The US Bishops’ Document Faithful Citizenship
In the year prior to each Presidential election year, the US Bishops issue a
document to review with Catholics their responsibility to be citizens active in
the political process. In November of 2007 the bishops approved “Forming
Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”
Priests for Life welcomes the bishops’ statement.
The Faithful Citizenship statements have always outlined the many
important issues that relate to the ‘common good.’ Many of the previous
statements have been criticized for failing to adequately distinguish the
differences between the moral gravity of the various issues, and the distinction
between policy and principle. The most recent statement, however, does more to
highlight those distinctions.
We at Priests for Life echo the bishops’ call for a
consistent ethic of life, properly understood, which begins with the
proclamation that life is sacred and that the right to life can never be denied
to a person, whether born or unborn. This ethic continues to call for the
efforts of public officials and citizens alike to preserve and enhance the other
fundamental rights of every person, such as religious liberty, and to protect
the many goods that are to accompany life itself: education, health care,
security, and many more.
“The bishops’ statement calls us to avoid two
extremes in considering these issues. One is to ignore the distinctions among
the issues; the other is to ignore some of the issues when making the
The bishops furthermore point out that as we
participate in political parties, we are also called to change those parties
wherever and whenever their positions fail to correspond to the demands of
justice and the common good. In particular, we at Priests for Life call upon the
Democratic Party to abandon its pro-abortion stance, recognizing that such a
stance imperils and dilutes any progress that can be made on other issues.
We also want to emphasize in a particular way the
call that the bishops make for Catholics to be involved in running for office
and being active in political parties. This is completely consistent with a life
of faith and worship. In fact, public service in political life is a vocation.
The statement, furthermore, explains that Catholics
who vote for candidates because they want to keep abortion legal, or who ignore
the pro-abortion stance of a candidate and support him or her just because of
party loyalty, are acting immorally.
The document does leave room for voting for a
candidate who favors legal abortion if, for instance, the opposing candidate is
even more pro-abortion than the one for whom the voter is voting.
The statement encourages Catholics to use voter
education materials produced by their dioceses, and so do we. Unfortunately,
many dioceses do not produce any voter guides or election-related materials.
Priests for Life urges such dioceses to do so. The faithful, of course, are
always free to produce and use other election-related material. This is
consistent with the statement’s call to be active in the political process and
in political parties themselves.
Our commitment at Priests for Life is to make this
document widely known, and to distribute it far and wide at our own expense.
Moreover, we call upon priests to preach on its contents, on candidates to study
its lessons, and on voters to heed its guidance.
Quotes from the document:
“In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become
preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself,
the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the
Gospel of Life, no. 5).”
“Two temptations in public life 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. 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.
“The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of
dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity.”
“Pope John Paul II explained the importance of being
true to fundamental Church teachings: Above all, the common outcry, which is
justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home,
to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the
most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal
rights, is not defended with maximum determination. (Christifideles Laici, no.
“This culture of life begins with the preeminent
obligation to protect innocent life from direct attack and extends to defending
life whenever it is threatened or diminished.”
“Address the preeminent requirement to protect the
weakest in our midst—innocent unborn children—by restricting and bringing to an
end the destruction of unborn children through abortion.”
Read the full text of the Bishops' statement,
Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility
Read the Priests for Life Press Release on the statement
Citizenship by Fr. Frank Pavone