Monday, October 13, 2003

Catholics need to take the moral absolutes of their religion seriously when they enter the voting booth, says a document prepared for release today by U.S. Catholic bishops.

Called “Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility,” the 17-page document restates Catholic doctrines with a look ahead to next year’s elections. It will be posted today at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site,

The U.S. Conference issues a document on voting guidelines every four years, just before presidential primaries begin.

“We never tell people how to vote. That is not our job,” said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington. “We present the facts and Catholic teachings and we hope we take that into consideration when they get into the ballot box.”

Catholics generally do not vote as a bloc, he added, but “people have personally told me they are glad we pointed these things out.”

Since the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, there have been two wars, a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil and a devastating clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church itself, the document says.

“Our community of faith and especially we, as bishops, are working to face our responsibility and take all necessary steps to overcome the hurt, damage and loss of trust resulting from the evil of clerical sexual abuse,” it says.

Still, the church has an important role in public life, it adds, and the church must “encourage Catholics to act on our faith in political life.” This includes running for office, working within political parties and contributing time and money to campaigns.

The document says Catholics should not place their faith in U.S. military prowess.

“September 11 has given us a new sense of vulnerability,” it says. “However, we must be careful not to define our security primarily in military terms.”

Americans should not ask if they are better off than they were four years ago but instead ask how can “all of us — especially the weak and vulnerable — be better off in the years ahead?”

The United States must lead, it says, in promoting religious liberty and human rights, supporting the United Nations, banning nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, providing shelter for persecuted refugees and bringing peace to regional conflicts.

“The United States should adopt a more generous immigration and refugee policy,” it says, including a “generous legalization program for undocumented immigrants,” programs for reuniting families and protecting immigrant workers from being exploited.

“There’s a temptation in political life to only vote your pocketbook or your party,” said John Carr, director of the USCCB’s department of social development and moral peace. “This is a challenge from the church to go beyond that and to think how these choices affect the weak and those who are left behind.

“And we think a society where 1 million unborn never see the day of their birth is in serious trouble.”

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