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POLITICS-BISHOPS Oct-8-2004 (1,030 words) Roundup. xxxn

Church morally obligated to play role in politics, archbishop says

By Jay Nies
Catholic News Service

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CNS) -- Although the Catholic Church has no business aligning itself with parties and candidates, Catholics are morally obliged to engage themselves in the political process, uniting their voices against such evils as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, Coadjutor Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., said Oct. 2.

"The church in the United States has always cherished its right and accepted its responsibility to speak to the moral issues confronting our nation and in so doing to help form the consciences of her members," the archbishop said.

He made the remarks in a keynote address to about 680 participants at the Missouri Catholic Conference's annual assembly at the state Capitol in Jefferson City.

He was one of several U.S. bishops commenting on the church and politics in early October.

While restating the church's firm, long-standing ethic of distancing itself from candidates and parties in the United States, Archbishop Naumann said that U.S. Catholics now regret that their ancestors in the faith did not speak out clearly or forcefully enough on issues such as slavery and racial segregation.

"These are blemishes on America and on the Catholic Church in America," he said.

He likened the argument that "I am personally opposed to abortion but should not impose my morality on other people" to saying, "I am personally opposed to drive-by shootings, but cannot tell other people not to do that."

Archbishop Naumann said that now more than ever the nation needs talented and principled people to seek public office.

In doing so, Catholics "should not check their principles at the doorway of the legislature," he said. "They need to allow the moral principles of their Catholic faith to inform their decisions and positions in public life."

And they also must "work for public policies that reflect a profound respect for human life and dignity."

He specifically noted educational opportunities for children and choices for their parents; economic policies that help people find employment and provide for their families; steps to prevent exploitation of and provide opportunities for immigrants; and efforts to address the growing number of people without insurance.

He also talked about imitating Jesus' genuine concern for the well-being of the poor; providing fairness and equality in the criminal justice system; a concerted teaching initiative to lead people worldwide to reject the death penalty; promoting traditional marriage and healthy family life; and balancing any justification for war against its horrific consequences.

"All of these issues have an importance in and of themselves," he said. "All of them help to make up what has been termed the church's consistent ethic of life. Every Catholic should be concerned about all of these issues."

However, he said, abortion is an issue "in which there is no moral uncertainty, and there is no possibility of legitimate debate."

"We have an obligation to make certain that a Catholic voter knows that to vote for a pro-abortion/pro-choice politician in order to support their efforts to keep abortion legal is a serious sin," said Archbishop Naumann. "It is formal cooperation in an act that is intrinsically evil."

Furthermore, the church teaches that, to vote for such a candidate for other reasons, those reasons must be proportionate, he said. "Thus, they must answer the question: What could be a proportionate reason to (support) the deaths of 40 million innocent children and 40-plus million adults scarred by their involvement in abortion? Personally, I cannot conceive in our present circumstances what would qualify as a proportionate reason."

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs had a similar message in a column for the October issue of The Catholic Herald, his diocesan newspaper. He said the column was prompted by the "literally thousands of reactions," both positive and negative, to his May 1 pastoral letter on Catholic politicians and voters.

That letter said Catholic politicians who support abortion, embryonic stem-cell research or euthanasia "place themselves outside full communion with the church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem-cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences."

The same applies to politicians who support same-sex marriage and any Catholic who votes for such candidates, Bishop Sheridan wrote.

The bishop said his critics have cited one line in a memo from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying that Catholic voters could choose a candidate who supported abortion if there were "proportionate reasons" based on the candidate's other positions.

"What possible good or collection of goods could ever outweigh the destruction of human lives wrought by legalized abortion?" Bishop Sheridan asked. "A stronger and more stable economy? Fixing Medicare? More jobs? An enlightened foreign policy?

"Not even the total elimination of poverty in our country would justify the direct murder of just one human being," he added.

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., had a similar message in a column for the Oct. 6 issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Advocate. It was a reprint of the archbishop's Sept. 17 column in The Wall Street Journal.

"What evil could be so grave and widespread as to constitute a 'proportionate reason' to support candidates who would preserve and protect the abortion license and even extend it to publicly funded embryo killing in our nation's labs?" the archbishop wrote.

"Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate," he added.

The bishops of Florida's seven Catholic dioceses said in a joint statement Oct. 5 that Catholics should register and vote after developing "an informed conscience in keeping with the sacred and certain teachings of the church" and applying those teachings to candidates' positions.

"Each of us should measure candidates and proposed constitutional amendments by how they will safeguard or diminish the life, dignity and rights of the human person," they said. "We should inform the candidates that our values impel us to insist ... that the killing of an unborn child or vulnerable adult is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified."


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