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Statement on Political Action - Catholic Leadership Conference
Phoenix, Arizona – October 2005

We Catholic voters acknowledge the following ten obligations and guidelines. These principles should be a part of Catholic educational programs at every level utilizing all the means of social communications.

1. “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation. Every believer is called to faithful citizenship, to become an informed, active, and responsible participant in the political process.”[1] An informed vote by a Catholic is one that is guided by the authentic moral and social teaching of the Catholic faith.

2. Catholics should recognize that not all moral and social teachings have equal weight in determining how to cast their vote. Some teachings are directly binding and some are guided by individual prudential judgment.

3. The first obligation of government is the protection of innocent human life from conception[2] to natural death.  The Church teaches that justice requires this protection. This truth can also be known through reason unaided by revelation. On the specific "life issues" in law and public policy – direct abortion[3], euthanasia, and the killing of unborn life for medical research, Catholic teaching is unequivocal; the defense of innocent human life is an imperative.

4. Catholic voters must first make decisions about their votes based on the moral issues that are non-negotiable. First among these are the life issues.[4]

5. On prudential matters that affect the common good, Catholics of goodwill can disagree.  Though there are Catholic principles such as compassion, justice and charity that we should share, there is no single "Catholic" policy on issues like taxes, education, foreign policy and immigration reform.

6. A similar distinction was made by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Emminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to the American Bishops when he stated:  “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”[5]

7. Catholic priests and bishops first and foremost are shepherds of souls. The role of these shepherds is to instruct and to remind voters, candidates and public officials of the moral obligations and social principles that should guide their political action.

8. All Catholics, especially the laity, have a right and duty to be heard in the public square.  Catholic moral teachings should be publicly espoused in such a way that they can inform law and public policy and not be artificially limited to the private domain of individual belief.

9. In their political participation, Catholics must not compromise these principles even though, at times, prudential judgment will require accepting imperfect legislation as a means of incremental progress.[6]

10. The ultimate political goal for Catholics must be the achievement of public policies and laws that result in the legal protection of all innocent human life and that promote the dignity of each human person without exception and compromise.


[1] Faithful Citizenship, USCCB
[2] Conception, as the Church traditionally teaches, means the earliest moment of biological existence.
[3] Direct abortion is any procured abortion whether chemical or surgical.
[4] There are other non-negotiable matters that are not a part of the current political debate. For example no serious candidate is advocating decriminalization sexual assault.
[5] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Letter to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick for USCCB
[6] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae
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