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Catholics and Political Responsibility
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Updated October 5, 2011
Posted Ocotber 5, 2011
Bishops reissue 2007's 'Faithful Citizenship' with new introduction -- Catholic News Service 10/4/2011 - Click title for entire article
"The USCCB is launching a new website for "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/. It will offer a wide range of web-based and written materials and tools to assist pastors, parishes, Catholic organizations and individuals.
The document with the new Introductory Note will be available in print by the end of October and is already available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/Forming-Consciences-for-Faithful-Citizenship-2011.pdf."
Posted November 9, 2009
USCCB on Healthcare Reform,
Link to special section on the official website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. This important section from the US bishops links to letters from bishops, documents, and other action items: - http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/
Posted February 23, 2009
Cardinal Rigali to Congress: Keep Existing Pro-Life Laws, 2/5/09
Posted November 21, 2008
US Bishops Speak Out on Implications of “Freedom of Choice Act”
A principal focus at the November 2008 US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore was on the dire implications of legislation that would nullify all state and national limitations on abortion. Known as the “Freedom of Choice Act”, this legislation has the support of President-elect Barack Obama, who promised that it among his first acts as President would be to sign this into law.
An early warning about dangerous impending legislation on abortion came in a September 30 letter for use during October, Respect Life Month. The letter, written by Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the Pro-Life Committee, said, in part:
Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.
FOCA establishes abortion as a "fundamental right" throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could "interfere" with that right or "discriminate" against it in public funding and programs.
If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden. Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.
We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. …
More than forty bishops contributed to the discussion of the November 12 statement during the public sessions of the USCCB meeting November 11. Following are a few the bishops’ interventions.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki, auxiliary of Chicago and chairman of the Committee on Canon Law:
I speak in strong support of Point 3 regarding the defense of the unborn child from the moment of conception. In particular we need to be aware of the significant and adverse effects of the proposed Freedom of Choice Act, which the President-elect has indicated he would sign if the Congress passes it. A devastating consequence for Catholic health care institutions and providers would be the fact that the Freedom of Choice Act in its present form would nullify all conscience laws allowing doctors, nurses or other state-licensed professionals and hospitals or other health-care institutions to object conscientiously to performing or participating in abortions. If this is allowed to happen, the next step would likely be for federal law to require abortions to be performed by all hospitals, including our Catholic hospitals, which, of course, we cannot do. This could necessitate discontinuing all obstetrical services at Catholic hospitals. However, I suspect that the forces of abortion would further seek to require health care institutions to provide abortion services. If that were to happen we would need to consider taking the drastic step of closing our Catholic hospitals entirely. It would not be sufficient simply to withdraw Catholic sponsorship or sell our hospitals to someone else who would provide abortion services, since giving permission to sell or alienate Catholic hospitals to those who would perform abortions would be a morally unacceptable cooperation in evil. I do not think that I am being alarmist in suggesting the need to consider taking such drastic steps. I am saying that we need to be prepared to respond in a morally appropriate and responsible fashion in the face of increasingly militant and virulent threats to pre-born human life and the moral rights of conscience to protect such life. Thank you. [Applause]
Bishop Daniel Conlon, Steubenville, member of the Marriage and Family Life subcommittee: Regardless of any particular legislation either at the federal level or the state level, my guess is that the change of administration will lead some people to think that there should be a cessation in efforts to halt abortions or the war on abortion that we are so committed to. There will be calls for a truce, it you will. I think people need to understand that we are dealing here with an absolute, that there is nothing here that will allow for compromise. Cardinal George, in your initial comments, in your Presidential address, you made a poignant connection between slavery and abortion. Slavery was an issue that divided this country substantially for a very long time. In fact, the adoption of a Constitution that brought the country into existence almost did not happen because of slavery, and the issue was put off. It was put off until the point that a civil war came into being and, which again, almost destroyed the union, and resulted in the loss of tremendous life. It was very violent, and very divisive and very painful. But it was a matter of an absolute: you either had slavery or you didn’t have slavery. And so it is with abortion. And I think with this particular point your statement needs to make it clear that this is not a matter of political compromise, it’s not a matter of finding some way of common ground. It is a matter of an absolute moral issue of a human being whose life cannot be compromised, but must be protected. [Applause]
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia, chairman Pro-Life Activities, suggested quoting Pope John Paul’s address during his visit to St. Louis in 1999:
The Dred Scott decision and slavery has already been mentioned, and the Cardinal [George] referred to it in his presidential address. I would like to simply read twelve lines or so, and ask if it might not be possible to insert this quotation from Pope John Paul II on his visit to the United States, precisely to St. Louis, when I was the archbishop, and the quotation which may possibly be able--because the phrases are quitethey’re quite impressive. If I may just read the twelve lines:
“There are times of trial, tests of national character in the history of every country. America has not been immune to them. One such time of trial is closely connected with St. Louis. Here the famous Dred Scott case was heard. And in that case the Supreme Court of the United States subsequently declared an entire class of human beingspeople of African descentoutside the boundaries of the national community and of the Constitution’s protection. After untold suffering and with enormous effort that situation has, at least in part, been reversed. America faces a similar time of trial today. Today the conflict is between a culture that affirms, cherishes and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beingsthe unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped and others considered unusefulto be outside the boundaries of legal protection. Because of the seriousness of the issues involved and because of America’s great impact on the world as a whole the resolution of this new time of testing will have profound consequences”.
Perhaps this could be referred to explicitly. Thank you.
Bishop Joseph Martino, Scranton: I just think we have to define this term “common good”. I say that with great reluctance, because I do agree with Cardinal Egan and others who have said we need to make sure the document has the appropriate punch and not an excessive length. But I think one of the sad aspects of this past election would be the activity of Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the so-called “Common Good”. I think they really redefined that phrase “common good” into kind of a utopianism, a prosperity-oriented materialism, I think. And I think that that’s not what we mean at all by “the common good”. That has a precise meaning in the Church’s teachings and in the Compendium of the Social Teachings of the Church. So I just hope that, without lengthening this document, we do not let others think that “common good” is a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. There’s much more to it than that.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Military Services: Just very simply to echo what Bishop Trautman said: that it be prophetic in the sense of inviting the man who willthose who will read this document to accept the right position such as Nathan did with King David. That should certainly guarantee that you stay up all night.
Bishop Blasé Cupich, Rapid City, member Translation of Scripture Texts subcommittee: And just to piggy-back on what Archbishop Broglio said, I think it is important to be prophetic, but to keep in mind that a prophecy of denunciation quickly wears thin. And what we need, it seems to me, is a prophecy of solidarity: solidarity with those that we speak who have no voice, but also solidarity with a community that we serve and a nation that we live in, that is in need of healing today. And so it seems to me that we must act, and be perceived as acting, as caring pastors as well as faithful teachers. And as we do this work with this document to see it as part of the ongoing contact with the new administration, so that whatever is done will help and not hinder the personal contacts that our Conference will have in the ongoing years with this new administration.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann. Kansas City (Kansas), member Task Force on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, Pro-Life Activities: Your Eminence, I think … it’s really a call to our Catholics in public life to integrity: integrity in terms of the way they live out their Catholic faith, and they can’t check their principles at the door of the legislature. And I think we need to emphasize that integrity, and then also integrity in living their Catholic faith: that they cannot call themselves to be Catholic when they violate such a fundamental core belief of ours in terms of the dignity of the unborn. And finally, I would just echo that, if we could make that summons and call to the entire Catholic community, at this point, to rally. I think that’s very important.
Bishop Robert Hermann, administrator, St. Louis: Your Eminence, I just wanted to really encourage you to make this a very, very strong statement about what we really believe. For this reason: we have lost perhaps fifty times as many children in the last thirty-five years as we have lost soldiers in all the wars since the Revolution. And that is a horrible, horrible thing to answer for. And therefore I think any bishop here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow to bring about the end of abortion. Now if we’re willing to die tomorrow to bring about the end of abortion, then we should be willing to spend the rest of our lives dedicated to take all kinds of criticism, whatever it is, to stop this horrible genocide. So, I know we’re giving you a tough assignment, but we know you can rise to the occasion. So, I just want to encourage my brothers as they go back home not to be afraid to stand up. To see the gravity of this and not to be afraid to stand up in the pulpit and to defend whatever it is that you write. Thank you. [Applause]
A more complete account of the November USCCB meeting in Voices, Advent-Christmas 2008 - coming out soon.
Posted November 13, 2008
STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
November 12, 2008
This statement by Cardinal Francis George ,president of the USCCB, was released November 12, during the bishops’ plenary meeting in Baltimore. It was voted on by the bishops as representing the views of the entire conference. (A formal statement of the conference would require procedures that would make it impossible to issue it during this meeting. Because of the critical urgency of the matter, as President-elect Barack Obama has stated that passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) will be a priority when he takes office, the bishops decided to authorize Cardinal George to release this statement now.)
“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127 1)
The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all. Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.
The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.
In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.
Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.
FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.
On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.
The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.
This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.
Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127) May God bless him and our country.
Posted October 24, 2008
USCCB News Release
October 15, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bishop Holley Calls on Black Community to Overcome Abortion
WASHINGTONBishop Martin D. Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, issued a statement responding to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research branch, showing that black women have abortions at five times the rate of white women.
"As an African American, I am saddened by evidence that Black women continue to be targeted by the abortion industry. The loss of any child from abortion is a tragedy, but we must ask: Why are minority children being aborted at such disproportionate rates?" Bishop Holley said.
"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," Bishop Holley said.
Bishop Holley serves as Chair of the Sub-Committee on African American Affairs and is a member of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Bishop Holley called for the federal defunding of the abortion industry. "Every year the federal government gives over $300 million to Planned Parenthood. Last year for the first time, Planned Parenthood took in over one billion dollars and reported a profit of $51 million," he said of the non-profit organization.
The Bishop called upon African Americans to "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."
The full text of Bishop Holley's statement follows:
As an African American, I am saddened by evidence that Black women continue to be targeted by the abortion industry. 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. 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" (www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/holley.pdf), 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.
The Guttmacher Institute called on policy makers to "redouble their efforts to improve access to subsidized contraceptive services for these women." Yet studies have shown that increased access to contraceptives, especially among teens, does not reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion. On the contrary, several studies link increased access to contraceptives to an increase in STDs, with no decrease in abortion rates.
As the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute is shamelessly trying to build a case for receiving more of our taxpayer dollars. Every year the federal government gives over $300 million to Planned Parenthood. Last year for the first time, Planned Parenthood took in over one billion dollars and reported a profit of $51 million. I join my voice with others in the Black community who have called for the defunding of the abortion industry.
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.
Posted October 22, 2008
Released October 21, 2008, by the US bishops' chairmen for Pro-Life Activities and Domestic Justice and Human Development, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre.
Text on USCCB web site: www.usccb.org/prolife/Rigali-Murphy-Joint-Statement.pdf.
Joint Statement by
Cardinal Justin Rigali
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
Bishop William Murphy
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
October 21, 2008
In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2007), the Catholic bishops of the United States urged Catholic voters to form their consciences in accord with the Church’s moral teaching. We emphasized that: “Both opposing evil and doing good are essential obligations” (No. 24). Unfortunately, there seem to be efforts and voter education materials designed to persuade Catholics that they need only choose one approach: either opposing evil or doing good. This is not an authentically Catholic approach.
Some argue that we should not focus on policies that provide help for pregnant women, but just focus on the essential task of establishing legal protections for children in the womb. Others argue that providing life-affirming support for pregnant women should be our only focus and this should take the place of efforts to establish legal protections for unborn children. We want to be clear that neither argument is consistent with Catholic teaching. Our faith requires us to oppose abortion on demand and to provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies.
In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision knocked down laws against abortion in all 50 states, fabricating a constitutional “right” to abortion that continues to haunt and divide our society. Within two days of that decision, the Catholic bishops rejected it as “bad morality, bad medicine and bad public policy.” We called for a comprehensive response: exploring “every legal possibility” for challenging the Court’s tragic error and restoring legal safeguards for the right to life of the unborn child; helping to pass laws to “restrict the practice of abortion as much as possible” in the meantime; and educating society to the need to safeguard the child and support “more humane and morally acceptable solutions” for women facing problems during pregnancy.
Recently, some have called on the Church to abandon most of this effort. They say we should accept Roe as a permanent fixture of constitutional law, stop trying to restore recognition for the unborn child’s human rights, and confine our public advocacy to efforts to “reduce abortions” through improved economic and social support for women and families.
The Catholic community is second to no one in providing and advocating for support for women and families facing problems during pregnancy. Catholic hospitals, charitable institutions, and thousands of pregnancy aid centers, provide life-saving care and compassionate alternatives to the violence of abortion. We have advocated for universal health care coverage, generous family leave policies, increases in the minimum wage, humane welfare policies for women who are pregnant or caring for young children, expanded funding for WIC and other nutrition programs, and a federal children’s health insurance program that includes coverage for unborn children and their mothers. Because some women still feel pressured by economic hardship and lack of support to resort to abortion, our task in this regard is far from over.
These efforts, however, are not an adequate or complete response to the injustice of Roe v. Wade for several important reasons. First, the Court’s decision in Roe denied an entire class of innocent human beings the most fundamental human right, the right to life. In fact, the act of killing these fellow human beings was transformed from a crime into a “right,” turning the structure of human rights on its head. Roe v. Wade is a clear case of an “intrinsically unjust law” we are morally obliged to oppose (see Evangelium vitae, nos. 71-73). Reversing it is not a mere political tactic, but a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life.
Second, the many challenges to the Court’s error since 1973 have borne fruit, leading to significant modifications of Roe. Most recently in its ruling on partial-birth abortion, the Court upheld a ban on an abortion procedure for the first time in 35 years, and acknowledged that abortion takes a human life and does serious harm to women.
Third, Roe itself enormously increased the annual number of abortions in our society. The law is a teacher, and Roe taught many women, physicians and others that abortion is an acceptable answer to a wide range of problems. By the same token, even the limited pro-life laws allowed by the Court since Roe have been shown to reduce abortions substantially, leading to a steady decline in the abortion rate since 1980. Bans on public funding, laws requiring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors, and other modest and widely supported laws have saved millions of lives. Laws made possible by reversing Roe would save many more. On the other hand, this progress could be lost through a key pro-abortion proposal, the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which supporters say would knock down hundreds of current pro-life laws and forbid any public program to “discriminate” against abortion in providing services to women.
Providing support for pregnant women so they choose to have their babies is a necessary but not sufficient response to abortion. Similarly, reversal of Roe is a necessary but not sufficient condition for restoring an order of justice in our society’s treatment of defenseless human life. This act by itself would not automatically grant legal protection to the unborn. It would remove an enormous obstacle to such protection, so the people of the United States and their elected representatives in every state could engage in a genuine discussion of how to save unborn children and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion. Both approaches to opposing abortion are essential. By protecting the child’s life to the maximum degree possible, improving life-affirming support for pregnant women, and changing the attitudes and prejudices imposed on many women to make them see abortion as an acceptable or necessary solution, we will truly help build a culture of life.
In light of a wide range of attempts to interpret Church teaching or imply that outside materials represent the teaching of the Church, we wish to affirm that Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is the teaching that has been approved by the body of bishops of the United States. As we explained in that statement, “We encourage Catholics to seek those resources that are authorized by their own bishops, their state Catholic conferences, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
USCCB Pro-Life Activities
LIFE ISSUES FORUM
October 15, 2008
What Reduces Abortions?
By Richard M. Doerflinger
Sometimes election years produce more policy myths than good ideas. This year one myth is about abortion. It goes like this: The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision is here to stay, and that's fine because laws against abortion don't reduce abortions much anyway. Rather, "support for women and families" will greatly reduce abortions, without changing the law or continuing a "divisive" abortion debate.
Various false claims are used to bolster this myth. It is said that over three-quarters of women having abortions cite expense as the most important factor in their decision. Actually the figure is less than one-fourth, 23%. It is said that abortion rates declined dramatically (30%) during the Clinton years, but the decline stopped under the ostensibly pro-life Bush administration. Actually the abortion rate has dropped 30% from 1981 to 2005; the decline started 12 years before Clinton took office, and has continued fairly steadily to the present day.
The steepest decline is among minors. Is it plausible that economic factors reduced abortions for teens but not their older sisters, or their mothers who support them?
The reality is this: In 1980 the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde amendment, and federally funded abortions went from 300,000 a year to nearly zero. With its decisions in Webster (1989) and Casey (1992), the Court began to uphold other abortion laws previously invalidated under Roe. States passed hundreds of modest but effective laws: bans on use of public funds and facilities; informed consent laws; parental involvement when minors seek abortion; etc. Dr. Michael New's rigorous research has shown that these laws significantly reduce abortions. In the 1990s, debate on partial-birth abortion kept in the public eye, ironically, by President Clinton's repeated vetoes of a ban on this grisly late-term procedure alerted many Americans to the violence of abortion and shifted public attitudes in a pro-life direction, just as growing concern over AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases was giving new force to the abstinence message for teens. Now the Court has upheld a partial-birth abortion ban, and signaled that other laws to save unborn children and their mothers from the horrors of abortion may be valid. If Roe is reversed outright, that will allow more laws that can further reduce abortions.
By contrast, a pending federal "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) would knock down current laws reducing abortions, and require public programs for pregnant women to fund abortion. No one supporting that bill can claim to favor reducing abortions.
Many women are pressured toward abortion, and they need our help. The pressures are partly, but only partly, economic in nature. Women are influenced by husbands, boyfriends, parents and friends, and by a culture and legal system that tells them the child they carry has no rights and is of no consequence. Law cannot solve all problems, but it can tell us which solutions are unacceptable and today Roe still teaches that killing the unborn child is an acceptable solution, even a "right." Without ever forgetting the need to support pregnant women and their families, that tragic and unjust error must be corrected if we are to build a society that respects all human life.
Mr. Doerflinger is Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities. For more on FOCA see National Committee for Human Life Amendment: http://www.nchla.org/issues.asp?ID=50.
Posted October 1, 2008
USCCB News Release
September 30, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cardinal Rigali Urges Respect for Human Life, Opposition to 'Freedom of Choice' Act
WASHINGTON-In a statement to mark Respect Life Sunday, October 5, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia urged Catholics "to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended."
"Let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance," he said.
Cardinal Rigali chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Cardinal Rigali cited encouraging trends that "most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases," and that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26 percent between 1989 and 2004, with a 58 percent decline among girls under 18. He also addressed the threat posed by "FOCA," a federal "Freedom of Choice Act" which, he said, "if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket."
"We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America," Cardinal Rigali said.
He hailed therapeutic successes using adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood.
"The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research - and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells," he said.
Cardinal Rigali also noted the continuing need to protect vulnerable patients at the end of life. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide, as proposed in a Washington State ballot initiative this November, would "betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being."
The Respect Life program, begun in 1972, stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States. This year's theme is "Hope and Trust in Life!" The full statement follows.
STATEMENT FOR RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY
Cardinal Justin F. Rigali
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-life Activities
September 30, 2008
On October 5, 2008, Catholics across the United States will again celebrate Respect Life Sunday. Throughout the month of October, Catholic parishes and organizations will sponsor hundreds of educational conferences, prayer services, and opportunities for public witness, as well as events to raise funds for programs assisting those in need. Such initiatives are integral to the Church's ongoing effort to help build a culture in which every human life without exception is respected and defended.
Education and advocacy during Respect Life Month address a broad range of moral and public policy issues. Among these, the care of persons with disabilities and those nearing the end of life is an enduring concern. Some medical ethicists wrongly promote ending the lives of patients with serious physical and mental disabilities by withdrawing their food and water, even though - or in some cases precisely because - they are not imminently dying. This November, the citizens of Washington State will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. In neighboring Oregon, where assisted suicide is already legal, the state has refused to cover the cost of life-sustaining treatments for some patients facing terminal illness, while callously informing them that Oregon will pay for suicide pills. Such policies betray the ideal of America as a compassionate society honoring the inherent worth of every human being.
Embryonic stem cell research also presents grave ethical concerns. The Catholic Church strongly supports promising and ethically sound stem cell research - and strongly opposes killing week-old human embryos, or human beings at any stage, to extract their stem cells. We applaud the remarkable therapeutic successes that have been achieved using stem cells from cord blood and adult tissues. We vigorously oppose initiatives, like the one confronting Michigan voters in November, that would endorse the deliberate destruction of developing human beings for embryonic stem cell research.
Turning to abortion, we note that most Americans favor banning all abortion or permitting it only in very rare cases (danger to the mother's life or cases of rape or incest). Also encouraging is the finding of a recent Guttmacher Institute study that the U.S. abortion rate declined 26% between 1989 and 2004. The decline was steepest, 58%, among girls under 18. An important factor in this trend is that teens increasingly are choosing to remain abstinent until their late teens or early 20s. Regrettably, when they do become sexually active prior to marrying, many become pregnant and choose abortion - the abortion rate increased among women aged 20 and older between 1974 and 2004, although the rate is now gradually declining.
Today, however, we face the threat of a federal bill that, if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket. The "Freedom of Choice Act" ("FOCA") has many Congressional sponsors, some of whom have pledged to act swiftly to help enact this proposed legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.
FOCA establishes abortion as a "fundamental right" throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and forbids any law or policy that could "interfere" with that right or "discriminate" against it in public funding and programs. If FOCA became law, hundreds of reasonable, widely supported, and constitutionally sound abortion regulations now in place would be invalidated. Gone would be laws providing for informed consent, and parental consent or notification in the case of minors. Laws protecting women from unsafe abortion clinics and from abortion practitioners who are not physicians would be overridden. Restrictions on partial-birth and other late-term abortions would be eliminated. FOCA would knock down laws protecting the conscience rights of nurses, doctors, and hospitals with moral objections to abortion, and force taxpayers to fund abortions throughout the United States.
We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot tolerate an even greater loss of innocent human lives. We cannot subject more women and men to the post-abortion grief and suffering that our counselors and priests encounter daily in Project Rachel programs across America.
For twenty-four years, the Catholic Church has provided free, confidential counseling to individuals seeking emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion, whether their own or a loved one's. We look forward to the day when these counseling services are no longer needed, when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. If FOCA is enacted, however, that day may recede into the very distant future.
In this Respect Life Month, let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail and elderly who need our respect and our assistance. In this and in so many ways we will truly build a culture of life.
Posted September 12, 2008
Conscience and the Catholic Voter, by Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport and Chair of the USCCB Committee of Doctrine -- 2008
Posted September 11, 2008
USCCB News Release
September 10, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bishops To Take Up Abortion And Politics At November Assembly
WASHINGTONThe Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the full body of U.S. bishops will discuss the practical and pastoral implications of political support for abortion during their annual assembly, November 10-13, in Baltimore.
At the conclusion of its September 9-10 meeting in Washington, the Administrative Committee, which is the highest authority of the USCCB outside the conference’s plenary assemblies in November and June, cited concern for recent misleading remarks about Catholic teaching by Catholic politicians. The statement follows.
In light of recent comments by Catholic politicians misrepresenting Catholic teaching, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affirms the statements that have been issued by Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine. We confirm the Catholic Church's constant teaching about the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception and the intrinsic evil of abortion. As the teachers of the faith, we also point out the connectedness between the evil of abortion and political support for abortion. We plan to discuss the practical and pastoral implications of these serious matters at the U.S. bishops' November 10-13, 2008 general meeting in Baltimore.
The two statements referenced are attached.
EDITORS: Resources that provide the teaching and practice of the Catholic faith include the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship and Happy are Those Who are Called to His Supper: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist. These resources, and others, are available at www.usccb.org and www.faithfulcitizenship.org.
Posted September 10, 2008
DATE: September 9, 2008
FROM: Mar Muñoz-Visoso
Revised statement. Replaces release sent earlier
with same headline.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BISHOPS RESPOND TO SENATOR BIDEN’S STATEMENTS REGARDING CHURCH TEACHING ON ABORTION
WASHINGTONCardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:
Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see www.usccb.org/prolife/whatsnew.shtml). On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.
Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion. He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.
However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect the truth of the matter. The Church recognizes that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.
The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin? When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment? While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/fact298.shtml). The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.
The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed? The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody. No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. This is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will. The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator. Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into those who have moral values and those who do not and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society. Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.
While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child. Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.
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SEC,DD, CNS, RNS,Crux
USCCB News Release
September 2, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Church Teaching Against Abortion Constant Through Centuries, Says New Resource
WASHINGTON To help end confusion caused by recent misrepresentations of Catholic Church teaching on abortion, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued a two-page fact sheet called “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching."(Links to USCCB)
Public debate on the topic was prompted by misleading remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, August 24 in an interview on Meet the Press. On August 26, Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of their Committee on Doctrine, issued a statement to correct her remarks. Other Catholic bishops released similar statements.
“This well documented fact sheet will help Catholics and others form their consciences in accordance with the Church’s unchanging teaching in defense of unborn human life,” said Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
Among other points, the fact sheet states that “modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.”
The full text of “Respect for Unborn Human Life: The Church’s Constant Teaching” is available online at www.usccb.org/prolife/constantchurchteaching.shtml. The August 26 statement by Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Lori may be found at www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2008/08-120.shtml.
Posted August 26, 2008
DATE: August 26, 2008
FROM: Sr. Mary Ann Walsh
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BISHOPS RESPOND TO HOUSE SPEAKER PELOSI’S MISREPRESENTATION OF CHURCH TEACHING AGAINST ABORTION
WASHINGTON--Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, have issued the following statement:
In the course of a “Meet the Press” interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.
In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law." (No. 2271)
In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.
These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization. In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church teaches that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.
More information on the Church's teaching on this issue can be found in our brochure "The Catholic Church is a Pro-Life Church". www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/index.shtml
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USCCB News Release
August 19, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bishops Ask Catholics To Pray Election Novena
WASHINGTONThe United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) invites U.S. Catholics to pray before the November election a novena for life, justice, and peace called Novena for Faithful Citizenship. It is a podcast and available for download.
Joan Rosenhauer, Associate Director for the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, said that the special novena is part of “the bishops’ campaign to help Catholics develop well-formed consciences for addressing political and social questions.” The bishops issued their statement on forming consciences for faithful citizenship in November 2007.
Helen Osman, USCCB Secretary of Communications, expressed hope that the novena could help “Catholics enter into prayerful reflection as they prepare to vote.” Seventy-one percent of all visitors to the USCCB’s web site download the free podcasts of the daily NAB readings. These same visitors are encouraged to use the novena podcast for prayer. Osman said that the USCCB wants to support Catholics as they weigh pre-election issues and that “providing a prayer resource on the Web can help us focus on our common values and identity as Catholics.” The novena emphasizes the dignity of life, justice, and peace.
The Novena for Faithful Citizenship runs for nine days and can be used consecutively, one day each week, for nine days prior to the election, or “in any way that works best for a community or individual,” said Rosenhauer.
The novena will be available for download until the election and it can be downloaded online at http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org/resources/podcasts.
For other Faithful Citizenship resources and materials visit www.faithfulcitizenship.org.
USCCB News Release
August 6, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Discussing Faithful Citizenship
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted on www.faithfulcitizenship.org/media a series of articles by USCCB experts on issues pertinent to the November elections.
Articles are in both English and Spanish.
Topics include Immigration, Voting by Conscience, the Environment, Poverty, Iraq, Stem Cells, Gay Marriage, Abortion, Health Care and Economic Policy.
Articles may be reprinted as they are and/or serve as backgrounders. To interview any of the authors, contact USCCB Media Relations, 202-541-3200.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, was passed by the bishops in November 2007.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United Stateslong statement
November 14, 2007 (links to USCCB site)
The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship summary statement, November 14, 2007 (links to USCCB site)
May 18, 2007 -- Bishops’ Conference Responds To 18 Democrats Critical Of Pope
Update June 20, 2006 - ORAL REPORT to the USCCB June 2006 Meeting
TASK FORCE ON CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND CATHOLIC POLITICIANS by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick -- June 15, 2006, USCCB Meeting in Los Angeles.
Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life
March 10, 2006
"A recent public statement by 55 Catholic and Democratic members of the House of Representatives offers an opportunity to address several important points about the responsibilities of Catholics in public life."....Click title for complete statement on the USCCB website.
Cardinal William H. Keeler
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro Life Activities
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Chairman, USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy
Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics
(This document was issued by the US bishops in 1998. Quotes from relevant paragraphs on responsibility of Catholic politicians follow. Click title above to link to access complete document on USCCB web site)
31.Catholics who are privileged to serve in public leadership positions have an obligation to place their faith at the heart of their public service, particularly on issues regarding the sanctity and dignity of human life. Thomas More, the former chancellor of England who preferred to give his life rather than betray his Catholic convictions, went to his execution with the words, "I die the king's good servant, but God's first." In the United States in the late 1990s, elected officials safely keep their heads. But some will face a political penalty for living their public office in accord with their pro-life convictions. To those who choose this path, we assure them that their course is just, they save lives through their witness, and God and history will not forget them. Moreover, the risk of witness should not be exaggerated, and the power of witness should not be underestimated. In an age of artifice, many voters are hungry for substance. They admire and support political figures who speak out sincerely for their moral convictions. For our part we commend Catholic and other public officials who, with courage and determination, use their positions of leadership to promote respect for all human life.
32. We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public roles and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching. No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life. Certainly there are times when it may be impossible to overturn or prevent passage of a law which allows or promotes a moral evil -- such as a law allowing the destruction of nascent human life. In such cases, an elected official, whose position in favor of life is known, could seek legitimately to limit the harm done by the law. However, no appeal to policy, procedure, majority will or pluralism ever excuses a public official from defending life to the greatest extent possible. As is true of leaders in all walks of life, no political leader can evade accountability for his or her exercise of power. (Evangelium Vitae, 73-4) Those who justify their inaction on the grounds that abortion is the law of the land need to recognize that there is a higher law, the law of God. No human law can validly contradict the Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."
33. The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights.
34.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. We get the public officials we deserve. Their virtue -- or lack thereof -- is a judgment not only on them, but on us. Because of this, we urge our fellow citizens to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest.
Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
In September 2003, the USCCB Administrative Committee prepared and approved the "Faithful Citizenship" statement, to prepare Catholics for the 2004 elections. It now appears on the USCCB web site. The document is intended to inform voters on a wide range of issues -- from human life and family issues to war and relations with the United Nations -- listing various social policies endorsed by the committees of the US bishops' conference. (Click on title above to access the statement on the USCCB web site.)
With the release of the statement, the USCCB has also launched a web site section with the statement and various other materials (including suggestions for homilies, liturgies, prayers) related to the political campaign. Link to this section of the USCCB web site: http://www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/introduction.html
On June 15, 2004, Monsignor William Fay, USCCB General Secretary, reported that copies of "Faithful Citizenship" were sent, along with a letter from Monsignor Fay, to leaders of both major political parties: to Bill Harris, convention chairman and CEO for the Republican National Committee, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the platform drafting committee for the Democratic National Committee.
US bishops' Task Force on the implementation of the Holy See's "Doctrinal Note"
The US bishops' conference has appointed a task force to implement the Vatican's Doctrinal Note. At their November 2003 meeting, a report from this task force was presented by Bishop John Ricard. (The task force chairman, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, of Washington, DC, said that because of his location in the nation's capital, he preferred not to present the report himself.) The other members of this task force, according to the November report, are Archbishop Charles Chaput; Bishop Joseph Galante; Bishop Thomas G.Wenski; Bishop Donald Trautman; and Bishop Bernard Harrington.
The task force plans to consult with the Holy See and other bishops' conferences "to bring back a set of general guidelines to help shape the prudential judgments we will make", Bishop Ricard reported.
(Click title above to access the November 2003 Task Force statement on this site.)
NOTE: Go to Diocesan Bishops' Statements Page for individual statements by original task force members, Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Galante, Bishop Wenski and Bishop Harrington.
(After the November USCCB meeting, Archbishop Chaput was replaced by Cardinal William Keeler, and Bishop Trautman by Archbishop William Levada.)
USCCB Doctrine Committee - Questions and Answers on the Doctrinal Note on Catholics' participation in political life
The US bishops' Committee on Doctrine issued a brief series of questions and answers on the Holy See's Doctrinal Note, from which the following are excerpts. (Click title above to go to complete document on USCCB web site.)
What about the separation of "church and state"?
The Note fully supports the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion or the Church. It points out that the identification of religious law with civil law can stifle religious freedom and restrict or deny other inalienable rights. Also, the state does not have the right to interfere in specifically religious activities.
However this does not mean that there is an autonomy from morality. Christians and all citizens must defend, by legitimate means, moral truths concerning society including respect for human life and other rights of the person, justice and freedom.
The fact that some of these truths may also be taught by the Church does not lessen the political legitimacy or the rightful "autonomy" of the contribution of those citizens who are committed to them.
Some may have come to these truths through reasoned inquiry or from their being taught by the Christian faith or both. In whatever way a person has come to these fundamental moral truths, in a democratic society all proposals are freely discussed and examined. To disqualify Christians from political life for acting in accord with their consciences amounts to a form of intolerant secularism.
What are the responsibilities of the lay faithful in civil and political life?
This is an arena that is worthy and appropriate for the baptized faithful as they fulfill their mission in the Church to the world. Their legitimate autonomy to deal with many matters and issues which do not involve fundamental moral principles is fully respected. However, the well-informed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political policy or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and one cannot support one of these teachings to the neglect of the others or to omit support for one of them while supporting others. Christians should collaborate in the shaping of a culture that is informed by the true dignity of the human person and the common good.
USCCB Statement - Catholics in Political Life
On June 18, 2004, before leaving their semi-annual meeting in Englewood, Colorado, the US Catholic bishops voted (183-6) to adopt a statement that would address the issues about Communion and dissenting politicians. Clearly all the bishops are not "on the same page" in their policies about extending Communion to openly and actively pro-abortion Catholic politicians. In the end, the new statement strongly affirmed Church teaching on abortion -- but the bishops were unable to reach consensus on the matter of withholding Communion from prominent dissenting Catholics; and left it up to each individual bishop to decide how he will handle the matter in his own diocese.
This decision (or indecision) suggests that there will continue to be dramatically divergent practices in different parts of the country, replicating the divisions that have emerged among the dioceses in the application of liturgical norms.
The statement is copyrighted by the USCCB, and is available only on their web site. Click title above or go to http://www.usccb.org/bishops/catholicsinpoliticallife.htm.)
Five bulleted points in Catholics in Political Life stressed that
- We need to teach ... clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death....
- We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials....
- Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life.... [W]e seek to form the consciences of our people....
- The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
- We commit ourselves to maintain communication with public officials who make decision that touch issues of human life and dignity. (original emphasis)
The bishops conclude their two-page statement by noting that "Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action. Nevertheless, we all share an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity and to preach the Gospel in difficult times." The bishops also caution against "polarizing tendencies of election-year politics" which "can lead to circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends. Respect for the Holy Eucharist, in particular, demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world."
Interim Reflections of the Task Force on
Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians
Reports from the Task Force were presented to the bishops of the United States at their meeting in Englewood, Colorado, on June 15, 2004. The reports represent the work, the observations, and the interim guidance of the task force only. It is not a final report. The Task Force will continue to consult with the Holy See, other episcopal conferences, the bishops of the United States, and others as it develops its final report. The introductory and concluding reports on the consultations of the Task Force were presented by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, chairman of the Task Force; theological reflections by San Francisco Archbishop William Levada (chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctine, succeeding Bishop Trautman; and a summary of the consultation process by Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler (chairman of the Pro-Life Activities Committee, succeeding interim chmn., Archbishop Chaput). Other members of the Task Force are Winona Bishop Bernard Harrington (chairman of the Committee on Education), Bishop Thomas Wenski and Bishop Joseph Galante. (Go to Diocesan Bishops' Statements to read statements by Bishops Wenski and Galante.)
In his introductory remarks, Cardinal McCarrick said, "We should not tell people how to vote or sanction voters. This is contrary to our teaching, may be a violation of the civil law, and is often counter-productive."
He also commented on Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum (see above), and told the bishops, "As many of you know, Vatican officials offered both principles and advised caution and pastoral prudence in the use of sanctions. In recent days, I have once again been in contact with Cardinal Ratzinger both by letter and telephone calls. He has offered some observations for our work which he specifically asked not be published, but which I wish to share with you. The first is a recognition that it is up to us as bishops in the United States to discern and act on our responsibilities as teachers, pastors and leaders in our nation."
He continued with further comments on Cardinal Ratzinger's memorandum:
"Cardinal Ratzinger speaks about WHAT constitutes 'manifest grave sin' and 'obstinate persistence' in public life, stating that consistently campaigning for and voting for permissive laws on abortion and euthanasia could meet these criteria.
"Cardinal Ratzinger outlines HOW a bishop might deal with these matters, including a series of precautionary measures involving a process of meeting, instruction and warning. This process involves meeting with the person and providing instruction on Catholic moral teaching. Cardinal Ratzinger suggests informing such persons that if they reject Catholic moral teaching in their public actions, they should not present themselves for Holy Communion until their situation has ended. Using the precedent of our teaching and practice in the case of a person in an invalid marriage, the Cardinal recognizes that there are circumstances in which Holy Communion may be denied. He also indicates that in these cases a warning must be provided before the Eucharist can be denied.
"I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path. The Holy See has repeatedly expressed its confidence in our roles as bishops and pastors. The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent. It is not surprising that difficult and differing circumstances on these matters can lead to different practices. Every bishop is acting in accord with his own understanding of his duties and the law.
"It is important to note that Cardinal Ratzinger makes a clear distinction between public officials and voters, explaining that a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil only if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion. However, when a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted if there are proportionate reasons." (Original emphasis.)
The "Interim Reflections" statement is copyrighted by the USCCB, and is available on their web site. Click title above or go to http://www.usccb.org/bishops/intreflections.htm to access complete report.
Update JULY 12, 2004 - USCCB web site published Cardinal Ratzinger's July 9 letter to Cardinal McCarrick, in which the former prounounced the US bishops June statement "very much in harmony" with his memorandum. The publication of Cardinal Ratzinger's July 9 letter may have been intended to offset criticism, after the memorandum "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion" (above) was made public July 3, that Cardinal McCarrick had not fully presented its contents to the bishops at their June meeting. (News release on USCCB web site:http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2004/04-133.htm)
Update November 29, 2004 - Link to USCCB Website:
Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians
Report by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick --Wednesday, November 17, 2004
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Diocesan Bishops' Statements - Selected articles
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