Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Catholic Bishops Try It Again

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.


Anonymous said...

If you were never born, how does health care or the death penalty or any social justice issue apply to you?

I think it’s interesting how there is always an uproar about the Catholic Church when it comes and says something like this and people talk about separation of church and state. However, when Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton run for office or tell their congregation how to vote, no one cares. I think the reason is that people don’t have a problem with the separation of church and state. They just bring it up when they don’t agree with a particular church or clergyman.


Bill Baar said...

It's no more a violation of Church and State than our Rev Sinkford wandering the halls of Congress and lobbying with his Moral Balance Sheet in hand.

Bringing the bean-counter's balance-sheet approach to ethics to Congress seems odd; they have their own calculus and I'm guessing our Rev's give Politicans a chuckle.

Bishop's forming consciences for Faithful Citizenship seems time better spent.

But neither are any violation of seperation of Church and State.

RGVprof said...

I wanted to just second what Bill Baar said. You are certainly free to disagree with their position, but this has nothing to do with separation of church and state. Nothing at all. Religious organizations, leaders, and individuals are free to speak their mind on politics and to encourage others to vote in a particular way. This in no way violates church-state separation.

The UUA is highly politicized and very vocal about political issues. It takes a very strong stand on public issues. How is this different? Even though the UUA doesn't have to encourage its members to vote a certain way on particularly issues or vote for a particular candidate, it's pretty clear what it would prefer its members do. Again, how is this different? Is it different just because you disagree with their position?

Anonymous said...

I'm not seeing how this is a violation of Church and State and it sounds to me like they are providing Catholics with information to help them develop "informed" consciences.

You're right. The Bishop's statement will probably fall on a lot of deaf ears. Does that matter? The Church isn't interested in winning a popularity contest. It's interested in truth.

Anonymous said...

And if a denomination thinks that abortion is morally acceptable, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it were preached it from the pulpit and members were encouraged to support pro-abortion candidates. Why is that so shocking? I assume that if people disagree, they find a church that corresponds with their beliefs.

Justine Urbikas said...

My Godmother is a Decan here in Chicago, which is significant that I as a UU have a godmother who is a Decan, but that she is a she and holds that position.

During the Bush vs Kerry election she got into frequent arguments with her brother (a priest in California). He would tell her that she should not vote for Kerry like the rest of Chicago and instead vote for Bush because he is against abortion. Long story short, she pretty much told him to shove it.... so I think that this works both ways.

She refused to vote simply regarding that one issue, which she is against abortion, but is more of an educated voter than to just go off of that alone. But her brother on the other hand believes that that one issue is enough to support/not support a specific candidate.

Debra W. Haffner said...

I think telling people how to vote, to vote with one issue in mind, when positions on that issue are so clearly represented by specific candidates, comes way too close to telling people WHO to vote for. I wouldn't do it, my denomination doesn't do it, and I would hope that people would consider character, experience, leadership, and a full range of issues in deciding their votes.

Anonymous said...

Debra, I think you should have read more coverage of the bishops' statement -- or the document they adopted -- before jumping to conclusions. Contrary to some of the hullaballoo, it doesn't tell Catholics they must vote against all pro-choice candidates; it actually discourages single-issue voting and urges Catholics to press both parties to change.

Here's the bishops' statement; here's a news story that quotes more thoroughly from the document.