In advance of the 2012 elections, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in this coming election cycle and beyond, as the “continuing teaching of our Bishops’ Conference and our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy.”
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), joined the chairs of nine USCCB committees in offering an Introductory Note to the document. The bishops discussed this action at their June meeting and authorized it at the September meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship was approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. bishops in 2007.
“We urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use this important statement to help them form their consciences, to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election in the light of Catholic teaching,” the bishops wrote. “It does not offer a voter’s guide, scorecard of issues or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.”
The Introductory Note does not modify or interpret the document itself and emphasizes the importance of religious freedom. It raises six “current and fundamental problems, some involving opposition to intrinsic evils and others raising serious moral questions.” These are: abortion and threats to the lives and dignity of the vulnerable, sick or unwanted; threats to Catholic ministries, including health care, education and social services, to violate their consciences or stop serving those in need; intensifying efforts to redefine marriage; unemployment, poverty and debt; immigration; and wars, terror and violence, particularly in the Middle East.
The USCCB is launching a new website for Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/. It will offer a wide range of web-based and written materials and tools to assist pastors, parishes, Catholic organizations and individuals. The document with the new Introductory Note will be available in print by the end of October and is already available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/Forming-Consciences-for-Faithful-Citizenship-2011.pdf
The USCCB committee chairmen who signed the Introductory Note with Archbishop Dolan were: Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, International Justice and Peace; Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Doctrine; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Thomas J. Curry, Catholic Education; Bishop Gabino Zavala, Communications; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Bishop Jaime Soto, Cultural Diversity in the Church; and Archbishop José H. Gomez, Migration.