It is not the layperson’s role to interpret Catholicism; the dogmas that define the faith are a cohesive, inseparable whole. The “one” mark of the Church signifies a unified body of adherents centered on belief in one Lord, one God. Christ charged his Apostles and their bishop successors with the responsibility to interpret scripture and tradition. The Magisterium, or the official teaching body of the Church, authorizes the pope and bishops in communion with the pope as the only people that can officially define dogma.
So-called personal interpretations often contradict these official tenets and therefore cannot be defined as Catholic. Those who deny the real presence of Christ transubstantiated in the Eucharist, believe procured abortion is a woman’s right or support gay marriage are not Catholics, for they do not have the right to dissent from the Church on these incontrovertible issues. Therefore, they separate themselves from the community of believers and become apostates.
This is obviously a difficult position to digest in the free-thinking American culture. The Constitution grants freedom of speech and religion and establishes a republic; these are wonderful facets of American life and governance. The Church, however, is not a democracy. National identities should be secondary to one’s identity as a Catholic, for after all, the word catholic translates to “universal.” While the Founding Fathers are obviously important figures, perhaps American Catholics ought to be more interested in what the popes and St. Thomas Aquinas had to say.
Those who are faithful to Christ are also faithful to those He entrusts to lead His flock. Obedience is the proper Catholic response to the Magisterium. Obedience suppresses biases, fallacies, desires, pride and vanity for the sake of accepting and trusting Christ above all else. So-called Catholic politicians who are disobedient cause scandal by leading others to think that it is acceptable to disregard core moral and theological dogmas.
It is crucial that faithful American Catholics do not support objective evil in the voting booths. Candidates who support procured abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage are in direct opposition to the Church. The implications for voting are important for intellectual and spiritual honesty as well as for the soul’s well-being.