Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

2011 Edition/Introductory Note: US Catholic Bishops’ Forming Conscience for Political Responsibility

The Catholic Bishops of the United States are pleased to re-propose to 
our people Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, our teaching 
document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement, 
overwhelmingly adopted by the body of bishops in 2007, represents the 
continuing teaching of our Bishops’ Conference and our guidance for Catholics 
in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We 
urge our Catholic pastors and people to continue to use this important statement 
to help them form their consciences, to contribute to civil and respectful public 
dialogue, and to shape their choices in the coming election in the light of 
Catholic teaching.

The statement lifts up our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and 
American citizens. We are members of a community of faith with a long tradition 
of teaching and action on human life, and dignity, marriage and family, justice 
and peace, care for creation, and the common good. As Americans, we are also 
blessed with religious liberty which safeguards our right to bring our principles 
and moral convictions into the public arena. These Constitutional freedoms need 
to be both exercised and protected, as some seek to mute the voices or limit the 
freedoms of religious believers and religious institutions. Catholics have the same 
rights and duties as others to participate fully in public life. The Church through its 
institutions must be free to carry out its mission and contribute to the common good 
without being pressured to sacrifice fundamental teachings and moral principles.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is widely used to share Catholic 
teaching on the role of faith and conscience in political life. Although it has at
times been misused to present an incomplete or distorted view of the demands 
of faith in politics, this statement remains a faithful and challenging call to 
discipleship in the world of politics. It does not offer a voters guide, scorecard of 
issues, or direction on how to vote. It applies Catholic moral principles to a range 
of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to “conscience” to ignore 
fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two 
matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological, or personal 
interests. It does not offer a quantitative listing of issues for equal consideration, 
but outlines and makes important distinctions among moral issues acknowledging vi
faithful citizenship that some involve the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils which can never 
be justified and that others require action to pursue justice and promote the 
common good. In short, it calls Catholics to form their consciences in the light of 
their Catholic faith and to bring our moral principles to the debate and decisions 
about candidates and issues.

The moral and human challenges outlined in the second half of Forming 
Consciences for Faithful Citizenship remain pressing national issues. In particular, 
our Conference is focused on several current and fundamental problems, some 
involving opposition to intrinsic evils and others raising serious moral questions:

• Continuing destruction of unborn children through abortion and other 
threats to the lives and dignity of others who are vulnerable, sick, or 
unwanted; 
• Renewed efforts to force Catholic ministries—in health care, education, and 
social services—to violate their consciences or stop serving those in need;
• Intensifying efforts to redefine marriage and enact measures which undermine 
marriage as the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union of one man and one 
woman and a fundamental moral and social institution essential to the 
common good;
• An economic crisis which has devastated lives and livelihoods, increasing 
national and global unemployment, poverty, and hunger; increasing deficits 
and debt and the duty to respond in ways which protect those who are poor 
and vulnerable as well as future generations;
• The failure to repair a broken immigration system with comprehensive 
measures that promote true respect for law, protect the human rights and 
dignity of immigrants and refugees, recognize their contributions to our 
nation, keep families together, and advance the common good;
• Wars, terror, and violence which raise serious moral questions on the use of 
force and its human and moral costs in a dangerous world, particularly the 
absence of justice, security, and peace in the Holy Land and throughout the 
Middle East.

In this coming election and beyond, we urge leaders and all Catholics to share 
the message of faithful citizenship and to use this document in forming their own vii
faithful citizenship consciences, so we can act together to promote and protect human life and dignity, 
marriage and family, justice and peace in service to the common good. This kind of 
political responsibility is a requirement of our faith and our duty as citizens.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo                                                                    
Chairman, Committee on  
Pro-Life Activities
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl
Chairman, Committee on Doctrine
Archbishop José H. Gomez
Chairman, Committee  
on Migration
 Bishop Thomas J. Curry
Chairman, Committee on  
Catholic Education
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
Chairman, Committee on Laity, 
Marriage, Family Life, and Youth
Bishop Gabino Zavala
Chairman, Committee  
on Communications
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire
Chairman, Committee on Domestic 
Justice and Human Development
Bishop Howard Hubbard
Chairman, Committee on International 
Justice and Peace
Bishop Jaime Soto
Chairman, Committee on Cultu
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Filed under: Official Statements, Politics, Social Doctrine

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