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Political Responsibility
A Resolution of the Catholic Bishops of the United States

A Statement Issued by the Catholic Bishops of the United States

May 6, 1976

1. The United States stands in the midst of an important national election year, a time for debate on national issues and decisions about our political leadership. We are deeply concerned that increasing numbers of voters seem to be choosing not to participate in this process out of distrust, apathy, or indifference. Two years ago, only thirty-six percent of those eligible voted in the national congressional elections, in contrast, forty-six percent voted in 1962. In 1972, a presidential election year, only half of the eligible citizens exercised their right to vote, down from a peak of sixty-three percent in 1960. This trend—and the alienation, disenchantment, and indifference it represents—must be reversed if our government is to reflect truly the "consent of the governed."

2. We therefore wish on this occasion to urge all citizens to participate fully in the political life of our country. We encourage them to register to vote, to become informed on the relevant issues, to become involved in the party or campaign of their choice, and to vote freely according to their consciences.

3. As part of its mission, the Church, the People of God, is required by the Gospel and its long tradition to promote and defend human rights and dignity. This view of the Church's ministry and mission requires it to relate positively to the political order, since social injustice and the denial of human rights can often be remedied only through governmental action.

4. The administrative board of the American bishops at its February 1976 meeting, adopted an important statement, Political Responsibility: Reflections On An Election Year. In this Statement, the board discussed the responsibility of the Church toward political life, called for a "thoughtful and lively debate" on the issues that face our country, and listed a broad range of issues central to that debate. In each case, these are matters which we have already addressed in major policy positions, and we ask interested persons to examine these statements for our specific views. These issues as listed in our earlier statement include: abortion, the economy, education, food policy, housing, human rights and foreign policy, mass media, and military expenditures.

5. As citizens we are all called to become informed, active, and responsible participants in the political process. Drawing on their own experience and exercising their distinctive roles within the Christian community, bishops, clergy, religious, and laity should join together in common witness and effective action to bring about a society based on truth, justice, charity, and freedom. It is by participation of citizens in our democratic process that we can hope to move toward such a society.

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