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Revised Document on Faithful Citizenship Expected from Bishops' Gathering

Right to Life is Always Foundational


Leslie Palma



NEW YORK -- The U.S. bishops, at their meeting this coming week in Baltimore, will have as part of their agenda some revisions to the document they issue every four years regarding "Faithful Citizenship." The document is meant to help American Catholics prepare for the presidential election year.

"As one who is regularly present at these gatherings of the bishops, I have watched these documents get presented, discussed and approved over the years," said Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, "and our organization has brought these documents to the attention of the faithful nationwide as we carry out our own educational efforts regarding political responsibility."

"In advance of the revisions in this document, we offer the following statement, to point out several key considerations that will help people receive and understand the document in the weeks and months to come."

  • No group in America has been more consistent and strong in defending the fundamental principles of social justice than the Catholic bishops, and for this we should all be grateful.
  • No document of the bishops stands in isolation. The "faithful citizenship" documents over the years have drawn, for instance, from Evangelium Vitae (Pope Saint John Paul II's encyclical The Gospel of Life), and from the document which the entire body of US Bishops issued about political responsibility, Living the Gospel of Life (1998).
  • Those documents will remain key reference points for anyone who wants to understand their moral responsibilities in voting, along with The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (2004).
  • The revisions about to occur in the "faithful citizenship" document will incorporate teachings of Pope Francis. As he states in Laudato Si' and elsewhere, "everything is interrelated." This is a key interpretive principle, and leads to the consideration of how everything is interrelated. The three documents mentioned above explain the interrelationship of the various issues of concern to voters and to Catholic morality generally, and point out that the right to life is foundational to all social issues. In Living the Gospel of Life, for instance, the bishops already compare the right to life is to the foundation of a house, on which other issues, such as health care and opposition to the death penalty, are built.

There is nothing in our world that is claiming more life today than abortion, and as Pope Francis has stated, the children in the womb are "the most defenceless and innocent among us" (The Joy of the Gospel, n. 213). In our advocacy of the many interrelated issues that demand consideration by voters, let us be faithful to this fundamental truth, and guard against what Pope Saint John Paul II called a "false and illusory" advocacy of human rights which ignores the right to life.

"Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." (John Paul II, "Christifideles Laici" (1988), n.38)

When a nation, political party, or individual candidate advocates policies that allow abortion, they hinder the progress of all social justice. How can we build a society that will feed the hungry if we cannot feed our own children?

How can we build a society that will welcome the stranger across the borders of our nation if we fail to welcome the child across the border of the womb?

How can we make the environment safe for all if we cannot insure the safety of our first environment, the womb?

How can we build a society that will protect the lives of the guilty if we cannot protect the lives of the innocent?                                                                                   

And how can we maintain peace between nations if we cannot maintain peace between a mother and the child within her?

In union with the bishops and all who reverence life, let us build a culture of life, starting with the protection of the youngest and most vulnerable children.

These points are expanded at length in Fr. Pavone's new book Abolishing Abortion, published in August by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins. See To follow the educational and civic activities of Priests for Life in regard to the elections, also visit



Priests for Life is the nation's largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit


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Priests for Life
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