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VOTING-RIGALI Oct-29-2004 (670 words) xxxn

Work for justice must go beyond Election Day, Cardinal Rigali says

By Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- A well-formed conscience should compel Christians to "work for a just society not only on Election Day but in the many circumstances of everyday life," Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia said in a statement published Oct. 28 in his archdiocesan newspaper.

The statement in The Catholic Standard & Times touched on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, poverty, same-sex marriage, war, immigration, cloning, global solidarity, stem-cell research, care for the environment, health care and euthanasia.

"All these issues should be considered by voters as they form their conscience," Cardinal Rigali said. But, he added, "not all these issues are of equal gravity."

"Prudent judgments made by thoughtful Catholics can lead to different legitimate approaches to solving the problems of poverty, immigration, health care and acceptable military force," he said. "Some issues, however, because they lie at the foundation of society and address fundamental aspects of what it means to be human, must be considered first and foremost."

Among those issues Cardinal Rigali included abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning and same-sex marriage.

"All actions that enable direct attacks upon innocent human life and the family deserve absolute rejection," he said.

On proposals to redefine marriage to include the union of two people of the same sex, Cardinal Rigali said, "Legal protections and provisions for homosexual persons may be reflected in civil law, but society cannot change the definition of marriage that is revealed in natural law and confirmed by human history."

He urged Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese to prepare for voting by attending Mass at one of the parishes where it will be offered on Election Day.

"The eucharistic table is a fitting place to begin the journey of casting our votes," he said.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., had a message similar to Cardinal Rigali's in a column for the Oct. 28 edition of The Beacon, Paterson's diocesan newspaper.

Saying the American people "are at a crossroads in our nation's history," Bishop Serratelli wrote: "We need to face squarely the principles that inform our choices and the consequences that follow them. Not financial gain, but truth; not popular acclaim, but truth; not party spirit, but truth is the foundation for sound judgments and responsible choices."

"Before we make any choice, we need to think logically," he said. "Only with careful reasoning can we hope to arrive at truth -- apart from the slant of the polls and the prejudice of the press."

Rejecting as "blatantly false" the charge that Catholics are "a one-issue people," Bishop Serratelli said, "Not all moral issues bear the same moral weight.

"At times the evil of war may be permitted -- lamentably and always as the last resort -- to guarantee and protect the rights and lives of innocent people," he wrote. "But the direct killing of innocent life is always wrong. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning destroy the most fundamental right of all -- the right to live."

The Paterson bishop also rejected the claims of some politicians that they personally oppose abortion but "will not let this influence my vote."

"Has logic been banished from our land?" he asked. "How can someone personally hold that abortion is murder and yet say, 'Because my constituency wants it, I will support abortion'? How can anyone logically say my religion does not affect my decisions on these issues of life?"

Bishop Serratelli said "respect for the common good" requires an effort to overturn Supreme Court decisions believed to have been wrongly decided.

"Tragically, support for the Roe vs. Wade decision (on abortion) has been made the litmus test of political viability and the more pressing moral challenge to change is sidestepped," he wrote.

"Logic, coupled with integrity, demands the opposite response," he added. "Since human life begins at conception, presidents, governors, legislators, judges and voters should be working to ensure that our laws guarantee all individuals the right to life, even at the weakest and most vulnerable stage of their life."


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