From the Bishops Elections over; now real work of faithful citizens begins

Catholics have the same obligations after an election as we have before we vote. We continue to study the constant teachings of our faith. We reflect prayerfully on how to internalize what we learn, so that our consciences can be formed according to what is true and good. With well formed consciences we judge how to choose good and avoid evil in our personal lives. After coming to an understanding with study and prayer of what is true and good in principle, we speak and act to promote the common good of society.

The "common good" is not simply a consensus about what we might agree to live with as a society. It is rather a principled understanding of a society in which the God-given rights and dignity of each person are protected and in which responsibilities flowing from human rights are carried out justly. In our country, we have the freedom to speak and work on behalf of a rich understanding of the common good. The responsibility to do so goes beyond election day. In fact, the conversation and the political action that will shape the choices of the next election have already begun. Catholics have the wisdom of the Gospel of Life to offer the community. This wisdom that we have received as a gift should be shared as a gift for the sake of the common good.

The bishops of the United States have published Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship not only to encourage Catholics to make moral choices when voting, but also to encourage responsible engagement in the making of public policy between elections. It is important that we maintain the interest and energy so evident at election time and channel them in ways that continue to promote human life and dignity.

Make a resolution to communicate regularly with those who have been elected to serve the common good on the federal and state level. Speak politely and clearly to them the truth that anyone should be able to embrace and promote. Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of the common good of society. Direct attacks on innocent persons, including the unborn, can never be morally acceptable. We cannot be persuaded simply to move beyond this issue, because the necessary work we must do together to promote a just society in all aspects can never have integrity when we refuse to protect the basic right to life.

Elected officials all take note of what their constituents think on a variety of issues. You can be sure that they will be hearing in the days ahead from citizens and groups promoting all kinds of interests. Take the time to send a letter or an e-mail and share the wisdom of the rich Catholic understanding of human dignity from conception until natural death. Share our commitment to family life and to the promotion of policies that support families. Having formed your own conscience, it is very appropriate to reach out to prick the consciences of those who swear, by God, to uphold the rights of all.

I also ask you to consider participating in two opportunities that we will have in the coming months to act together to speak for the common good. Each year in January, hundreds from our diocese join tens of thousands from across the country at the March for Life in Washington D.C. Call the Catholic Pastoral Center or visit our diocesan Web site ( to learn how to join this pilgrimage for life. Also in March of next year, the bishops of Illinois, through the Catholic Conference of Illinois, will be sponsoring a "Catholics at the Capitol" day in Springfield. Catholics from all over our state will come together to pray and to visit with our state legislators about issues of human life and dignity. More information will be coming about how to participate. There is much good work left to do, and we have many gifts to share with the help of the Holy Spirit.

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