As a nation, we share many blessings and strengths, including a tradition of religious freedom and political participation. However, as a people, we face serious challenges that are clearly political and also profoundly moral.
As Catholics, we are part of a community with a rich heritage that helps us consider the challenges in public life and contribute to greater justice and peace for all people.
Part of that rich heritage on faithful citizenship is the teaching of Vatican Council II's Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae). It says that "society itself may enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, which result from [people's] faithfulness to God and His holy will" (no. 6).The work for justice requires that the mind and the heart of Catholics be educated and formed to know and practice the whole faith.
This statement highlights the role of the Church in the formation of conscience, and the corresponding moral responsibility of each Catholic to hear, receive, and act upon the Church's teaching in the lifelong task of forming his or her own conscience. With this foundation, Catholics are better able to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates' promises and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better world.
In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. This obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. . . . As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life" (nos. 1913-1915).
Excerpted from Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship - Part I - The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: Revised every four years by the US Catholic bishops, this document is available in English and en Español. Resources to present it to students and adults are also available.