U.S. Bishops Call Catholics to "Faithful Citizenship"

Outline Questions and Challenges for 2004 Elections

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Catholics need to take the demands of their faith seriously when they vote in elections, says a new document from the U.S. bishops.

In an appeal to Catholics before the presidential election year, the bishops call for «a new kind of politics — focused on moral principles not on the latest polls, on the needs of the poor and vulnerable not the contributions of the rich and powerful, and on the pursuit of the common good not the demands of special interests.»

The bishops outline their ideas in a 17-page document, «Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility,» posted today at www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/index.htm.

Declaring «our nation has been wounded,» the bishops suggest the reality of the terror of war and economic stress has «taught us that no amount of military strength, economic power, or technological advances can truly guarantee security, prosperity, or progress.»

«The most important challenges we face are not simply political, economic, or technological, but ethical, moral, and spiritual,» they say. «We face fundamental questions of life and death, war and peace, who moves ahead and who is left behind.»

Referring to the clerical sexual abuse scandal, the bishops acknowledge that «our Church is also working to heal wounds.» While they strive to «protect children and rebuild trust,» the bishops say they cannot abandon «the duty to encourage Catholics to act on our faith in political life.»

The bishops insist that «politics in this election year and beyond should be about an old idea with new power — the common good. The central question should not be, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’ It should be, ‘How can we — all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable — be better off in the years ahead?'»

Noting the Church does not offer political endorsements or contributions, the bishops outline 10 questions for the campaign and a set of principles drawn from Catholic social teaching to guide the participation and choices of Catholics.

Among the questions are these:

— «After September 11, how can we build not only a safer world, but a better world? more just, more secure, more peaceful, more respectful of human life and dignity?»

— «How will we protect the weakest in our midst — innocent unborn children? How will our nation resist what Pope John Paul II calls a ‘culture of death’? How can we keep our nation from turning to violence to solve some of its most difficult problems — abortion to deal with difficult pregnancies; the death penalty to combat crime; euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of age, illness, and disability; and war to address international disputes?»

— «How will we address the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger, international debt, and lack of development around the world, as well as the fact that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be poor here in the richest nation on Earth?»

— «How can our nation help parents raise their children with respect for life, sound moral values, a sense of hope, and an ethic of stewardship and responsibility? How can our society defend the central institution of marriage and better support families in their moral roles and responsibilities, offering them real choices and financial resources to obtain quality education and decent housing?»

The bishops say in the document: «A Catholic moral framework does not easily fit the ideologies of ‘right’ or, ‘left,’ nor the platforms of any party. Our values are often not ‘politically correct.’ Believers are called to be a community of conscience within the larger society and to test public life by the values of Scripture and the principles of Catholic social teaching.

«Our responsibility is to measure all candidates, policies, parties, and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity, and rights of the human person — whether they protect the poor and vulnerable and advance the common good.»

The bishops suggest that «at this time some Catholics may feel politically homeless, sensing that no political party and too few candidates share a consistent concern for human life and dignity.»

«However,» they continued, «this is not a time for retreat or discouragement. We need more, not less engagement in political life. We urge Catholics to become more involved — by running for office, by working within political parties; by contributing money or time to campaigns; and by joining diocesan legislative networks, community organizations, and other efforts to apply Catholic principles in the public square.»

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