Believers are not second-class citizens. Just because people have convictions which flow from their faith does not mean they have less of a voice in the shaping of public policy. In fact, a primary purpose of the Church is precisely to influence the culture through advocacy of moral issues. As one commentator declared: "Religion and politics have been intertwined since the birth of our nation. In a democracy created to reflect the social fabric of its citizens, religious groups have always advocated moral positions to further or impede political causes and political campaigns" (Judy Ann Rosenblum).
The mission of the Church is a religious one, not a political one. Yet this does not mean that the Church has nothing to say about political matters. "At all times and in all places, the Church should have the true freedom to teach the faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgment even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it" (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 76). The Church does not formulate policies; the Church gives witness to the truths of God to which policies should conform!
Those truths do not easily fit the categories of liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. The Church does not endorse particular candidates, conduct partisan campaigns, or represent any party or platform. Rather, she evaluates policies according to how they touch the human person, how they affirm human life, human dignity, human rights, and the common good.
No party line perfectly conforms to the Gospel. We have to be free to follow the Gospel -- free not only in the sense that the law does not interfere with the Church's proclamation of the truth, but also free interiorly to be able to vote on principle rather than by party loyalty. The bishops' 1995 statement Political Responsibility states that we need to be political without being partisan, civil without being soft, involved without being used.
In the parishes, there are many things we are able to do, such as to educate candidates and voters, and conduct voter-registration drives. In short, we must be involved.
The bishops speak about the freedom that Christians must have to profess their faith publicly:
"One of our greatest blessings in the United States is our right and responsibility to participate in civic life. The Constitution protects the right of individuals and of religious bodies to speak out without governmental interference, endorsement, or sanction. It is increasingly apparent that major public issues have clear moral dimensions and that religious values have significant public consequences. Our nation is enriched and our tradition of pluralism enhanced when religious groups contribute to the debate over the policies that guide the nation" (Administrative Board, US Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, 1999, p.8).