Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
AN IMPORTANT MOMENT
It is almost time to vote and to make our choices for president and other political offices both local and national.
You have often heard it said that this is a turning point in our country’s history and I could not agree more.
The Church is not a political organism, but as you hopefully have learned in the US Bishops Faithful Citizenship material (which we have made widely available to you in the parishes, in the Compass and on-line), the Church has the responsibility to speak out regarding moral issues, especially on those issues that impact the “common good” and the “dignity of the human person.”
I would like to review some of the principles to keep in mind as you approach the voting booth to complete your ballot. The first is the set of non-negotiables. These are areas that are “intrinsically evil” and cannot be supported by anyone who is a believer in God or the common good or the dignity of the human person.
3. embryonic stem cell research
4. human cloning
5. homosexual “marriage”
These are intrinsically evil. “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals.” Intrinsically evil actions are those which have an evil object. In other words, an act is evil by its very nature and to choose an action of this type puts one in grave moral danger.
But what does this have to do with the election? Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally “complicit” with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.
The other position to keep in mind is the protection of religious liberty. The recent aggressive moves by the government to impose the HHS mandate, especially the move to redefine religion so that religion is confined more and more to the four walls of the Church, is a dangerous precedent.
This will certainly hurt the many health care services to the poor given by our Catholic hospitals. Our Catholic hospitals in the Diocese give millions of dollars per year in donated services to the poor. In the new plan, only Catholic people can be treated by Catholic institutions.
It has never been our mission to be exclusive of those who are not of our faith. This mandate also places Catholic business owners in a very precarious position in that they, too, will have to pay for those medical “services” which violate Catholic teaching. This has never been the American way and now these moves and others by the present government, will significantly alter and marginalize the role of religious institutions in our society.
These positions are indicators of a broader societal disposition to remove God from the public square and from any relation to society whatever. It is precisely religion and the free exercise thereof which has made this country great in the past.
Many people in our Diocese are presently without work. Our Catholic Charities is serving more and more people who are unemployed or under employed and can barely keep up with the demands. Work is so critical to the family and to the sense of human dignity. An economy which does the most for the common good is an economy that works and provides people gainful employment for the country’s citizens. A government that works pays its bills and models for citizens what it means to be responsible and contributive.
Let us pray for the electorate and let’s take action, that we may vote for good and moral leaders for this great country which will only remain great, if she continues to be and to do the good.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend David L. Ricken, DD,
JCL Bishop of Green Bay
Yeah? On the Saturday before the election, I attended Mass at St. Agnes in Springfield, MO, seat of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese in Missouri. Before the homily, all that the presiding priest did was note that 1) the bishop had written a letter, and 2) immigration, poverty, violence, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, abortion, and euthanasia [in almost that exact order] were concerns when voting. That was it. That was it.
I’m so disgusted that I’m beyond speech.
Thank you Bishop Gracida and Bishop Ricken!
the Joint Statement from Bishop Kevin Farrell and Bishop Kevin Vann
to the Faithful of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth
October 8, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The month of October is Respect Life Month in our churches. It is a time in which we as Catholics are called to reflect upon the gift of life that has been entrusted to us by our Creator and to focus our attention on the many attacks against human life that exist in our culture today. This year, Respect Life Month takes on a more profound meaning as we face an election in our country where the protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake. Therefore, as your Bishops, we wish to take this opportunity to provide clear guidance on the proper formation of conscience concerning voting as faithful Catholics and to articulate the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues as they relate to other issues of concern.
The Church teaches that all Catholics should participate as “faithful citizens” in the public square, especially through our voice in the voting booth, and that we have the responsibility to treat the decision for whom we will vote for with profound moral seriousness. We must approach the right and duty to vote with a properly formed and informed conscience in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today. Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation concerning this teaching.
1. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence. Some issues involve “intrinsic evils”; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified. Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states:
“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.” (22)
2. The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good. As Pope John Paul II clearly states:
“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…” (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)
3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the “only issue” – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost. Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion. Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research. In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders. This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation. As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished.
4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”
As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states:
“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (28)
5. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:
a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,
b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.
To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.
6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation. As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils. May God bless you.
Faithfully in Christ,
Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell
Bishop of Dallas
Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann
Bishop of Fort Worth