Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bishops' Document to Offer New Guidance on Catholics' Political Role

(Hat tip:

From Catholic News Service:
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Rejecting a political climate based on "powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites and media hype," the U.S. bishops call Catholics to "a different kind of political engagement" in a document to be voted on during their fall general meeting Nov. 12-15 in Baltimore.

That engagement must be "shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and vulnerable," they said.

The 37-page "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility From the Catholic Bishops of the United States" was developed by seven committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and must be approved by two-thirds of the USCCB membership.

The bishops also are to vote on a shortened version of the text, designed for use as a parish bulletin insert.

In the longer document, the bishops admit that "Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the church's comprehensive commitment to the dignity of the human person."

"As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group," the draft document says. "When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths."

Although the draft document outlines a wide variety of policy positions taken by the bishops on domestic and international issues, it makes clear that not all issues carry equal importance.

"There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor," the document says, citing in particular abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, stem-cell research involving the destruction of human embryos and "violations of human dignity such as racism, torture, genocide and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war."

The bishops warn against "two temptations in public life (that) can distort the church's defense of human life and dignity."

"The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity," they say. "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is ... not just one issue among many."

But it is also wrong to misuse "these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity," the draft document says.

Although there might be "principled debate" about the best approach on issues such as health care, racism, unjust war, the death penalty and immigration, "this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore church teaching on these important issues," the bishops say.

The draft document does not address a topic raised during the 2004 presidential campaign -- giving Communion to Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal...

(emphasis added)

My Comments:
Not to sound cynical, but I'm not sure I see anything new or earthshattering, based only on the description of the bishops' document in the news article.

There's basically something in there for everyone, thereby providing enough "political cover" for Catholics - whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, Republican, Democrat, or independent - to justify continuing to do whatever it is they've already been doing whenever it comes to "voting their values".

In related news from Catholic News Service:
Pope says political field is for laypeople, but church must guide

Involvement in politics is a role reserved to laypeople, but Catholic Church leaders must explain and promote the moral principles that will contribute to the common good, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"The church, while recognizing that it is not a political agent, cannot abstain from taking an interest in the good of the whole civil community in which it lives and works," the pope said in a message published Oct. 18.

The papal message marked the 100th annual celebration of a week dedicated to studying Catholic social teaching sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference.

Working for a just social order is a task that belongs to laypeople, the pope said.

"As citizens of the state it is up to them to participate personally in public life," and to dedicate themselves "with generosity and courage, enlightened by faith and the teaching of the church, and animated by the love of Christ," he said.

The role of church leaders is to provide guidance, he said, particularly when modern society is facing "multiple ethical and social emergencies that threaten its stability and seriously compromise its future."

Pope Benedict said the most pressing issues include "respect for human life and the attention that must be paid to the needs of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman."

(emphasis added)

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At 10/22/2007 9:38 AM, Blogger Dale Price said...

"Developed by seven committees"

With all due respect to the bishops who are admittedly in a difficult spot, barring a miracle, this is going to be pretty close to useless.


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