OCTOBER 18, 2004




In His Light

by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

In voting, we need to return to basic moral principles

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

As the national election approaches, we citizens of the United States must once again prepare ourselves to decide who will lead our nation, a question of profound importance for the future well-being and freedom of millions, both in this country and across the globe.

What we have endured at the hands of terrorists has changed many things, but it has not changed the fundamental mission and message that Christ Our Lord has given to us, his disciples, in order to guide our participation in public life.

In times of terror and war, of global insecurity and economic uncertainty, of disrespect for human life and human dignity, we need to return to basic moral principles.

Politics must be about practical moral choices that apply unchanging principles to the changing circumstances of our time Ć in order to protect human life and dignity, in order to share fairly the blessings and burdens of the challenges we face.

Really, the questions before us are: What kind of nation do we want to be? What kind of world do we want to hand on to the generation after us?

And most importantly, how will we shape the life of our society so that it conforms to our FatherÁs plan for the way he made us to act and to live?

These are the questions we are really answering as we mark our ballots.

In fulfillment of my duty as the chief pastor of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Oakland, I want to set out here basic principles that must guide us as we decide the future we will choose in casting our votes.

(As the framework for my response I have made liberal use of an important document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] entitled, ŤFaithful Citizenship.Ó)

Our starting point is always and at all times to acknowledge and cherish human life as a gift from God, sacred and inviolable. Because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, we have a duty to defend human life from conception until natural death.

To our shame as a nation, Ťabortion and euthanasia have become major threats to human life and dignity in our country because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all othersÓ. (USCCB, ŤLiving the Gospel of Life,Ó no. 5)

Please take note that abortion and euthanasia are not just selected issues among many that have been highlighted by us bishops in the U.S.; rather these are issues that attack the cornerstone and foundation of the most basic natural good offered by God   life.

Whenever a politician or political party promotes the acceptance and support of abortion or euthanasia, no matter how morally compelling their stands may seem on other issues, their stand on these crucial life issues must be judged as fundamentally flawed.

Support of abortion and euthanasia, even as a choice for others, weakens the credibility of all other social views built upon such a corrupt foundation.

Because the issue is closely related to abortion, we must be aware that the destruction of human embryos as objects of research is also wrong.

This wrong is compounded when human life is created by cloning or other means only to be destroyed.

The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is never an act of mercy. It is an unjustifiable assault on human life.

For the same reasons, the intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong.

It is our moral duty to elect politicians who promote laws and social policies that protect human life and promote human dignity to the maximum degree possible.

Any law at any level that legitimizes abortion, assisted suicide, or euthanasia is profoundly unjust and immoral, and it strikes at the very heart of a just civil order.

It is incumbent upon us to support the passage of laws and programs that promote adoption as an alternative to abortion and that assist pregnant women and children. It is our duty especially to try to change the hearts and minds of people who frame our laws in order to protect innocent life at every stage.

The defense of human life and dignity is a way of life and a non-negotiable framework for action.

On behalf of our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in ŤDoctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life,Ó (no. 4), has authored a statement on public life maintaining that Catholics in politics must reflect the moral values of our faith with clear and consistent priority for the life and dignity of the human person.

Additionally, this Vatican statement also points out that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit a Catholic politician to vote for a program or law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.

The Church stands for the protection of the weak and the defense of human life, not a particular party or candidate.

The principles for directing our political decisions that I set forth above are not the invention of any group of human persons. They are unchangeable truths of the moral law. God wrote them on the hearts of every man and woman on the day he created them.

All of us Ć believers as well as non-believers Ć are answerable to him for shaping our behavior and our world according to these truths about his design for us.

These truths are not a mere opinion which I am trying to persuade you to accept. For us members of the Church these truths, which can be known without faith, are even more clearly seen by the light of faith. They are the irreversible teaching of our Holy Mother the Church, the sure spokesperson on earth for our Father in heaven.

Implied in our free choice to belong to the Church, which means accepting her as GodÁs chosen instrument for our enlightenment and salvation, is a full and free embrace of these principles for action.

To make decisions that contradict these moral doctrines about the sacredness of life is to introduce a contradiction into our very profession of faith in Jesus Christ within his Church.

In concert with my brother bishops throughout America, I urge all Catholics to register, vote, and become more involved in public life, to protect human life and dignity, and to advance the common good.

The dual calling of faith and citizenship is at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic in the United States. Faithful citizenship calls us to seek Ťa place at the tableÓ of life for all GodÁs children in the elections of 2004 and beyond.

(For the full text of the USCCB document, ŤFaithful Citizenship,Ó and additional resources, call 1-800-235-8722 or go to


Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.