Faithful citizenship, voting, Catholic social teaching

Copyright 2010, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Goals for Political Life: Challenges for citizens, candidates and public officials

As Catholics, we are led to raise questions for political life other than: “Are you better off than you were two or four years ago?”

Our focus is not on party affiliation, ideology, economics, or even competence and capacity to perform duties, as important as such issues are.

Rather, we focus on what protects or threatens human life and dignity. Catholic teaching challenges voters and candidates, citizens and elected officials, to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of public policy issues.

Copyright 2010, United States Conference of Catholic BishopsIn light of ethical principles, we bishops offer the following policy goals that we hope will guide Catholics as they form their consciences and reflect on the moral dimensions of their public choices.

Not all issues are equal; these 10 goals address matters of different moral weight and urgency. Some involve matters of intrinsic evil that can never be supported. Others involve affirmative obligations to seek the common good.

These and similar goals can help voters and candidates act on ethical principles rather than particular interests and partisan allegiances.

We hope Catholics will ask candidates how they intend to help our nation pursue these important goals:

Address the preeminent requirement to protect the weakest in our midst — innocent unborn children — by restricting and bringing to an end the destruction of unborn children through abortion.

Keep our nation from turning to violence to address fundamental problems — a million abortions each year to deal with unwanted pregnancies, euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of illness and disability, the destruction of human embryos in the name of research, the use of the death penalty to combat crime, and going to war to address international disputes.

Define the central institution of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and provide better support for family life morally, socially, and economically, so that our nation helps parents raise their children with respect for life, sound moral values, and an ethic of stewardship and responsibility.

Achieve comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, treats immigrant workers fairly, offers an earned path to citizenship, respects the rule of law, and addresses the factors that compel people to leave their own countries.

Help families and children overcome poverty by ensuring access to and choice in education, plus decent work at fair wages and adequate assistance for the vulnerable in our nation, while also helping overcome widespread hunger and poverty around the world, especially in the areas of development assistance, debt relief, and international trade.

Provide health care for the growing number of people without it, while respecting human life, human dignity, and religious freedom in our health care system.

Continue to oppose policies that reflect prejudice, hostility toward immigrants, religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination.

Encourage families, community groups, economic structures, and government to work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good, and care for creation, with full respect for religious groups and their right to address social needs in accord with their basic moral convictions.

Establish and comply with moral limits on the use of military force — examining for what purposes it may be used, under what authority, and at what human cost — and work for a responsible transition to end the war in Iraq.

Join with others around the world to pursue peace, protect human rights and religious liberty, and advance economic justice and care for creation.

Write to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Office of Justice, Peace and Human Development, 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017. Call (202) 541-3180 or visit

Before an election, say a prayer for faith-filled voting

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON—Here is a suggested prayer before an election, from the U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” website. It was adapted from the 2007 edition of “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers,” published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and is copyrighted by the USCCCB.

Lord God,
As the election approaches, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city, state and country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will  hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your kingdom.
We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his apostles and guide us to your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Seven themes of Catholic social teaching

The Catholic Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society.

Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents.

The depth and richness of this tradition can be understood best through a direct reading of these documents. In these brief reflections, we highlight several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.

Life and dignity of the human person
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

Call to family, community and participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society — in economics and politics, in law and policy — directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Rights and responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities — to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the poor and vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The dignity of work and the rights of workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected — the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospels call us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.

Care for God’s creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored. This summary is a starting point for people interested in Catholic social teaching. A full understanding can only be achieved by reading the papal, conciliar and episcopal documents that make up our rich tradition. For a copy of the complete text or other social teaching documents, call (800) 235-8722.

Materials and photos COPYRIGHT (C) 2010 | United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.