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Our readers asked:

Should I consider what my priest says at the pulpit when I vote for political candidates?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Yes.  But keep in mind what the Bishops of the United States have said
about the participation of Catholics in political processes and measure
what a particular priest says against the collective wisdom of the
bishops.  Here’s a bit of what I offered in Nov. 2008 on my blog
(www.jesuitjottings.blogspot.com):

It is a mistake to think that the Catholic Church tells people how to
vote.  Catholic Bishops tell people they need to form their consciences
and vote accordingly.  The Bishops’ provocative and prophetic statement
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” (found on the Bishops’
website ( http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/ ) clearly articulates the
Catholic position.

Here are some pertinent quotes (One can see the whole statement at
http://www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/FCStatement.pdf

“In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom
or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their
consciences in accordance with God’s truth. We recognize that the
responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each
individual in light of a properly formed conscience….” (U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful
Citizenship,” 2008, p. 2).

“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. Such
actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the
authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil”
actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be
supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of
innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia” (U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008,
p. 8).

“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. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death
penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the
failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of
health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral
issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are
not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to
seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices
about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human
life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this
does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or
ignore Church teaching on these important issues. Clearly not every
Catholic can be actively involved on each of these concerns, but we need
to support one another as our community of faith defends human life and
dignity wherever it is threatened. We are not factions, but one family
of faith fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ” (U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008,
p. 9).

 
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The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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