From the Bishops Vote with a ‘properly formed conscience’

My dear friends,


Every election is crucial, but especially one that will determine the next president of the United States. Here in Florida, we also have important amendments to consider.


That is why I think all Catholics should read what Florida’s bishops have written as a guide to voters during this election. Remember that we are not telling you for “whom” to vote, but what is important to consider before you vote.


None of what we say in this statement is new or different but it certainly deserves to be made known. So I reprint it here and urge you to pass it on to others who might not receive this newspaper or have access to our statement online:


Here is the text of the Florida bishops’ 2008 election-year statement, which is titled, “Vote with a properly formed conscience in order to defend human life and protect dignity”:


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


As citizens of the United States, we have a duty to participate in framing the debate of public issues and the selection of those who occupy positions of civic leadership. As Catholics, we are called to carry the values of the Gospel and the sacredness of human life into the public square. These dual responsibilities to faith and citizenship are at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic in a free and democratic nation.


Participation in elections requires careful discernment and prudential judgment in light of moral principles and values of our faith. As faithful citizens, our decisions in the voting booth should respect the interests of all, particularly those members of our society who are weak and marginalized, often without a voice of their own. When we register to vote, we willingly accept the task of becoming educated on the issues and candidates and voting with a properly formed conscience.


Conscience is more than a voice within calling us to follow what is considered acceptable behavior for the day. It provides a constant moral foundation that guides our thoughts and actions from the very simple to the most complex. We have a duty to fully form our conscience and increase its sensitivity to how the issues before us address human life and dignity, protect and promote the welfare of our most vulnerable and serve the common good.

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Making a decision about a candidate can be very difficult, but a well-formed conscience aided by the virtue of prudence will guide us. As Catholics, we are not single-issue voters, but at the same time we recognize that all issues do not carry the same moral weight. Some issues involve acts that are always wrong, and we are morally obligated to oppose them. We must never abandon the moral requirement to seek full protection for all human life. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as the direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate, but this would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, and not to overlook a fundamental moral evil in order to advance a narrow interest or partisan preference.


Catholics are challenged to use the resources of our faith and the opportunities of our democracy to defend human life and to work for a more peaceful and just society. Before casting our votes, we are responsible to:


(1) become familiar with sacred Scripture and moral and social doctrine of the church;


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(2) obtain accurate information on issues without relying strictly on party affiliation or campaign advertisements;


(3) consult the Candidate Questionnaire Project and encourage candidates to clarify their positions on key issues;


(4) actively participate in discussions with others, especially our family and those close to us; and


(5) seek wisdom through prayer and reflection.


May the Holy Spirit guide us as we make our voting decisions.


Printed with permission from the Archdiocese of Miami.



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