Debate on politics document continues; cardinal criticizes Democrats
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service
November 19, 2007
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Judging from some
of the early reaction to the U.S. bishops' "Forming Consciences for Faithful
Citizenship," debate about the more than 10,000-word document on political
responsibility overwhelmingly approved by the bishops Nov. 14 is far from over.
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston drew national attention when he told The
Boston Globe daily newspaper after the vote that the Democratic Party "has been
extremely insensitive to the church's position, on the Gospel of life in
particular, and on other moral issues."
He said the document, considered by the bishops every four years since 1976, was
clearer than earlier versions about the importance issues such as abortion and
euthanasia have over other political issues with lesser moral weight.
But others say the document is not strong enough in condemning Catholic
politicians who take positions contrary to the church on abortion, embryonic
stem-cell research and other life issues.
Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, told LifeSiteNews.com that
the bishops "failed to say anything about pro-abortion politicians who are
Catholic and the obligation that they as bishops have to deny holy Communion (to
those politicians) and I am terribly distraught about that."
"Such documents are going to have no significance whatsoever because they're not
supported with any daily, weekly effort on the part of the bishops as a united
body to teach and to demand that their priests teach the fundamental teachings
of the church," she added.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., who headed the committee of
committee chairmen that drafted the document, said at a press conference that
the Communion issue had been dealt with in earlier bishops' documents and did
not need to be in "Faithful Citizenship" because it was directed at Catholic
voters, not Catholic politicians.
The document makes clear, however, that "the intentional taking of innocent
human life," such as in abortion and euthanasia, "must always be rejected and
opposed and must never be supported or condoned."
It criticizes "a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between
different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity" and says, "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
Cardinal O'Malley said that in previous documents "there was always the fear
that we were considering sort of a smorgasbord of issues, but without any
prioritizing, or giving the impression that all issues are of equal value."
He said the support given by Catholic voters in Massachusetts to Democratic
candidates who want to keep abortion legal "borders on scandal, as far as I'm
"My plea with Democratic leaders is always that they make space for pro-life
politicians, and I have many pro-life Democrats come to me and say that they not
making space for them," the cardinal added. "I think that that is a very serious
problem, particularly in a state like Massachusetts, where it is so heavily
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, expressed strong
support for the document in a statement and called on "priests to preach on its
contents, on candidates to study its lessons, and on voters to heed its
He noted that "Faithful Citizenship" calls on Catholics to work to challenge
political parties if their policies "fail to correspond to the demands of
justice and the common good."
"In particular, we at Priests for Life call upon the Democratic Party to abandon
its pro-abortion stance, recognizing that such a stance imperils and dilutes any
progress that can be made on other issues," Father Pavone added.
Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good,
said in a statement that the bishops offered "a powerful message for people of
faith to raise a clear moral voice for the dignity of the human person and a
particular concern for the poor and most vulnerable."
"We are called as Catholics not to simply follow partisan political agendas but
to draw wisdom and guidance from the fullness of Catholic social teaching with
its focus on peace, justice and the common good," she added.
Meanwhile, on the same day as the bishops' vote on the politics document, the
Center of Concern announced a new project called "Voting the Common Good:
Election 2008," aimed at helping Catholic and non-Catholic voters to apply
Catholic social teaching to issues in the 2008 election.
"While the church's positions on abortion, marriage, cloning and euthanasia are
well known, simplistic sound bites have prevented Catholic social teaching from
being understood by the general public," said Jesuit Father James E. Hug,
president of the Washington-based center.
"There is too little analysis of the pressing issues and the faith values
essential to moving our policies toward the common good," he added.