Bishop on "Faithful Citizenship": "We felt it was important to keep it intact"

One of the bishops who worked on that landmark document explains why it was not rewritten this year:

Four years after the bishops’ overwhelming approval of their teaching document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” key leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not feel that they needed to reinvent the wheel.

The document highlighting issues that should be considered by Catholics as they make election-year decisions “was well worked out in 2007,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in an Oct. 13 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.

“It was quite a challenge to come to a consensus and then bring it to the whole body of bishops, which had never been done before,” Bishop Blaire added. “It was hard fought and well thought out. Since it was a teaching document, we felt it was important to keep it intact.”

That decision was reached during “several meetings” involving nine committees — pro-life, migration, education, communications, doctrine, domestic justice, international justice and peace, cultural diversity, and laity, marriage, family life and youth, he said.

“It was definitely a general consensus that to reopen it would not have been helpful,” Bishop Blaire said.

But the committee chairmen decided to write a new introductory note pointing out that “‘Faithful Citizenship’ reflects the teaching of the bishops and that it is still a very important statement for use in the formation of consciences,” he said. “The issues contained in it were still very relevant and still quite appropriate and pertinent.”

At their June meeting near Seattle, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, asked the bishops in executive session whether they concurred in that approach and the response was positive, Bishop Blaire said.

“We decided in the note to lift up the issues that had been in our thinking and on our agenda in these last years, so we did that,” he added. “And we wanted it to be clear that this document was not a voters’ guide, but a teaching document for the formation of consciences.”

Read the rest.

  • Deacon Tom

    Deacon Greg -

    All that was/is required is a revision of paragraph #35 of the Faithful Citizenship document.

    It presently reads:

    35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

    I can be revised to read:

    35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil. Nevertheless, a Catholic may NEVER vote for a candidate who takes a position that supports the following intrinsic evils: abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war.

    These intrinsic evils are taken directly from paragraphs 23 and 24 of the Faithful Citizenship document itself so it would not require any debate, discussion, or delay whatsoever! Such a revision however would make it abundantly clear to Catholics that many of them cannot do what they did in the most recent Presidential election. As you know, it was confused and misled Catholics who voted contrary to the Faithful Citizenship document and ended up winning the election for President Obama, the most abortion-friendly President this country has ever seen.

    With the “note,” a mere band-aid fix, that the bishops have decided upon, there is a very serious risk that the same group of Catholic voters will be misled and confused once again, as the media is already championing the fact that the U.S. Bishops have “reissued the document that enables Catholics to vote for pro-abortion candidates.”

    God save us if we don’t do more at this time when we have ample time to do so!

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Dcn. Tom…

    Put that way, faithful Catholics might end up, ultimately, removing themselves from the political process and voting for no one. Given the choice between voting for a terrible or unqualified pro-life candidate, and a mediocre but qualified pro-abortion candidate, the faithful Catholic citizen in good conscience would have to abstain from voting. Another possibility: vote for the pro-abortion candidate and then, after leaving the voting booth, stop by the nearest church to go to confession.

    Then again…considering how the original document was received, and how few Catholics are actually familiar with it, the point is probably moot. American Catholics are increasingly deaf to what the bishops have to say.

    Dcn. G.

  • HMS

    Two very devout, practicing, faithful Catholics I know have shared these stories. Both have remained steadfast in the faith despite some serious obstacles.

    One, a women, who told me that she went into the voting booth in 2008 with her Rosary – and voted for Obama.

    The other, a man who said: “If this new bishop in our diocese tries to tell me how to vote, I’ll just ignore him.”

    I am telling these anecdotes as facts and not so that these two people can be subject to judgment.

  • Deacon Norb

    When you get right down to it, folks vote in elections for their own personal “hot-button” issues. That may, or may not, have anything to do with whether the American Bishops have identified any issue as “hot-botton.” or not.

    Now, is abortion a “hot-button” issue? For a lot of folks, yes. But my gut feeling is that far more voters are disturbed by the economic dimensions of their own personal survival than by any decree issued by a Catholic Bishop or even by the entire USCCB regardless whether it covers abortion or not.

    Dcn Tom. I am sure your Moral Theology component in your formation taught you that we live in a world that is neither white nor black. No one alive today — including you and even Benedict XVI — is a sin-less saint nor is anyone alive today so full of sin — including both you and Benedict XVI –he/she cannot be redeemed.

    The teaching magisterium of the church has the responsibility to identify the evil but that is the only responsibility they have. The choice to act or not act in compliance with the teaching magisterium is the individuals’ own choice. The individual always has the right to choose evil over good or even one shade of “grey” over another — that is what “free-will” is all about. The individual ultimately does, however, have to live with the consequences of that choice.

    Besides, no one, this side of God in the final judgement, can determine the ultimate sinfulness of any given human act.

  • Greta

    Not sure that this is the way we are supposed to understand our faith..

    “vote for the pro-abortion candidate and then, after leaving the voting booth, stop by the nearest church to go to confession.”

    This is the second time I have seen this type comment and it is disturbing to me. First you have the USCCB being somewhat ambiguous on those issues which involve the taking of human life in its gravity as if they are struggling to find a reason to support abortion candidates based on other issues not even close to proportiante. Now we seem to see some saying that one way to deal with voting for the destruction of life is to use the confessional to allow this act to become OK.

    I was always of the belief that in going to confession we much be truly sorry for our sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance. If one is thinking things through and then deciding to do the grave sin and using the confessional without true contrition and that firm resolution NOT TO DO IT AGAIN, I doubt the sacrament is indeed doing anything at all for the person’s soul. But maybe something has changed since Jesus told the woman caught in adultery she was forgiven, But to sin no more. I don’t find those who support the abortion politicians and the pro abortion party to show much contrition for their act or a firm resolution to never do it again.

    And since this document is a document in part is trying to teach us about how to stay holy and free from grave sin and not how to vote for a candidate or party by name, I wonder about a statement like..

    “The teaching magisterium of the church has the responsibility to identify the evil but that is the only responsibility they have. The choice to act or not act in compliance with the teaching magisterium is the individuals’ own choice.”

    That I think is the issue. First off, the USCCB is not the Magesterium and if they are putting out anything in regard to our faith, they should make sure they are putting out not what they want the Magesterium to teach, but to seek out that which they are in fact teaching. I think the USCCB is in fact putting out a political document written by various committee’s with various agenda’s, but not necessarily what the Magesterium is teaching in regard to those issues which impact our soul. Pope Benedict XVI and before him Pope JPII in teaching us what the Church actually teaches on this issue would have worded the document a lot more like what Deacon Tom has suggested above because both said taking of innocent life in view of the holocuast of abortion insists that Catholics do not support abortion. So yes, HMS is right, we always have free will to choose grave evil and to place our soul at risk, but the Catholic Church Magesterium should have one major role in helping us clearly understand when we are doing so and stating it very firmly and very clearly.

    In a way with this document, the USCCB seems to be trying to find room to allow us to deceive ourselves into acceptance of grave sin and now some suggest that in choosing to do so that we can do it and have confession as our solution without true and complete repentence and a firm resolution never to do so again.

    “Besides, no one, this side of God in the final judgement, can determine the ultimate sinfulness of any given human act.”

    Yes, no one can determine the ultimate sinfulness, but Jesus gave some the power to bind and forgive sin and the Magesterium of the Church therefore has the authority to make sure we understand what they are teaching in very clear and decisive wording. Does the church teach that all sins are not equal and that some are very grave sin? Based on what authority and what support from God? This is that Church which God has promised to be with until the end of time and the Pope is infallible on matters of faith and morals and not sure you can get any more of a moral issue than the taking of human life or the supporting of those who take that life.

    I hope this gets posted in total and if one disagrees with it to show where it is wrong because I think we are in very dangerous grounds when we are dealing with people souls. I am not a saint, but a sinner, but if we do something which could impact the soul of someone who reads our words, we should make sure we are framing those words as close to actual Magesterial teaching as possible.

    Which is why I think we should take care when we say something like

    “Given the choice between voting for a terrible or unqualified pro-life candidate, and a mediocre but qualified pro-abortion candidate, the faithful Catholic citizen in good conscience would have to abstain from voting.”

    It would seem we would have to also look at the impact of not voting. If not voting, we allow the pro abortion candidate to gain power and this results in the ongoing and continued destruction of innocent life or even worse, its expansion, then the non voting would actually be defacto support of that killing. If one had clear knowledge that voting for Hitler and the Nazi regime would allow the continuation of death camps, but that the candidate running against Hitler was not as good a leader and the economy might suffer, how could we choose to stay and home and not vote? I wish all Catholics would look upon abortion as today’s holocaust only with many more lives lost. I do not see how one could not do so when we see this many lives lost now about 8 times that of the death camps. This next president will more than likely change several Supreme Court justices. Obama has already put on two justices he knows are fully in support of abortion. States are passing anti abortion bills now which will make their way to the supreme court. Fixing much that is wrong in America will ultimately require us to get right with God on this important issue and end the culture of death in this country.

  • Fiergenholt

    I recently found a copy of the pre-Vatican church’s main religous textbook for American Catholics — “The Baltimore Catechism.”

    Now, the pre-Vatican church prided itself on being somewhat of an expert on “Mortal Sin” — it seemed to have been a specialty of theirs. Folks who were alive in that era remember that “avoiding Mortal Sin” was all their priests ever talked about in Sunday sermons.

    So I dug out of the Baltimore Catechism just what its definition of a “Mortal Sin” really was:

    –The act that was committed/performed by the human person had to be serious “eternal” evil. That is, it could not be anything conditioned by time (The logic, I think, is that the punishment had to fit the crime — if the punishment for an un-absolved mortal sin was eternal, then the evil that was done had to be an “eternal” evil). For instance: bi-racial marriage, and presumptively bi-racial sex, was never a “Mortal Sin” because it was never a universal/eternal evil — only a cultural/chronologically temporary one.

    –The person had to know it was a serious and eternal evil. Presuming that all confessors knew what constituted a serious and eternal evil, and thus taught it on Sundays in the sermons, repeated by the sisters in the Pre-Vatican schools, everyone should have known what was what. Lack of knowledge, here, is crucial. If you were never taught, or were incapable of learning what was taught, your act may not have ever been a “Mortal Sin” anyway.

    –Finally, with the full and clear will, even though you knew what you did was wrong, you went ahead and did it anyway. If there was anything that contaminated your “will,” you were not culpable. Now — regardless of what some judgmental folks insisted — developmentally challenged folks and even pre-teens were deemed as being incapable of ever making a proper adult decision to commit a “Mortal Sin.”

    In secular law; this concept is called “Willful and Wanton Misconduct.” Something you did was seriously wrong; you knew it was seriously wrong; and you went ahead and did it anyway.

    Using either the pre-Vatican definition of “Mortal Sin” taken from the Baltimore Caetchism or the legal definition of “Willful and Wanton Misconduct” taken from Civil Law and applying it to abortion bring a whole new twist to all this.

    !.

  • Fiergenholt

    Now — based on that train of thought — I am convinced most, if not all, women who have had abortions would fail to meet the moral standard for that pre-Vatican test of a “Mortal Sin.”

    –Eternal and evil? No doubt and no question.

    –Personal knowledge of the seriousness and eternal nature of that evil — here is where some doubt can creep in.

    –A free-and-clear will to defy God and commit this evil — I have a LOT of doubt here especially when most women who do have abortions are “forced” that way because of family pressure/ spouse pressure/ social pressure/ or even pressure from close friends.

    It is very easy for us sitting in pour Catholic Churches to condemn that street prostitute who may well have had three or four abortions but do not want to hear about the Catholic parents of that teen-aged girl who is pregnant and who brow-beat their child into aborting their grand-child. Church going mom and dad are far more morally culpable of that sin of abortion that their daughter would ever be. I am waiting for a priest or deacon to come out and preach that issue.

  • naturgesetz

    deacongreg #2

    I think there could well be instances in which a Catholic would have to refrain from voting. But it should not come to that. In the first place, we should all be active in the primary season to try to insure that our party, whichever one it is, nominates someone whom we can support in good conscience. Waiting until the general election is too dangerous. Second, if despite our efforts the major parties both nominate people whom it would be a sin to vote for, the remedy isn’t to sin, but to support an alternative (third-party) candidate if there is one who is morally acceptable or to write in the name of someone acceptable.


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