Archbishops encourage Catholics to be informed, vote wisely
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 1998, in a statement
entitled "Living the Gospel of Life," challenged all American Catholics to take
seriously their civic responsibilities.
The bishops stated: "We encourage all citizens, particularly Catholics, to
embrace their citizenship not merely as a duty and privilege, but as an
opportunity meaningfully to participate in building the culture of life. Every
voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts. Every act of citizenship
is an exercise of significant individual power. We must exercise that power in
ways that defend human life, especially those of God’s children who are unborn,
disabled or otherwise vulnerable. We get the public officials we deserve. Their
virtue – or lack thereof – is a judgment not only on them, but us. Because of
this, we 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."
As your pastors, we remind you of your responsibility to not only vote but to
be a well-informed voter. The Catholic Church in the United States has never
endorsed political parties or political candidates. Yet, the church is obligated
to help form properly the consciences of her members. The church, therefore,
must help Catholics understand the ethical dimensions of public policy issues as
well as help Catholic evaluate the moral importance of some issues in comparison
There are many public policy issues with important moral dimensions where
Catholics and people of conscience may disagree over specific policies. For
example, every Catholic must be concerned about the poor, the welfare of
children at risk, or the proper care for the disabled and elderly, but may
disagree over which specific public policies best serve these vulnerable
individuals. The war in Iraq is a public policy issue with enormous moral
importance. Yet, good Catholics can and do disagree whether this war conforms or
does not conform to the moral criteria for a just war.
However, there are some issues that are intrinsically evil for which there
can be no authentic moral justification or defense. It is always wrong for a
Catholic legislator to support public policies that permit or promote such
intrinsic evils and similarly a Catholic voter cannot in good conscience vote
for candidates who support such public policies.
Legalized abortion and euthanasia cannot be morally justified, because they
permit and promote an intrinsic evil – the killing of innocent human life.
Similarly, fetal stem-cell research and human cloning can never be morally
justified because they involve the killing of innocent human life and manifest a
disregard for the dignity of the human person. Also laws that seek to redefine
marriage undermine the family – the most fundamental of human institutions – and
are offenses against God who instituted marriage as a union between a man and a
woman. Support for these public policies that are non-negotiable items for a
Catholic should disqualify a candidate from consideration for our vote.
We urge all Catholics to register to vote, to be well-informed about issues
and the positions of candidates, and to vote. Finally, during this election year
we ask all Catholics to pray that we choose wisely in selecting those who will
represent and lead us in our national, state and local governments.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ James P. Keleher
Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas
+ Joseph F. Naumann
Coadjutor Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas