Friday, January 04, 2008

National Catholic Register: "Voting in 2008 - New Guidance From Catholic Bishops"

(Hat tip: Custos Fidei)

Susan Wills, associate director for education for the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, writes in the January 6-12, 2008 issue of National Catholic Register:
... This year, the bishops were determined to take a hands-on approach in writing “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

In a broadly collaborative effort, they squarely address the questions that have nagged Catholic voters (for example, can a Catholic in good conscience ever vote for a pro-choice candidate?) and they provide guidance that is precise, clear and virtually immune from misinterpretation.

Spin by news media, of course, we will always have with us, as two headlines attest: “Bishops: Abortion Isn’t Voters’ Only Issue” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 15, 2007) and “Catholic Bishops Vote for Document Saying Abortion Should Guide Voting” (, Nov. 14, 2007).

In fact, both headlines are true as far as they go, and both ignore an aspect of the document.

The bishops readily acknowledge that their responsibility in building a just society does not include endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote. Their primary role is instead “to teach fundamental moral principles that help Catholics form their consciences correctly, to provide guidance on the moral dimensions of public decisions, and to encourage the faithful to carry out their responsibilities in political life” (No. 15).

Early in the statement, they warn against two opposing “temptations” in public life that “can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity.”

The first temptation is “moral equivalence” that treats issues as diverse as abortion and minimum wage policy, for example, as equally weighty.

The bishops repeatedly emphasize that “the direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed” (No. 28).

The second temptation is to think that the Church cares about only one issue, dismissing or ignoring all other serious threats to human life and dignity.

The bishops explain that the Church cares about the dignity of the human person in a wide variety of ways, while noting that not every individual can be actively involved in each of these concerns.

The statement helpfully distinguishes between actions that are intrinsically evil, that is, those that are “so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons” and can never be condoned (No. 22), and positive policy initiatives that foster human dignity and the common good.

In the category of intrinsically evil actions, the statement names abortion, euthanasia, destructive research on human embryos, human cloning, genocide, torture, racism and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war.

The intentional destruction of innocent human life as in abortion is said to have a preeminent place among these concerns...


Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
USCCB Makes Available Full Text of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

John Allen Interviews Bishop DiMarzio Regarding Catholic Voting Guides

Archbishop Chaput Not Satisfied With Proposed New USCCB Document on Voting

Catholic Bishops’ Taxing Task: Election-Year Statement

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

Vox Nova on Voter's Guides

Dueling Catholic Voter Guides

More on Catholic Voter Guides

Columnist: "Christian Right Driving Wedge Into US"

More From Amy Welborn on the "Dueling Catholic Voter Guides"

"Catholics in the Public Square" by Bishop Olmsted

Catholics Find Voting Guides a Test of Allegiance

Toledo Blade: "Catholic Voting Guide Gives Church Perspective"

Weigel: "An Electoral Battle of the Booklets?"

What's Missing?

"Not An Approved Catholic Voter Guide"

Kentucky Parishes Cautioned on Partisan Political Activity

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