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Archbishops encourage Catholics to be informed, vote wisely

Dear Friends,

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 to others.

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

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