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November 4, 2000


by Bishop William K. Weigand

Bishop of Sacramento


This week we have an opportunity to vote for elected officials. I urge Catholics to do so. "For Catholics, public virtue is as important as private virtue in building up the common good. In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation." (Faithful Citizenship, p. 9, U.S. Bishops, 1999)

We are not a one-issue people. But without doubt, the defining issue of our time is the basic right to life and the dignity of the human person. "Our responsibility is to measure every party and platform by how its agenda touches human life and dignity." (p. 8) "As voters and advocates, candidates and contributors, we are called to provide a moral leaven for our democracy." (p. 11)

Ours is a consistent moral framework. "The Word of God and the teaching of the Church give us a particular way of viewing the world. Scripture calls us to `choose life,' to serve `the least of these,' to `hunger and thirst' for justice, and to be 'peacemakers.'"(p. 10)

These principles have implications. "As Catholics, we are not free to abandon unborn children because they are seen as unwanted, or inconvenient; to turn our backs on immigrants because they lack the proper documents; to turn away from poor women and children because they lack economic or political power..." (p. 11)

The most basic of these issues is human life itself, which we must not fail to attend to as we rightly consider other matters, too. "Human life is a gift from God, sacred and inviolable. This is the teaching that calls us to protect and respect every human life from conception until natural death. Because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, we have a duty to defend human life in all its stages and in every condition." (p. 15)

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in commenting recently on abortion, wrote: "Many people wish the issue would disappear as a subject of public discussion. It can't disappear for believing Catholics and many others because it is a matter of life and death, a defining issue not only personally, but also socially. Poverty can be addressed incrementally, but the death of a child is quite final..." He added: "Capital punishment should be abolished because among other reasons we cannot be absolutely certain that an innocent man or woman will not be executed... In an abortion, one victim is always innocent."

In assessing political candidates, "opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse

indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence, and injustice... But being `right' in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the `rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community." (Living the Gospel of Life, U.S. Bishops, November 1998, #23)

Please vote on November 7. Vote as wisely as possible. "Every believer is called to faithful citizenship, to become an informed, active, and responsible participant in the political process." (Faithful Citizenship, U.S. Bishops, 1999)

This means more than voting, of course. It includes efforts to hold our elected officials accountable for their votes thereafter. Many vote against human life regularly and with impunity because they do not hear from us along the way. Let us resolve to change that.

Priests for Life
PO Box 236695 • Cocoa, FL 32923
Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •