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What you can do in your parish regarding elections

Priests and Deacons: Let's Express our Common Commitment to Life in Union with our Bishops

View our faxes sent to all Catholic parishes regarding Elections

Table of Contents

Prayer Campaign

Invite your parish to pray the election novena from September 2 to November 4, 2014, by clicking here. Announce it in the parish bulletin, link to it from the parish website, and distribute printed copies of the prayer.

Preaching

Preach on the Church’s teaching regarding political responsibility. We have prepared these helpful guidelines based on the Sunday readings and the documents of the bishops.  See PriestsForLife.org/preaching/electionhomilies.htm.

General Intercessions

Click here for suggested petitions about the elections, to include in the General Intercessions at Mass.

Bulletin Inserts

Click here to find full page or single paragraph material for the parish bulletin.

Internet and Email Tools

Our special website, PoliticalResponsibility.com, has numerous resources to prepare people for the elections!

Priests for Life sends out a bi-weekly e-mail commentary, free of charge, as well as numerous press releases and statements. Between now and the elections, these emails will help people understand Church teaching about political responsibility. You can help distribute this information by sending it out to your church e-mail list, or by inviting your people to subscribe personally. Contact subscribe@priestsforlife.org

We have a special email service for clergy. Subscribers will receive an email each week containing liturgical resources for the following weekend on pro-life themes. This includes a full set of General Intercessions, a paragraph for the bulletin, and pro-life homily themes drawn from the readings. Request this service at clergy@priestsforlife.org.

People can spread the message of faithful citizenship by visiting internet chat rooms and discussion forums. This can be a means of activating those who agree with us, and persuading those who do not. Guidance about what to say can be found at PoliticalResponsibility.com under the "What Can I Do?" section.

Letters to the Editor

One of the most effective ways for your congregation to participate in the electoral process is by writing letters to the editor. They would probably have the most success by focusing on religious publications. Diocesan newspapers and other Catholic publications offer excellent opportunities to encourage other members of the Faithful to participate in the electoral process and to do so in a way that conforms to Catholic teachings.

Our "Letters to the Editor" Project is described on our website at Priestsforlife.org/letters. Sample letters and talking points can be found there, as well as links that enable people to send the letters to papers via email. We encourage people to form small groups in which those who are not comfortable composing a letter can find assistance from others in putting their thoughts on paper. In this way the number of letters sent can be effectively increased. You may want to make the following material available at the back of Church, or at least provide it to those who express an interest in this activity. For more information, contact Priests for Life at vote@priestsforlife.org or (888) 735-3448.

Talking Points

Primacy of the Abortion Issue

  • "Respect for the dignity of the human person demands a commitment to human rights across a broad spectrum…. Yet 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" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 5).
  • "Abortion's direct attack on innocent human life is precisely the kind of violent act that can never be justified. Because victims of abortion are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family, it is imperative that we, as Christians called to serve the least among us, give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice." 1985 Reaffirmation of the US Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.
  • "In a society where abortion is claimed as ‘a woman's right,’ the most fundamental right - the right to life - is denied, and the basis for defending the rights of all women and men is, thereby, eroded." 1985 Reaffirmation of the US Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

Responsibility to Vote

  • Active participation in our community is a fundamental element of the Catholic faith. Catholics must make registering to vote a priority rather than considering it a secondary concern.
  • The United StatesConference of Catholic Bishops states that active citizenship is a moral imperative. "We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of responsible citizenship is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in ways that defend human life, especially those of God's children who are unborn, disabled or otherwise vulnerable" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 34).
  • While there is never an ideal candidate, one can try to determine which candidate who will best advance respect for life.
  • If neither candidate respects life, a vote to prevent the candidate who will promote the greater evil is morally permissible as a means of limiting evil.
  • Life is the foundation upon which all other rights exist. Therefore, support for other rights is irrelevant if support for life does not serve as its foundation.

Voter Registration

There are millions of Christians in America who are not registered to vote, and many of them are in our Churches. Many elections, moreover, are determined by a margin that is less than the number of people in a single congregation. Exit polling has also shown that those who attend Church regularly are more likely to vote according to Christian values.

With all this in mind, it is easy to see how valuable it is for pastors to urge their people to register to vote. There are various ways this can be done.

a) Simply remind your people, in homilies and in the bulletin, to register to vote.

b) People can register by downloading the necessary forms from the internet. For details, see PriestsForLife.org/states.

c) Various parishes, dioceses, and State Catholic Conferences have undertaken voter registration drives, whereby people are given the opportunity to fill out the voter registration forms before leaving Church. This is perfectly legal for Churches to do, as the IRS indicates in the quote below. Priests for Life has assembled a sample description of how such a drive would take place. See PriestsForLife.org/vote or call our election team at 888-735-3448.

The guidelines of the Internal Revenue Service indicate the following: "…[A]ctivities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not constitute prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner" (Internal Revenue Service, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations, Publication 1828, November, 2009).

Brochures and Booklets

Priests for Life is happy to provide educational material for Churches. Among the brochures we distribute are the following:

  • Voting with a Clear ConscienceIn this booklet, Fr. Frank Pavone offers ten steps to fulfilling the various moral requirements related to voting and evaluating candidates.
  • Religious Beliefs, Abortion and the Law - This brochure clarifies why laws against abortion are not an "imposition of religious beliefs."
  • Are You a Single Issue Person? - Political correctness tells people that it is not fashionable for a person to vote on a single issue. Here, we remind Catholics that abortion is the foundational issue upon which all other issues depend.
  • You Wouldn't Even Ask - This brochure addresses the point that some positions candidates take disqualify them for public office. It makes the case that a politician who supports abortion is as unqualified for public office as a candidate who supports terrorism.
  • Ten Responses to Pro-Abortion Politicians - Many politicians attempt to dodge the abortion issue by putting up smoke and mirrors to blame others or circumstances for their support of abortion. This offers people short responses to such arguments.
  • Caesar Must Obey God - Unfortunately, many Catholics have forgotten that life belongs to God. In this piece, we remind them that government is subservient to God and that man-made laws are only legitimate when they adhere to God's law.
  • Study Guide to Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics - This guide helps readers study the 1998 document of the United States Catholic Bishopswhich challenges all Catholics to embrace the founding principles of the United States and the teachings of the Gospel of Life. It is a call to Catholics at all levels in the Church, including the hierarchy, to take on an even greater public witness regarding the sanctity of human life.

For more information on our resources, contact our resource department at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314, Ph. (718) 980-4400, ext. 239; Fax. 718-980-3900, email Orders@priestsforlife.org or see our website, www.priestsforlife.org/store 

Get Out The Vote (GOTV)

Encouraging Others to Vote

Often you will find that people who do not think of doing something at one moment are happy to do it the next. Surprisingly, this can even be said of voting. Talk to your parishioners the importance of voting and ask that they do so. If possible, speak with them individually and encourage them to vote. Some elections have been decided by a single vote or by coin tosses after the elections ended in ties! Make your parishioners aware of this and use it as one among many tools to encourage them to vote.

Early Voting

Many states have adopted early voting programs separate from absentee ballot programs. The dates that early voting begins vary from state to state; sometimes this is in-person voting, other times it is by mail. The advantage of early voting is that last minute obstacles that may arise – like waking up sick on Election Day or encountering car trouble – will not keep one from casting a ballot. If your state offers early voting, inform your parishioners! The information for each state can be found at www.PoliticalResponsibility.com.

GOTV E-mail

Email your parish list to urge your congregation to come out to vote. You may think that those who would not vote still would not vote, but many factors can result in that single e-mail making a difference. Distractions arise, people decide that their vote doesn't matter, they are disappointed in one action or another of a candidate. In these cases, encouragement from a source that they respect may get some to vote who otherwise would have allowed one or another factor to get in their way.

GOTV Calls

One of the most effective ways to get people to vote is by placing live calls in the days immediately preceding the election. Organize a group of your parishioners, or ask an existing group in your parish, to make calls to the rest of the parishioners asking that they come out to vote. This serves not only as a reminder to people that they have a responsibility to vote, but also that the way that they vote is tied to their faith. This is the single most effective way to ensure that your parishioners come out to vote on Election Day.

Voter Guides

Many organizations publish non-partisan voter guides to inform their members of candidate positions. 501(c)3 voter guides, which neither indicate agreement with candidate positions nor advocate the election or defeat of a candidate, can be distributed among your members and by your members to the general public. Check with your diocese or Catholic Conference to see if they have published any voter guides. You may also find links to non-partisan voter guides at www.PoliticalResponsibility.com.

Helping People Get to the Polls

Although absentee ballots are available, many elderly or incapacitated people either learn about them too late or simply do not know how to obtain one. Sadly, this usually means that many of these people end up not voting. Try compiling two separate lists, one of those who will need rides to the polls, another of those who are willing to assist them in getting to the polls. The latter are of the most help when they have use of a car, though it is possible that they would simply be able to walk or take public transportation with people who do not feel confident in being able to make it to the polls by themselves.

Poll Watching

In past elections, there were numerous charges made by both Republicans and Democrats that election laws were broken on Election Day. The best way to counteract this is to have your members participate in poll watching. Poll watching is a very simple activity with a minimal time commitment, although some may wish to take Election Day off from work to assist in the effort. Individuals can simply contact either local party to volunteer. Typically either a campaign or party will conduct a brief training seminar to acquaint volunteers with the activity. Then, on Election Day, watchers ensure that no laws are broken at the polling sites. While this may seem insignificant, election irregularities have occurred in countless close elections. Whether preventing intimidation at the polls or ensuring that individuals receive only one ballot, poll watching is an excellent way for Catholics to fulfill their political responsibility.

www.PoliticalResponsibility.com

The Priests for Life website (www.PriestsforLife.org) is one of the most comprehensive tools on the internet for information on abortion, and the Church's response to this evil. The section on elections (www.PoliticalResponsibility.com) gives specific focus to our political responsibility, and includes the following resources, among others:

  • Official Church Teaching: Find numerous documents of the Holy Father, the USCCB, and individual bishops related to faithful citizenship and the role of the Church in politics.
  • Pastoral resources: Find bulletin inserts, homily helps, and educational articles that can be used in ministry or for personal reading.
  • Candidates’ positions: Find references to websites that can assist you and your congregation to know where candidates throughout the nation stand on various issues.
  • Special projects: Find explanations of how to do various election-related activities, such as voter registration, letters to the editor, internet presence, and much more.
  • Recruit volunteers The internet is an excellent tool for recruiting volunteers. Priests for Life has set up a form that allows volunteers to select projects of interest from numerous potential activities. In your bulletin, provide a link to the form at www.priestsforlife.org/volunteer to give the members of your congregation the opportunity to participate in our election efforts.
  • Materials in Spanish

Study Guide to "Living the Gospel of Life"

In 1998, the United States bishops issued "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics."

Few documents have more succinctly and clearly captured the Church's response to the political process, and few have spoken more powerfully to the duty of the Christian to take part in that process in ways that advance the culture of life.

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, who served at the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, has prepared a study guide to this document. With discussion questions, background information, and suggestions for further reading, the guide is ideal for small groups meeting in churches, schools, or homes.

The study guide is non-partisan and neither names nor endorses any candidates for public office.

It can be used for individual or group study.

The guide is available in print and online at www.priestsforlife.org/gospel. To place orders for the study guide, go to our online store.

“Thank you for your kindness in sending me the "Priests for Life" Study Guide for the document, Living the Gospel of Life, issued by bishops of the United States in 1998. The current controversy regarding Catholic politicians and the issue of abortion underscores how timely and necessary your Study Guide is…A true change of heart among Catholic politicians will take much time and effort….The "Priests for Life" Study Guide will be very helpful in this important undertaking." -- Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican City.

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org