U.S. bishops decide to put off rewriting voting guide until after 2024 election

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The U.S. Catholic bishops will postpone writing a full revision of the teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholic voters until after the 2024 election.

The teaching document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” is meant to advise Catholic voters on how to apply Church teaching to the decisions they make in the ballot box. The guide, for example, states that the abortion should be a “preeminent” political issue for Catholics. 

In the introduction to the 2019 document, the bishops wrote: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty.”

Gathered in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly, the bishops voted Wednesday to keep the guidance the same but include a new introduction and “supplemental inserts,” to be ready before the 2024 election. 

In discussion of the document before the vote, several bishops raised objections to delaying revisions.

Bishop John Stowe, OFM, of Lexington, Kentucky, said revisions were needed in time for the next election to take account of the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the division and polarization in the country.

“I think the time [to revise the document] is now,” he said.

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego echoed his remarks, adding that people are “uneasy” and looking for guidance on how to govern themselves “in a way that divisions and bigotry are not the hallmarks” of our political system.

Bishop Daniel DiNardo from Galveston-Houston, Texas, was one of several bishops who spoke up in favor of delaying revisions to the document.

He noted that it took two or three years to write the original document and that the bishops’ guidance does not necessarily need to reflect recent political events.

“It can’t be today’s news,” he said. “It is supposed to be a teaching document.”

At a later press conference, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said the proposed supplemental inserts to the document will address “challenges” facing Catholic voters.

“We will be taking a look at what we have put out in the past, what’s still relevant, what needs to be updated” and “will undoubtedly be doing some discerning and what are the things that are on people’s minds that are presenting challenges,” he said.

“Whether it’s a world war raging in Ukraine, people’s questioning of our democratic system, or whatever it might be, we need to help provide some kind of guidance in any number of issues,” he said. “We’ll try to discern what we can offer to people and help them apply teaching in a way that’s meaningful to them.”

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