In case you can't make out the picture, it's nine elderly white men -- the presiding U.S. Catholic Bishops. And this morning they decided to tell all American Roman Catholics how to vote in the 2008 elections, including the expectation that they would vote against any candidate who supports legalized abortion.
This just in from the AP:
BALTIMORE - Roman Catholics voting in the 2008 elections must heed church teaching when deciding which candidates and policies to support, U.S. bishops said Wednesday.
And while the church recognizes the importance of a wide range of issues — from war to immigration to poverty — fighting abortion should be a priority, the bishops said.
"The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many," the bishops said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly adopted the statement, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," as they ended the public sessions of their fall meeting.
The document does not recommend specific laws or candidates, and it emphasizes that "principled debate" is needed to decide which policies best promote the common good.
But "that does not make (moral issues) optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore church teaching," the bishops said.
What happened then to the idea of an informed conscience -- or, separation of church and state? And really, does abortion trump all other social justice issues when deciding on which candidate to support?
My guess is that the average Roman Catholic voter will pay about as much attention to this as they do to the prohibitions against premarital sex and birth control -- which means not much.
But, it raises disturbing questions about how clergy should engage the upcoming election. It's hard to imagine that there wouldn't be a huge outcry if one of the pro-choice denominations told its members how they were expected to vote. Of course, we don't have holy communion and ex-communication to hold over their heads.