He told them not to abandon their "essential participation in democracy and become a part of the sad statistic of nearly 45% of Americans who are eligible to vote in a presidential election and abdicate this important civic and Christian duty. No matter how flawed you may think the candidates are, you have an obligation to participate."
He said, "Both candidates are imperfect human beings. The American political system does not produce saviors for the nation or knights in shining armor who fulfill all of our hopes and expectations. Neither President Obama nor former Governor Romney espouses positions consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church on important moral, social, and economic issues."
Concerning President Obama, he said:
"There are voices that suggest that, as African-Americans, we are all good Democrats and will most certainly vote in huge numbers for the re-election of 'one of our own,' the first Black President. It is argued that we will do this even if, as committed Catholics, we are profoundly disturbed by positions taken by the President on fundamental issues such as the dignity of every human life, the immutable nature of marriage, and the right of the Catholic Church to enjoy the free exercise of religion in the public square, without being encumbered by a narrow definition of what it means to be a religious institution and mandates that violate our consciences and the clear moral teachings of the Church. These voices suggest that we will vote as Democrats because we see the President's efforts to bring the nation out of the greatest recession since the depression, his unrelenting efforts to increase the level of employment, his tireless efforts to end deadly and unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his bold efforts to eliminate terrorists.
"However, there are other voices. There are other voices that suggest that this view of African-American Catholics is implicitly racist because it suggests a blind allegiance to a candidate because of his racial background, while disregarding the question of character, integrity, and the strong, even aggressive positions that the President has taken that are in direct conflict with Catholic teachings. These voices remind us that the American Bishops have forcefully opposed the Health and Human Services mandate and that forty-three Catholic entities have taken the unprecedented step of filing lawsuits against the federal government because this mandate poses fundamental challenges to the Catholic Church's First Amendment right not only to freedom of worship but also to the freedom of conscience that is central to religious liberty."
Concerning former Governor Romney, the Bishop said:
"According to these voices, we should vote for Mr. Romney because his positions are more consistent with the teachings of the Church on the sanctity of developing human life in the womb. Further, he should be our choice because of his proven record as a successful businessman and generator of wealth, his experience as Governor of Massachusetts, his detailed plans for reining in the spiraling deficit, his agenda for restoring confidence in the nation, his promise to increase our military strength, and his vow to strike down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on his first day in office because it is clearly unconstitutional in spite of the much-debated 5-4 ruling of the Supreme Court to uphold its constitutionality. These voices suggest that the argument - that he is the better candidate - which he made recently before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was persuasive, since by maintaining a low tax rate for the wealthiest Americans will ultimately generate more jobs for the poor and unemployed."
"But there are still other voices. These voices suggest that we should find it just as difficult to vote for Mr. Romney. They argue that it is impossible to know his true position on many of the most critical issues because he seems to have changed his positions on them when it was politically opportune. More than that, his views on economic reform in a time of crisis, his understanding of how capitalism works, and his unwillingness to raise the taxes of our wealthiest citizens, seem to favor those who enjoy his exceptional level of wealth and penalize the middle class and the very poor, who are often African-American and Hispanic. This seems to show very little empathy for the neediest Americans. These voices also suggest that the modern Republican Party embraces members who seem to support or tolerate positions that reflect a bias against People of Color, that are only slightly concealed as they embrace policies that turn back the clock and attempt to disenfranchise so-called 'minorities.' These voices feel certain that the Governor is not on our side."
Bishop Braxton stressed that he was not telling Christian faithful for whom to vote. But he said:
"Make sure you are registered to vote. Take the time needed to study carefully the positions of the contenders. Read, think, discuss, dispute, decide, read, think, discuss, debate some more, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance, reconsider your decision and VOTE."
The large gathering of African American Catholics that filled the hall at the J.T. Marriott Hotel responded to the homily with a standing ovation and shouts of "Amen! We needed to hear that!" In addition to the laity, a very large number of women and men religious, and permanent deacons attended the Congress, which featured speakers, workshops, and activities on a wide variety of topics related to the Congress theme, "faith Engaged: Empower, Equip, Engage." More than one hundred priests and nearly forty bishops concelebrated the Mass. Bishop Braxton was the principal Celebrant and homilist.
The first National Black Catholic Congress was convened by Daniel Rudd in 1889 in Washington, DC. The Servant of God, Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first priest of African Descent ordained to serve in the United States, was the celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass.