cozzens encouraged an attitude of trust and hope, urging everyone to pray for the United States of America, particularly through a pre-election novena. “Given where our country is today, I fully expect that more suffering will come to those who seek to sincerely practice their Catholic faith,” the Minnesota bishop said. “But this suffering has always been part of the life of the Church. And we know that, united with Christ’s death on the cross, the sufferings we endure as part of the body of Christ can bear great fruit.”