Archbishop Edwin O'Brien Letter on Voting
ARCHDIOCESE FOR THE MILITARY SERVICES, USA
Office of the Archbishop
October 1, 2000
To All Priests and People of Our Archdiocese
Dear Friends in Christ:
As our Nation approaches this first national election of the new millennium,
I write to you, our faithful Catholic people in the Armed Services and Veterans
Administration in the hope that you will take an active interest in the issues
of the election and cast your responsible vote on November 7th.
In November, 1998, the General Meeting of our National Conference of Catholic
Bishops approved a document, "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American
Catholics." Last September, the Administrative Board of the same conference
again spoke out on the issues of political responsibility when it published
"Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium." Both
documents stress the urgency of this significant hour in our Nation's history.
As we prepare to elect leaders on the national, state and local level, I think
it timely to be reminded of the moral obligation that is ours to influence the
course of our Country. When deployments, distant assignments or extended
hospitalization precludes a return to a home voting place, absentee ballots
offer our military and Veterans Administration personnel an effective means to
exercise their rights and fulfill their moral obligations.
Catholics in our Armed Forces have pledged their lives in the defense of our
Nation and in promoting worldwide peace and justice. They and their families
have special concerns in electing the officials who will guide the destiny of
our Country. Their pledge to self-sacrifice in support of our national defense
should be complemented in their making every effort to elect public servants who
will maintain the ideals and values which our military is sworn to uphold.
Understandably, service members have very special concerns in some matters of
public policy. These concerns are not linked to a particular political party but
rather are focused on electing officials at all levels who understand and
appreciate the sacrifices being made daily by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines
Coast Guard personnel and their families.
They have every right to be concerned, for example, that adequate care be
given those who have served in uniform and are now in need of the medical
treatment. Those now on active duty should receive adequate compensation so that
their families will be fed, sheltered and educated at standards corresponding to
the valuable contributions our military renders our Nation. Professionally, our
Services should be assured of sufficient personnel to carry out their mission.
Their leadership must address the repetitive and lengthy deployments which are
increasingly destructive of family life. They should be equipped with materiel
and supplies sufficient and up to date for the task.
More basic still, those who serve our Country at home and in so many overseas
stations should examine closely the foreign policies being advocated by
candidates for national executive and legislative offices. The world's most
powerful nation must be all the more sensitive to a just, balanced and
reasonable employment of our military power, while encouraging other countries
to engage in regional peace keeping operations.
Catholics in the service of our Nation are, of course, citizens with concerns
for the common good of all Americans. We are the most economically prosperous
society on earth but can we say that we are living the message of the Gospel to
care for the least privileged in our own society? We must. We must also care
about conditions which threaten the moral fabric of country. Our bishops'
statements remind us that there are any number of moral concerns facing our
- almost one in five of our pre-school children is growing up in poverty;
- basic health care and dignified housing are still out of the reach of many,
and various forms of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination divide our
- poor families are not free to send their children to schools of choice;
- violent and life-threatening conditions have become commonplace in many of
our neighborhoods and schools, as even the very young are drawn into America's
- the death penalty, which our Holy Father calls both cruel and unnecessary.
But among these and many other matters of moral concern, one subject stands
out as preeminent --foundational to every other. And that is the sacred dignity
of human life and the right to life itself !
Nowhere is the disregard for human life more heinous than in abortion and the
increasing acceptance of euthanasia. Indeed, the infanticide of partial birth
abortion is promoted as a right even by some Catholic politicians pandering for
votes at the price of killing of the innocent. It is critical for Catholics in
our Armed Forces and Veteran Administration to realize that abortion and
euthanasia strike at the foundation of every other human right. Laws that
promote the right to kill innocent human life are unjust, not to be obeyed and,
surely, not to be promoted by any elected official who holds human life sacred.
In the words of our Catholic bishops:
"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."
And to the voting Catholic, our bishops advise:
"... (W)e 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."
Every election is an opportunity to remind our believing Catholics that we
are not second class citizens. Our voices must be heard, our convictions must be
registered in the voting booths. Our Catholic faith and our American tradition
demand that we speak out when evil is enshrined in law and that we use every
moral means to change such law.
One day we shall be judged accordingly -- surely by God and most probably by
Thank you for all you do each day to witness to the surpassing value of human
In the Lord,
+ Edwin F. O'Brien
Archbishop for the Military Services, USA