Q: Archbishop J, what is the responsibility of a Catholic in the General Elections?
As we approach the General Elections, I would like to propose some points of reflection. It is important that we understand the power, responsibility, and purpose of our vote.
It was not given to us. Our forefathers had to struggle for every adult citizen to have a right to one vote. Every right has a responsibility. The responsibility you hold is your power to participate in choosing a government to lead Trinidad and Tobago at this very crucial time.
Many times, people vote blindly along party or tribal lines. That is not democracy, nor does it serve the common good. It fosters racism, greed, and very short-term reasoning. The result is the high crime and insecurity we live with in Trinidad and Tobago.
Do you want your children and grandchildren to stay in Trinidad and Tobago? If so, you need to consider what will be necessary for us to do as a nation to keep the brightest and the best of our children and grandchildren committed to building our nation.
When you vote you exercise a right and privilege to shape the future of our nation. This should not be done lightly.
Purpose of Government
The purpose of government is to promote the highest good of all citizens. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC) employed two concepts in defining this—noble actions and living happily.
For him, government’s first task is to promote noble actions—this is virtue! This is doing the right thing in public and private. This requires that everything is in place to promote virtue in every sphere of the society.
The government must ensure we educate for virtue, we have laws, traditions and customs that promote virtue and that those in government are the epitome and guardians of virtue.
The second purpose is living happily—here Aristotle sees four contending philosophies: (1) pursuit of pleasure—hedonism; (2) pursuit of wealth—materialism; (3) pursuit of power—despotism, or (4) pursuit of wisdom.
Only the pursuit of wisdom will lead to the common good—that is the good or well-being of the WHOLE community.
This is not just about material development, it is also about the moral, spiritual, social, intellectual, and emotional development of all of our people.
Your vote is your way of participating in good governance and determining the future of Trinidad and Tobago. Which candidate or party do you believe will best lead our nation in this direction? What does the nation need at this time? Which candidate or party will best serve the common good?
Catholics are committed to authentic Integral Human Development—If we intend to have peace and harmony in Trinidad and Tobago, we need an urgent investment in our people.
We have too many people living below the poverty line.
We have too many citizens unable to make a meaningful contribution to the world of work.
We have too many schools failing and frustrating our children.
We have too many communities that are trapped in the cycle of poverty.
We need a national plan that privileges the development of the marginalised in our nation.
We need a national plan to retool workers for a new economic reality. COVID-19 has jolted us over a chasm. Our economy is in great flux and in need of transformation.
We have been speaking about diversification for ages now. We are approaching a time when traditional jobs and businesses may not absorb the workers they once did. The technological revolutions—digital, biological, robotics—allow us to participate in a global economy. Are our citizens ready?
Catholics are committed to care for the earth and the migrant. Do we have policies for a greener planet? For food security? For protection of our natural habitats? How are we treating the refugee and the migrant? These policy areas are vital for Catholics who want to vote by conscience.
Catholics are committed to virtue—Virtue in public office is essential for good governance. Doing the right thing because it is right. When we compromise on virtue, we promote corruption and vice and bribery and indecency in public and private. This path will completely undermine our society and make us ungovernable.
What will you do with your vote?
For Catholics, voting is a matter of conscience. So, begin with prayer and if necessary, fasting. It is also a matter of obligation. Catholics have an obligation to vote, which means we need to discern how to use our vote.
The question that every adult citizen should be asking is: which team of candidates will best promote the common good for the people of Trinidad and Tobago?
To grow Trinidad and Tobago, we need to grow our people to (1) move those living in poverty to participate in the economy and society, (2) grow each citizen to prepare him or her to be a citizen of the world—and not only as it relates to attitudinal change, but also as it relates to growing character, i.e., strengthening the emotional, intellectual, social and physical dimensions of each of us, (3) become good neighbours to the refugees and migrants and persons in need in our community and to our planet, by promoting healthy ecology.
And, we need (4) a national strategy for promoting virtue as the highest good.
Ask those who want your vote how they propose to achieve these four things. When you get the answers, pray for wisdom, and then use your vote for the team that you believe offers the best solution to our current challenges.
It is not only your right; IT IS YOUR DUTY TO VOTE. Vote for a better Trinidad and Tobago.
I pray that this reflection and our prayer joined together, will assist the citizens and those who seek to govern this beautiful democracy to act wisely and with integrity.
Democracy is a fragile gift that our forefathers and mothers struggled for. We have an obligation to use our vote wisely.
Before Election Day, spend some time in prayer, reflection, and discernment. Ask God’s help and then choose how you will vote.
2 Chronicles 7:14