The nation’s Catholic bishops have released an updated version of their voter’s guide that calls on Catholics to make abortion the central point when considering which candidate to support in next year’s presidential elections.
The guide, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is nearly identical to the bishops’ guide published four years ago and it calls abortion “evil” throughout the document and says Catholics should give the highest priority to protecting unborn children and supporting candidates who will back such protections.
“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many,” the document says.
“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters,” the bishops wrote in the guide. “A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
In addition to abortion, the bishops said euthanasia, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem cell research should form the panoply of pro-life issues that guide Catholic voters.
Because the document has been used by pro-life Catholics to show the importance of pro-life issues when voting and Catholic democrats to de-emphasize them, the bishops released the document earlier this time to minimize debate over it. The introductory note warns that “Faithful Citizenship” has sometimes “been misused to present an incomplete or distorted view of the demands of faith and politics.” The bishops warn Catholics against those who want “to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal issues.”
Matt Smith of Catholic Advocate responded to the release of the document, in a statement to LifeNews.
“Every four years since first being published, the Bishops update the Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship document. While they have chosen not to do so this year, the new introductory note is a positive step toward clarifying some of the ambiguities that were advantageously spun by some seeking to water down Church teachings for their own agenda,” he said.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), joined the chairs of nine USCCB committees in offering an Introductory Note to the document. The bishops discussed this action at their June meeting and authorized it at the September meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship was approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. bishops in 2007.
“We urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use this important statement to help them form their consciences, to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election in the light of Catholic teaching,” the bishops wrote. “It does not offer a voter’s guide, scorecard of issues or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.”