In this European election year, we must focus on the importance of voting on the basis of sufficient information and reflection, led by the vision of our “common future”. The document Gaudium Evangelii by Pope Francis offers challenging and refreshing perspectives to inspire this reflection. The document does not seek “the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines” but wants to penetrate the heart of the public mission of the Church. For Francis, this mission is twofold.First: what matters is above all “faith working through love” and this charity finds its fullest expression in the form of mercy, which is “the greatest of virtues, because she gives to the other [virtues]”.Second: “We must say frankly that there is an inseparable link between faith and the poor”. “Let us never leave them alone”, We could not find any stronger statement: leaving the poor, abandoning them is to abandon the faith.These two central themes run throughout the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. As the document is addressed to the universal Church, there is no explicit reference to the European Union. But it calls the Catholic citizens to rethink the nature and purpose of politics, including electoral politics of the European Union.Let us take only one example: the question of economic growth. The ideal formulated by the European Union for the year 2020, that of a “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” is ambiguous. If applied only to the word “inclusive”, sometimes translated as “integrating” or “in solidarity”, it could mean that we must absolutely aim for growth (although we would prefer it to be inclusive). Alternatively, it could mean that any growth model that fails to be inclusive and that continues to expand social division is not valid and must be rejected.The position of Pope Francis about this text is clear: he argues passionately that equality is more important than growth. Confidence in growth as such reflects a “rough and naive confidence in the goodness of those who hold economic power”, so that we end up being “unable to feel compassion for the suffering cry of the poor”. The Pope condemns “practical relativism” that “consists in acting as if God did not exist, in making decisions as if the poor did not exist”. It is striking to see how he combines spirituality with political ethics, just like Jesus who said that the “two main commandments” were inseparable.In fact, Francis proclaims a new commandment: “We must say ‘no’ to an economy of exclusion and social disparity”. “As long as we have not solved radically the problems of the poor by giving up the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of social disparity, the world’s problems-ultimately any problems-will not be solved. Social disparity is the root of all evils in society”. The reason is that growth without social integration may trigger “processes of dehumanization that will then be difficult to reverse”.However, the Pope noted that this is not so much the poor that are dehumanized as much as those who exclude them. “In addition to participating in the sensus fidei [the poor], through their own suffering, know the suffering Christ. It is necessary that we all allow ourselves to be evangelized by them”.The elections rely on our democratic responsibility to correct the economic and social order that is morally a mess: it is not a matter of identifying a party or a group that would be blameless, since none exists, but of mandating political leaders to reshape public policy. Voting reflectively and ethically is exercising one’s civic responsibility for the common good. But in Catholic thinking, there is no “common good” without “good for the poor”.
A responsible vote in view of the common good. With a special option for the poor