U.S. Bishops to finalize document giving guidance to Catholic voters


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is preparing to vote on guidelines for Catholic political participation, the Associated Press reports.

The bishops will decide this month upon the content of the guide, titled "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."  Though the guide will emphasize pro-life concerns and bioethical issues, it will also explain Catholic teaching on torture and conduct in war.

Spokane Bishop William Skylstad, president of the conference, spoke highly of the document. "Given the complexities of our political situation, this is a very good teaching document for the bishops and we're really very committed to it," he said.

Though past guides were finalized in committee meetings, this year the full body of around 300 bishops will publicly debate and vote on the guide.

A draft of the document calls abortion and euthanasia intrinsic evils, "pre-eminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others."  Torture, human cloning, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in war are also condemned as acts that can never be justified.

"The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many," the draft says.  At the same time, it states "a consistent ethic of life neither treats all issues as morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues."

The draft also rejects Catholics voting for candidates because of their pro-choice stands, in which case the voter would be "guilty of formal cooperation in evil."  Voting for a pro-abortion candidate is "remote material cooperation" with evil, which can only be justified if there are "proportionate reasons."

Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who has been a vocal advocate of Catholic participation in the public square, has written in an e-mail that the draft document is not ideal, though it is "better and clearer than any version in the recent past."   The archbishop also wrote that "all bricks in a building are important, but the ones in the foundation support everything else. The latter aren't just important; they're indispensable."  He has stated that he plans to offer some suggestions for the document at the bishops' meeting.

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