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CURRENT ISSUE:  November 19, 2007
VOL. 45, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
U.S. bishops address ‘failures in Iraq’
Islamic Studies Center dedicated at Graduate Theological Union
Veterans share their experiences,
are honored at St. Michael School
U.S. bishops issue statement to help
form consciences for political life
Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George is the newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

BALTIMORE (CNS) — In what several bishops called “a watershed moment” for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the full body of bishops overwhelmingly approved a document intended to help Catholic voters form their consciences on a variety of issues before the 2008 elections.

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility From the Catholic Bishops of the United States” was approved on a 221-4 vote Nov. 14, the last public day of the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The bishops also endorsed a shorter document, designed as a parish bulletin insert, by a 221-1 vote.
Prepared by a task force made up of the chairmen of seven USCCB committees, the document underwent more than a dozen drafts and was still heavily amended during the meeting and immediately before the Nov. 14 vote.

The longer document rejects politics based on “powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites and media hype” and calls instead for “a different kind of political engagement.”

That engagement must be “shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and vulnerable,” it says.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Policy, said the document “is a summary of Catholic teaching; it is not a voter guide. It calls us as bishops to help form consciences for political life, not tell people how to vote.”

But he also said “Faithful Citizenship” clearly distinguishes between “intrinsic evils like abortion and racism that can never be supported and the related, but different, moral obligation to serve ‘the least of these,’ seek justice and pursue peace.”

In the longer document, the bishops admit that “Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the Church’s comprehensive commitment to the dignity of the human person.”

“As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group,” the document says. “When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths.”

The document does not address a topic raised during the 2004 presidential campaign — giving Communion to Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal.

In response to a question during discussion on the document, Bishop DiMarzio said the Communion issue would not be addressed because the conference had dealt with it earlier in two other documents and because “Faithful Citizenship” is “directed at Catholic voters, not Catholic politicians.”

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