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Catholics and Political Responsibility

Catholics and Political Responsibility
Documents, Articles, Comments

updated June 28, 2011

"To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom..." [Evangelium Vitae 20]

Featured on this section are documents, articles and comments that offer insights on issues involving the political responsibility of Catholics and whether Catholics who publicly oppose fundamental Church doctrine should receive the Church's sacraments. (Unless otherwise indicated, click title to go to the complete version on this site.)

To Bishops Statements | Catholic News Service 2008 Election Articles

Posted June 28, 2011

Christian responsibilities in the public square -- Politics and the Devil - by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Voices, Pentecost 2011

Posted April 21, 2010

Address of Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1960

Archbishop Chaput & James Hitchcock Responses - RE: The JFK Houston speech.

Posted March 4, 2010

The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life - Archbishop Chaput delivered the following address, titled "The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life," on Monday, March 1, 2010 at Houston Baptist University.

Posted April 2, 2009 - updated April 27, 2009

Links to statements of bishops who have thus far responded directly to Notre Dame's giving honor to President Obama.

Declining Notre Dame: A Letter from Mary Ann Glendon

By Mary Ann Glendon
Monday, April 27, 2009, 9:32 AM

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,
Mary Ann Glendon

Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.

There are links to some bishops’ statements on the Cdl. Newman society web site.

Here is a link to the USCCB 2004 statement on their own web site:

Bishop Thomas Doran, Rockford, sent a letter to ND Pres. Jenkins March 31, now posted on the Cdl. Newman Society web site:

March 27, Cardinal Danile DiNardo, Galveston-Houston

Reported in Texas Catholic Herald (via "whispers in the loggia") quote: "The Bishops of the United States published a document a few years ago asking all Catholic universities to avoid giving a platform or an award to those politicians or public figures who promote the taking of unborn human life. Even given the dignity of the Office of the President, this offer is still providing a platform and an award to a public figure who has been candid on his pro-abortion views. Particularly troubling is the Honorary Law Degree since it recognizes that the person is a "Teacher," in this case of the Law. I think that this decision requires charitable but vigorous critique."

March 27 - Bishop Gregory Aymond, Austin, TX -

March 25 - Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Phoenix (e-mail to ND president)

Quote: "It is a public act of disobedience to the Bishops of the United

"I pray that you come to see the grave mistake of your decision, and the
way it undercuts the Church's proclamation of the Gospel of Life in our

March 24 - Bishop John M. D'Arcy, South Bend:

Bishop Edward Slattery, Tulsa – Letter to Pres. Jenkins online:

Abp Eusebius Beltran, Okla City
From News OK -

Beltran said he sent a similar letter.
"President Obama, by word and action, has approved of abortion and other atrocities against human life. Therefore he deserves no recognition at a Catholic institution,” Beltran said in a statement.

Beltran said his comments on the matter will be included in the April 5 edition of the Sooner Catholic, the archdiocese’s official news journal.

Abp John Quinn (emeritus San Francisco)
His March 30 article in America magazine:
A Critical Moment: Barack Obama, Notre Dame, and the Future of the American Church

Quote: “We must weigh very seriously the consequences if the American bishops are seen as the agents of the public embarrassment of the newly elected president by forcing him to withdraw from an appearance at a distinguished Catholic university.  The bishops and the president serve the same citizens of the same country. It is in the interests of both the church and the nation if both work together in civility, honesty and friendship for the common good, even where there are grave divisions, as there are on abortion.

“But it does not improve the likelihood of making progress on this and other issues of common concern if we adopt the clenched fist approach, […]”

Bishop Robert Lynch – St. Petersburg
His “For His Friends” blog -

Excerpt (emphasis added):
Finally, Notre Dame University has created quite a stir by announcing that at the Spring Commencement ceremony they have invited President Barack Obama to give the graduation address and receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. It is a very prestigious platform to offer a President who is leading the battle for an expansion of abortion rights which may ultimately end up being unparalleled in recent history. Early “markers” are not encouraging in this regard but hope needs to spring eternal and while Notre Dame may have acted way too early and too generously, I am more alarmed that the rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place  before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life. Notre Dame has in the past and continues to give this local Church fine, professional and very Catholic women and men who both know and live out their faith. Most of them I know are ardently pro-life and like myself are probably disappointed with their alma mater. They and I will choose to convey our sadness to the Board of Trustees and Administration in a calm and dignified manner. I am especially sad for Bishop John D’Arcy, bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in which Notre Dame is located. For almost two decades he has supported the University and loved the University, even when he felt it necessary to correct the University privately which I can assure you he did. Now in the waning days of his tenure as bishop there, he is told of the invitation shortly before its public announcement and in words clearly laced with pain has had to announce that he will choose not attend the final commencement of his time as bishop. What sadness for this good man as well. I see Father Ted Hesburgh quoted as saying that “visits to campus of leaders has never changed the campus but has often changed the visitor.” One can only hope and pray for this outcome.

Bishop Lynch’s column said “while Notre Dame may have acted way too early and too generously, I am more alarmed that the rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place  before our fellow citizens”

Posted November 13, 2008

Zenit's story summarizes votes on life/morality issues. (Worth noting that in the votes on abortion bans in South Dakota and Colorado, the bishops did not support these measures, believing their language to be vulnerable to being struck down by the courts, making the situation worse. Washington joined Oregon in approving assisted suicide, while California, Arizona and Florida approved defining marriage as between a man and a woman.)

California Celebrates Marriage Definition Vote
Arizona and Florida Join in Banning Gay Marriage

LOS ANGELES, California, NOV. 5, 2008 ( <> ).-

The archbishop of Los Angeles says the California vote banning gay marriages was the result of "an unprecedented coalition" that "understood the importance of maintaining the bedrock institution of marriage."

Cardinal Roger Mahony affirmed this today in a statement to the Catholic community and others who supported Proposition 8, which amends the California State Constitution to include a definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

"The passage of Proposition 8 was the result of an unprecedented coalition of many faith communities and other citizens who understood the importance of maintaining the bedrock institution of marriage," Cardinal Mahony wrote.

Quoting the book of Genesis as God's plan for the human family, he added: "Our collective efforts in the support of Proposition 8 have centered solely around preserving God's plan that marriage between one man and one woman is to be that unchanging reality through which their mutual love becomes fruitful through bringing forth children to continue the human family.

"The raising, formation and education of these children is destined by God to take place within a traditional family of one father and one mother."

The cardinal noted that Proposition 8 is a positive vote. Rather than pitting itself against any social group, it seeks to preserve God's plan "for people living upon this earth throughout time," he said. The prelate exhorted people to enliven the new constitutional definition with continuing support for marriage and families.


The Arizona Catholic Conference also issued a statement to voters "of all faiths and walks of life" who joined together to approve their Proposition 102, which will also place a definition of marriage in the state constitution. "We are especially grateful to have seen the tremendous response of Catholics who rallied around the bishops' efforts to pass this measure," a conference statement said.

That state's ban was momentous because in 2006, Arizonans became the only group to reject a marriage amendment. With Tuesday's vote, that previous rejection was overturned, bringing to 30 the number of states that protect marriage in their Constitutions. Marriage amendments thus have a perfect 30 out of 30 record.

Florida also approved an amendment which will ban gay marriages. That vote was notable because it required 60% approval, and got 62%.

California's move was marked as the most monumental, in the face of over 18,000 gay marriages that have been performed there since May. This amendment, which gained 52% of the vote, will override the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriages then.

Funds for the campaign for and against this proposition reached a record high for any social issue in U.S. history, generating $73 million from all states and several foreign countries.

Around the Union

In the referendums of others states, various life and family issues were put to the vote. Arkansas voted in favor of a ban on unmarried couples serving as adoptive or foster parents.

Washington voters approved a measure to allow assisted suicide, modeled after Oregon's "Death with Dignity" law. It will permit terminally ill patients to obtain lethal prescriptions to administer to themselves.

In South Dakota, a modified anti-abortion referendum gained 45% of the vote, not enough to pass. After losing in 2006, this total ban was modified to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and serious health threats to the mother. Pro-lifers were disappointed to see that even these modifications did not bring the referendum to pass.

Posted November 3, 2008

Bishops Take US Marriage Debate to YouTube Says Traditional Definition Benefits All

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 30, 2008 ( <> ).- Days before several states will vote on legislation to define marriage as being valid only between a man and a woman, two U.S. bishops are taking the debate to the video-sharing Web site YouTube.

The videos, appearing in both English and Spanish, were posted Wednesday by the U.S. episcopal conference's Defense of Marriage Ad Hoc Committee.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, chairman of the committee, narrates the English-language video. Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio, chair of the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, narrates in Spanish.

Proposed marriage protection amendments in Florida, California and Arizona would define a valid marriage in the state constitution as between a man and a woman. The latest polls in Florida show that nearly 60% of likely voters are in favor of the amendment. Polls coming out of California and Arizona show the amendment carrying only a slight lead.

Earlier this month, Connecticut's Supreme Court made that state the third one to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, joining Massachusetts and California. In all three cases the courts overturned laws that banned same-sex marriages.

In their videos, the bishops state that the Church defends, promotes and protects marriage "for the gift that it is, and for the blessings that only it can bring to the world."

"Certain groups and individuals are trying to make same-sex unions the equivalent of marriage," they continue. "This is a false idea being proposed and, in some cases, imposed by a minority. This is nothing less than the radical redefinition marriage -- denying the truth that it is exclusively the union of a man and a woman."


The bishops warn that if successful, "this effort of redefining marriage to include same-sex unions will bring confusion to what marriage actually means. This confusion could spread and have enormous legal consequences for the rearing of children, public education, employment, and religious freedom. Children would be forced to learn that marriage is merely one kind of loving relationship among many.

"Churches would be prevented from witnessing to and teaching about the necessary and singular role of love between a man and a woman."

"Same-sex unions and marriage are completely different realities," the bishops say. "Reaffirming the traditional understanding of marriage is neither discrimination nor the denial of rights. Like all people, homosexual persons have the right to be treated with respect and to live in peace with the support of their loved ones.

"But it is to the benefit of all members of society that the institution of marriage be preserved as the relationship of a man and a woman that serves the common good in a distinct way. Society needs marriage in order to establish and sustain that basic unit of society in which men and women love each other and transmit life to their children who are the fruit of that love."

On the Net:

Bishop Kurtz:

Bishop Gomez (Spanish):

Posted October 15, 2008

Abortion, the African-American Community and Senator Obama

By David Murphy

October 23, 2008

In an “Open Letter to African-American Leaders”, Dr. Alveda C. King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made the following passionate appeal in June, 2006:

“This is an open letter to appeal to all people who respect the work, life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More specifically, it is a wake-up call to the African American community.  As a mature, Black, female living in America, my heart weeps every time I hear or see stories about our youth cut down in acts of senseless violence. Time after time, I have asked the question, HOW CAN THE DREAM SURVIVE IF WE MURDER THE CHILDREN?

“In America, we have unleashed a culture of death, and our children are dying. Every day, there are stories across our land of children committing violent acts against themselves, other children and adults. Because we have committed over 40 million legal murders in our recent history, our children can’t discern between what is good, what is legal and what is right.”

Referring here to the missions of the NAACP, the SCLC, and to a statement by Tavis Smiley regarding the Covenant with Black America, Dr. King continues:

“Here, we nobly speak of the quality of rights for all persons, action plans and non-violent solutions, while the rights of the helpless and the pre-born are continually violated in often the most violent acts imaginable.  Indeed, in America, since 1973, over 40 million American babies have been legally murdered. At least 13 million of these babies were Black. Two of these babies were mine [emphasis added, DTM]. Coupled with the blatant practice of euthanasia, and the open assault on marriage and family, we have lost and continue to lose millions of our children in this culture of death. Some may argue that a woman has a right to choose what she does with her body. She does, but where is the lawyer for the baby, who is like a helpless slave in the womb of his/her mother?

“This letter is an open appeal to all people of good will, and today, especially to African-American leaders, to stop the violence, to save the children, to restore the culture of life to America.”

Yours for Life, Dr. Alveda C. King[1]

More recently, on October 15, 2008, Bishop Martin D. Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, D.C., and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on African American Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed the issue of abortion and the African American family. Bishop Holley’s letter[2] opens as follows:

"As an African American, I am saddened by evidence that Black women continue to be targeted by the abortion industry. A report issued recently by the Guttmacher Institute shows that Black women have abortions at five times the rate of white women.[3] The loss of any child from abortion is a tragedy, but we must ask: Why are minority children being aborted at such disproportionate rates?"

“Many African Americans are not aware that since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy, the number one cause of death in the African American community has been abortion [emphasis added, DTM]. We have lost over 13 million lives. To put that in perspective, it is one third of our present Black population. Since 1973, twice as many Black Americans have died from abortion than from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined.

“As I noted in my recent Respect Life Program article, ‘A Reflection on the African American Family and the Culture of Life"[4]’ our legitimate commitment to other social concerns must not push the primary moral issue of abortion onto the back burner. It clearly must be at the heart and center of our discussion of the survival of African American people.

“We must demand an end to the victimizing of African American children, women, families and communities by Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. Over 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, began the "Negro Project" to reduce the Black population. We should be shocked and heartbroken by the findings of a recent phone investigation, that recorded a fundraiser at an Iowa Planned Parenthood clinic saying she was "very excited" about a donation specifically for aborting Black babies.

“My brothers and sisters, we can overcome abortion in our nation. Let us defend our community by rededicating ourselves to family life and marriage, promoting the gift of chastity and marital fidelity, committing ourselves to prayer and service to others and defending the life and dignity of each human person. We can welcome every child as a gift and we can overcome abortion.”

And what of Senator Obama? What are his positions on abortion? If one judges by his record, rather than his rhetoric, one can with justification argue that the senator is not merely pro-choice but that he is radically pro-abortion. How can one say such a thing? Here are three reasons. First, the senator opposes the ban on partial-birth abortion (“intact Dilation and Extraction”), a grisly procedure in which the fetus is extracted from the birth canal except for the head; following an incision, its brains are vacuumed out and the body fully withdrawn and disposed of – for a viable fetus this is infanticide in all but name. Second, while in the Illinois senate the senator opposed and blocked passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), which requires medical attention for a baby born live following an induced abortion. To deny medical assistance to a breathing infant constitutes a form of infanticide-by-omission. Some babies do survive, witness the case of Gianna Jessen, whose story can be found at The federal BAIPA was signed into law in 2002; the Illinois statute did not pass until 2005, after the senator had moved on to Washington. For complete coverage of the issue, see:

Finally, on July 17th of this year, at a meeting of Planned Parenthood the senator stated that the first thing he would do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act (F.O.C.A.), of which he is a co-sponsor. For those who might be unfamiliar with this proposed legislature, HR 1964 and S. 1173, the act would overturn and remove from the books all restrictions on abortion throughout the states; and these would include parental notification, reporting requirements, restrictions on partial-birth abortions, conscience protection laws for individual health care providers, required counseling before an abortion, required ultrasounds before an abortion, etc. The act would also force the issue of taxpayer-funded abortion on both the federal and state governments. The proposed legislation can be viewed or downloaded at

What price an Obama presidency?


[1] Dr. King:;

[2] Bishop Holley:;

[3] Trends in the Characteristics of Women Obtaining Abortions, 1974-2004 (with supplementary tables) (September 2008) S. K. Henshaw and Kathryn Kost:

[4] Bishop Holley: “A Reflection on the African American Family and the Culture of Life”:

Dr. Murphy is a faculty member of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Department of Modern and Classical Languages, College of Arts and Sciences, St. Louis University

Posted October 15, 2008

The Sarah Palin Effect: The Power of a Mother's Example, by Nancy Valko, RN, online only October 2008

Posted September 30, 2008

U.S. archbishop at Vatican says Democrats becoming 'party of death'
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service - September 29, 2008

ROME (CNS) -- The Democratic Party in the United States "risks transforming itself definitively into a 'party of death,'" said U.S. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Vatican's highest court.

An interview with the former archbishop of St. Louis was published in the Sept. 27 edition of Avvenire, a daily Catholic newspaper sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference.

Click title for the complete article.

Posted September 30, 2008

How to Decide the Moral Issues in Voting -- by Joseph Ruwe -- Voices Young Writers Award ( Michaelmas 2008 )

Posted September 23, 2008

From the Archives: On the Present Position of Catholics in America -- 1978, reprint from The National Committee of Catholic Layman, Inc.

Posted September 11, 2008

A MEDAL FOR NANCY (Did the Speaker expect the effect her TV Interview would have?) by James V. Schall, SJ, September 9, 2008

Posted August 28, 2008

Pelosi's nationally aired abortion comments "disgraceful", "incompetent", "incredible" -- (By Rick DelVecchio, August 2008)

Posted August 27, 2008

Obama's Pick for Vice President Is Catholic. But the Bishops Deny Him Communion, by Sandro Magister from www.chiesa

Posted August 26, 2008

NEWSWEEK (online) The Democrats and the Abortion Wars
Are Obama and Pelosi dodging the life-and-death question?
George Weigel
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Aug 25, 2008

Posted February 27, 2008

Statement of Principles Regarding Catholic Institutions, Sanctity of Life and Political Engagement [click title for updates on The Cardinal Newman Society website]

With respect and concern for our fellow Catholic laity and clergy, and on behalf of the Catholic organizations which we represent, we the undersigned urge our fellow leaders of Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, charitable organizations, advocacy groups, media and other institutions to refrain from all activities that provide a public platform to, or imply support or even neutrality toward, political leaders and candidates who advocate positions on serious moral issues that are clearly contrary to Catholic teaching, most especially the Church’s reverence for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.

By this shared practice, we seek to affirm what the U.S. bishops have already taught.  In November 2007, the bishops noted that “not all issues are equal” in politics: “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.”[1]

We are concerned about reports of certain Catholic institutions hosting and even participating in events that feature such political leaders and candidates.  Some Catholic colleges and universities, in particular, have recently hosted or sponsored political rallies, stump speeches, and debates featuring candidates who support public funding for abortion and embryonic stem cell research, support laws to keep abortion legal, and otherwise threaten innocent human life.

Catholics are called to full participation in political life.  “By fulfilling their civic duties, ‘guided by a Christian conscience,’ in conformity with its values, the lay faithful exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values, all the while respecting the nature and rightful autonomy of that order, and cooperating with other citizens according to their particular competence and responsibility.”[2]  Catholic institutions, too, share in the lay vocation to transform the world, in “fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Catholic Church."[3]  The unique mission of Catholic institutions—as Catholic—is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in society, in service to humanity and to the Catholic Church.  Catholic institutions promote peace, justice, charity, individual rights, and the common good in conformity to Catholic moral and social teaching.

Too often, however, some Catholic institutions pursue a misguided engagement with public policy and politics that compromises and even undermines their Catholic mission.  Catholic institutions should engage the culture from a faithfully Catholic perspective, not a position of neutrality.  Political engagement does not require partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates.  But it also does not require secularization, by which Catholic institutions accept moral relativism and simply mirror secular culture.

We call on Catholic institutions to join us in finding opportunities—appropriate to the nature and mission of each institution—to engage in political and public policy dialogue by publicly proclaiming Catholic teaching, especially on issues related to human life and marriage.

The U.S. bishops have said: “The Church is engaged in the political process but should not be used.  We welcome dialogue with political leaders and candidates; we seek to engage and persuade public officials.  Events and ‘photo-ops’ cannot substitute for serious dialogue.”[4]  But events and photo-ops hosted by Catholic institutions are all too common.  Instead of engaging political leaders and candidates on the great moral questions of the day, these moral concerns are set aside in the pursuit of public attention and prestige.

We call on Catholic institutions to join us in refusing to honor or provide a public forum for any political leader or candidate who acts “in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”[5]  This includes any politician who undermines a “culture of life” by advocating public policies to permit or support abortion, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, or any other threat to innocent human life.  It also includes politicians who would threaten the institution of marriage.

Examples of honors and public platforms include awards, honorary degrees, honored position at public events, graduation and commencement addresses, lectures, debates, rallies, and fundraisers.

We affirm what the bishops have already taught about the obligations of Catholic institutions.  Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio objected to a pro-abortion politician’s campaign speech at a Catholic university, noting that “Catholic institutions are obliged to teach and promote Catholic values in all instances.”  This obligation is “especially important” when Catholic institutions are relied upon “to provide leadership and clarity to the often complicated and conflicting political discourse.”[6]  Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Mass., has taught that “to be a Catholic institution means that such an institution conducts its mission and ministry in accord with Catholic Church teaching, especially in cases of faith and morals.”[7]  Several bishops have publicly opposed Catholic events featuring pro-abortion politicians, including Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s boycott of a charity fundraiser[8] and Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler’s refusal to attend a college commencement ceremony.[9]

To provide honors or public platforms allows such individuals to use Catholic institutions for the advancement of their political and public policy objectives.  To some, it may imply Catholic support for those objectives, or at least diminished concern about the threat they pose to innocent human lives.  It lends the resources and facilities of Catholic institutions to those who would defy our fundamental moral principles.

Catholic institutions and their leaders and supporters have a moral obligation to represent the highest goals of Catholic citizenship.  It is essential that they fulfill that obligation independent of any political or economic gain or loss.

Organizational Endorsements

Ave Maria Radio
Al Kresta, President & CEO (also Host, “Kresta in the Afternoon”)

The Cardinal Newman Society
Patrick J. Reilly, President

Catholic Education Foundation
Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., Executive Director (also Publisher, Newman House Press; Publisher & Editor, The Catholic Response)

Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)
Austin Ruse, President

Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights
William A. Donohue, Ph.D., President

Catholic Medical Association
Kathleen M. Raviele, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., Board President

Catholics United for the Faith
Mike Sullivan, President

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy
Rev. John Trigilio, Jr., Ph.D., Th.D., President

Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)
Curtis A. Martin, President

Brian Burch, President

Human Life International
Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, President

Morley Publishing Group, Inc.
Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D., President (also Director,

National Association of Private Catholic & Independent Schools (NAPCIS)
Eileen Cubanski, Executive Director

Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries
Theresa Burke, Ph.D., L.P.C., N.C.P., and
Kevin Burke, M.S.S./L.S.W., Co-Founders

Seton Home Study School
Mary Kay Clark, Ph.D., President

Society of Catholic Social Scientists
Stephen M. Krason, Ph.D., President

Thomas More Law Center
Richard Thompson, Esq., President & Chief Counsel

Women for Faith & Family
Helen Hull Hitchcock, President


[1] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (Washington, D.C., 2007)

[2] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life (Vatican, 2002)

[3] Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae: The Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities (Vatican, 1990)

[4] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (Washington, D.C., 2007)

[5] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholics in Political Life (Washington, D.C., 2004)

[6] Most Rev. Jose Gomez, Archdiocese of San Antonio, “Statement Concerning the Appearance of Senator Hillary Clinton at St. Mary’s University” (Feb. 12, 2008)

[7] Most Rev. Robert McManus, Diocese of Worcester, “Regarding Teen Pregnancy Conference at the College of the Holy Cross” (Oct. 10, 2007)

[8] “O’Malley Won’t Attend Charities’ Dinner,” The Boston Globe (Nov. 24, 2005)

[9] “Keeler to Boycott Loyola Graduation,” The Baltimore Sun (May 19, 2005)

Posted February 21, 2008

The State of the Union of Faith and Politics by Sheila Gribben Liaugminas, Eastertide 2008

Posted January 30, 2008

Influential Catholics Criticize "Call for Civility" in Politics -- C-Fam Press Release January 21,2008

Posted November 2007

Bishops' document to offer new guidance on Catholics' political role

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

"Rejecting a political climate based on "powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites and media hype," the U.S. bishops call Catholics to "a different kind of political engagement" in a document to be voted on during their fall general meeting Nov. 12-15 in Baltimore.

"That engagement must be "shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and vulnerable," they said.

"The 37-page "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility From the Catholic Bishops of the United States" was developed by seven committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and must be approved by two-thirds of the USCCB membership.

"The bishops also are to vote on a shortened version of the text, designed for use as a parish bulletin insert.

Click here for the complete article.

Posted June 12, 2007

Stem cell debate a question of conscience
By Cardinal George Pell
June 10, 2007 01:00am
Article from:

"The Catholic Church supports adult stem cell research and remains opposed to the destruction of human life at any stage after conception.

"Embryonic stem cell research requires such destruction.

"While I regret the Legislative Assembly passed the cloning bill and hope the Legislative Council will decide differently, we all accept the parliament makes the laws.

"Some supporters of the cloning bill made little attempt to argue that it was right to create and then destroy human embryos, but claimed that this evil was outweighed by the cures for diseases which would follow.

"This is not a justifiable line of argumentation, but the promised cures have nowhere materialised from embryos.

"Seventy-two diseases and conditions have been helped by stem cells, but they were all adult stem cells.


"A few intolerant politicians want to ban religious argument in public life, so that the only permissible reasoning will be irreligious or anti-religious.

"A few politicians, trumpeted their Catholicity as they publicly rejected Catholic teachings; this is not good logic.


"All Catholics who continue to reject important Catholic teachings - even in areas such as sexuality, family, marriage, abortion, euthanasia, cloning where "liberals" claim the primacy of conscience rules - should expect to be confronted, gently and consistently, rather than comforted and encouraged in their wrongdoing.

"Certainly, every Catholic politician who voted for this bill should think twice and examine his or her conscience before next receiving Communion.

Click title for the complete article

Posted May 22, 2007

Catholic Members of Congress Express Concern Over Church Sanctions, May 10, 2007 -- And USCCB Response May 18th.

Posted May 9, 2007

Pope Warns Catholic Politicians who back abortion

While aboard the papal plane May 9, for his first papal visit to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI commented to reporters that Mexican officials were correct in threatening excommunication to Catholic legislators who support pro-abortion legislation. "They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)".

The Pope said parliamentarians who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future".

Link to Reuters May 9, 2007 story

Posted May 4, 2007

Political Obligations, Moral Conscience, and Human Life — Robert P. George -- Voices, Pentecost 2007

Posted February 1, 2007
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2007 (

..."Many Catholic politicians ask for clarifications on this type of argument -- if later they wish to act or succeed in acting coherently, is another question.

"In any case Catholic politicians should always remember that they should never give their consent to the introduction of laws that go against moral principles. In cases where such laws are already in force, then they can limit themselves to try to attenuate their reach."

Posted June 6, 2006

Politics, Abortion and Communion, by Monsignor Kevin McMahon Voices, Vol. XXI No. 2, Pentecost 2006

Posted May 23, 2006

Cardinal Pell to Pro-Abortion Politicians: "How come you feel that you're able to go to Communion?" -- by John Jalsevac

FRONT ROYAL, VA, May 19, 2006 ( - Australia's Cardinal George Pell, was in Front Royal, Virginia over the weekend celebrating Mass and giving the Commencement address at Christendom College. interviewed the Australian Church leader at the college last Friday.  This is the second part of that three-part interview. CLICK TITLE ABOVE FOR INTERVIEW

Posted March 3, 2006

Democrats' statement said to arise from politicians' frustration
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien March 2, 2006 CNS

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new "statement of principles" signed by a majority of the Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives arose from the politicians' frustration at "the way the church used the holy Eucharist as a political weapon against some elected officials" during the 2004 elections, according to one of the signers.

The statement said the Catholic House members see their faith as a primary motivator for their political actions but are sometimes required by conscience or because of the religious diversity of the U.S. to disagree with the church "in some areas."

Click title for the complete article.

Posted February 15, 2006

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch February 15, Honduras Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga called attention to poverty and politics. Tim Townsend, of the Post-Dispatch wrote:  

Politicians are a special concern for Rodriguez Maradiaga. "Politics have become an industry in our nation," he said. "People want to become president in order to get rich. We have to recover the dignity of politics, we have to work as Christians to give politicians their ethics back."

In an interview, Rodriguez Maradiaga said an issue recently in the news in the U.S. - bishops in favor of denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights - is not relevant in Honduras "because those people never come to church."

But, he said, "personally, I could never deny Holy Communion to a person. It would be a public scandal. Those who know they shouldn't be accepting the Eucharist have their own consciences. In my capacity as a pastor, I would never decide that for someone else."

Cardinal Rodriguez Maridiaga, 63, is archbishop of Tegucigalpa. His name was often mentioned last year as a possible candidate for the papacy. The cardinal was in St. Louis for a lecture February 14 at St. Louis University on the effect of globalization on Latin America.

St. Louis P-D:

Posted September 16, 2005

Father John Coughlin, OFM, "Canon Law and the Refusal of Holy Communion to Catholic Political Officials" [Links to Ave Maria Law School Site]

Father Coughlin is a canonist who teaches at Notre Dame Law School. This
paper was given at a conference held in September 2004 in Washington, DC,
sponsored by the Ave Maria Law School.

Posted August 26, 2005

Bishop cites "national impact" of denying politicians Communion
By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service
August 18, 2005

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Anytime a local bishop denies Communion to a politician because of his stand on abortion, the decision can have "national ramifications," Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh said in a statement exploring ways the U.S. bishops could reach a more united approach to such decisions.
...Click title above for the complete article.

Posted October 21, 2004
Priests urge bishops not to deny politicians Communion over abortion

An organization of priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese has urged that the U.S. bishops not refuse Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion legislation that is contrary to Catholic teaching.

Click the title for the complete article

Posted October 6, 2004
James Hitchcock's column "Just Judges"
observes that a crucial consideration in the forthcoming election is the presidential appointment of judges.

Posted September 30, 2004
Canon Law expert says bishops should deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians
from Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Giving a pro-abortion Catholic politician Communion contravenes Canon Law and creates a source of scandal
for all believers, said canon law expert Fr. John J. Coughlin, OFM, at a scholarly conference Sept. 16.....
His address, entitled "Canon Law and the Refusal of Holy Communion to Catholic Political Officials," was recently made public by the Ave Maria School of Law....
Fr. Coughlin's full remarks can be read at:

Posted September 17, 2004
Vatican dismay: Memo on politicians touches nerve in U.S. campaign

by John Thavis
Catholic News Service - September 17

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent out a brief memo in June about politicians and Communion, he probably never imagined it would ignite a heated discussion about Catholics and voting.....
"The memo was certainly not intended to clear the way for Catholics to vote for candidates who are in favor of laws permittng abortion or euthanasia, but rather to clarify that the simple act of voting for such candidates might not per se justify one's exclusion from Holy Communion," said U.S. Dominican Father Augustine DiNoia, undersecretary ofthe Vatican's doctrinal congregation....
Click title of the story for the complete version.

Not on the radar: No one at Vatican asks about Bush, Kerry

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service - September 3

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a tight race for the White House under way, U.S. bishops visiting the Vatican found it a bit strange than no one asked them for their opinions on who the next president will be.
"It's just not on their radar," said Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., Sept. 2, the last day of the Republican National Convention in New York.
"I'm really surprised no one is asking," said Ukrainian Bishop Basil H. Losten of Stamford, Conn....

Click title of the story for the complete version.

A Brief War Primer -- by James V. Schall, S. J.
Editor's Note: Since September 11, 2001, the United States and other countries have been involved in what has been termed a "war on terrorism". There has been much serious discussion among Catholics, especially after the war in Iraq began, about the justification for war, and the present conflict in particular.
In his essay , Father James Schall, professor of politicial science at Georgetown University, offers insightful observations on this unique conflict, which he says is "at its heart a 'civilizational' war". The essay is published here with the author's permission.

Click Title for Article

Kerry and the Future of American Religion -- by Thomas C. Reeves
July 11, 2004

As reprinted from the History News Network. Thomas C. Reeves is Senior Fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

"....The approach of the Left toward Christianity was firmly established in 1789, in France. When the Left took over the Democratic Party in 1972, the assault proceeded on the national level in this country. Kerry appears prepared to follow the historic pattern."
(Click title to go to complete article.)

Personally Opposed -- to what?
James Hitchcock column -June 27, 2004

"Personally I am opposed to abortion, but I will not impose my views on others." This has become the favorite mantra of some Catholic politicians, but it does not stand up to analysis.
(Click title to go to complete article.)

Senator John F. Kennedy's Address to the Houston Ministerial Association

In his historic campaign address in September 1960, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me.
" Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise." (Click title to access complete speech on this site.)

Letter from 48 Democratic Congressmen to Cardinal McCarrick
In a letter dated May 10, 2004, 48 Democratic Congressmen state sent a letter to that "We also do not believe that it is the obligation of legislators to prohibit all conduct which we may, as a matter of personal morality, believe is wrong"; but also that "For any of us to be singled out by any bishop by the refusal of communion or other public criticism because we vote in what we believe are the requirements of the United States Constitution and laws of our country, which we are sworn to uphold. is deeply hurtful."
(Click title above to go to complete text of letter and list of signers on this site.)

On Catholic Politicians - PBA ban and pro-abortion activities
Helen Hull Hitchcock - April 18, 2004

The USCCB Pro-Life Committee, to its everlasting credit, is posting transcripts of the chilling testimony of physicians who commit Partial-birth Abortions (Excerpt and link provided in their Memorandum below). Committee spokesman, Cathy Cleaver Ruse comments that the issue is "not for some abstract notion of 'choice', but, as the testimony shows, it is for a very real, very cruel, and very painful way of killing nearly viable and even post-viable unborn children.".

But there is evidently a radical disconnect within the conference of bishops -- and it centers on a pro-abortion Catholic presidential contender.
(Click title to go to complete article.)

Politics and Church, Integrity and Hypocrisy

James Hitchcock column - May 1, 2004

Do churches have the right to determine who are members in good standing? The answer seems obvious, but now we are being told that there is a category of people to whom that does not apply. They are, of course, politicians. Several bishops have raised the possibility of denying communion to public officials who support abortion. (Those who call themselves "Vatican II Catholics" might recall that that venerable council called abortion "an abominable crime.")

The objection is that this violates the principle of separation of church and state, in that church officials are dictating how politicians must vote. But that is not precise. I know of no bishop who has simply instructed someone to vote a particular way. Instead they warn that, if a public official votes a certain way, certain consequences may follow. This is merely a fact of life. All our actions have consequences, including some we might not want. Politicians are not entitled to a free ride.
(Click title to access complete version on this site.)

Catholics and the Election: Why Bother?

By James V. Schall, S. J. - May 14, 2004

...Catholics and the Elections? In the "Introduction" to his 1942 book, Places, Hilaire Belloc wrote, "It is a nice question whether ignorance or stupidity play the greater part in human affairs." Why bother? Mainly, I suppose, to find whether the answer to Belloc's alternative applies to us. "Secular absolutism is becoming the most potent religious force in America." Its success, ironically, is measured by our voting record.
(Click title to access complete version on this site.)

Catholic Politicians, Dissent, and Communion

By Bishop Fred Henry - May 19, 2004

"By sharing in Communion, Catholics testify that they are in fundamental union of heart and mind. On fundamental life issues, Kerry is clearly offside." said Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who supports US bishops who have called on Catholic politicians to face the consequences of dissent from essential Church teaching on abortion and related life issues.
(Click title to access complete article on this site.)

Catholics and Political Responsibility - almost beside the point

By Father Joseph Wilson - May 21, 2004

"I have watched with interest over these past few weeks, as discussion has raged in the Church over whether or not pro-abortion politicians, and now even those who vote for them, should be admitted to Holy Communion. If you follow the discussion with care, you'll note that this really isn't an in-house, Catholic Church discussion. There are two different Religions talking past each other here."
(Click title to access complete article on this site.)

Catholics for a Free Choice Letter on Bishops and politicians

Frances Kissling, of Catholics for a Free Choice, finds "hope for the church" in the "tacit admission by many bishops that to be pro-choice on the legality of abortion is neither a grave sin nor a cause for denying Communion". Ms. Kissling's organization vigorously opposes Catholic teaching on abortion and other issues, and among other anti-life activities, has worked with Planned Parenthood and the UN Population Fund to undemine the Church's influence in Latin America.

June 3, 2004 - Letter to the editor Newsday

Hope for church

The electoral season is upon us again, and in no place do we see more backroom politicking than in the diocesan chanceries around the country ["Bishops' order debated," News, May 25].

The article accurately describes the discomfort many feel when bishops use Communion as a political weapon against pro-choice Catholic politicians. Recent studies show that most American bishops share this discomfort. Research from Catholics for a Free Choice reveals that when it comes to dealing with Catholic politicians who do not vote as the church hierarchy wishes, bishops are forging their own path rather than pandering to the wishes of conservative Catholic organizations.

The vast majority of bishops and dioceses have either been silent on the issue or have indicated that they would not deny Communion to policy makers who vote pro-choice. It would seem that the most interesting aspect of the current debate is the tacit admission by many bishops that to be pro-choice on the legality of abortion is neither a grave sin nor a cause for denying Communion. Perhaps there is some hope for the church after all.

Frances Kissling

Washington, D.C.

Newsday Editor's note: The writer is president of Catholics for a Free Choice.
Access on web site:,0,3613853.story?coll=ny-opinion-archive

Political Orphans -- How the Democratic Party Left Traditional Believers Behind -- by James Hitchcock --
This article originally appeared in Touchstone, April 2003, and is reprinted here with the author's permssion.

Vatican Statements Canon Law - Dccuments - Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum

US Bishops' Conference Statements

Diocesan Bishops' Statements

Selected articles, commentary


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