Bishop Gracida says presidential questionnaire is not useful

Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, published a statement Aug. 10 in which he questions the usefulness of a questionnaire, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to President George W. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry. He said he hopes both presidential candidates refuse to answer it.

The questionnaire was intended to help the bishops determine if the two presidential candidates’ positions on certain policy issues are in line with Catholic teaching.

However, several U.S. Catholic scholars and leaders earlier this week criticized the document as having a slant toward Democratic Party positions. It was also criticized for not making clear moral distinctions between important life issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and embryonic stem-cell research, and a number of other social or economic policy issues. Critics have stated that the latter just do not bear the same moral weight and faithful Catholics are free to disagree on them.

In the same vein, Bishop Gracida commented Tuesday that the questionnaire does not make a distinction between imperative life issues and debatable social policy issues.

“I am disappointed that the questionnaire is so broad and covers so many issues that are before the American public today that its value in helping to show the differences between the positions of the two candidates on the really important issues will be minimal,” wrote Bishop Gracida in his statement.

“While certainly there could be and should be a ‘Catholic’ position on most, if not all, of the issues covered by the questionnaire, from the perspective of the Church's teaching some issues far outweigh others in importance,” he continued.

“The questionnaire should have been much shorter and should have been limited to questions on those issues on which there is a clear unequivocal teaching of the Church,” he added.

“There is no clear unequivocal position of the Church on such issues as the minimum wage, immigration, farm subsidies, etc.,” he said. “The inclusion of questions in the questionnaire can only result in confusion in the minds of Catholic voters who do not understand that there is no moral equivalence between these two groups of issues.

“I can only hope that both presidential candidates will refuse to reply to the questionnaire,” he wrote. He added that if the candidates do reply he hopes the USCCB will publish their replies with a clear teaching on the greater importance which should be attached to their responses to marriage, family and life issues.

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