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BISHOPS-VOTING Oct-6-2008 (1,040 words) Roundup. xxxn

U.S. bishops urge Catholics to study candidates' views on life issues

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In the weeks leading up to the elections, several U.S. bishops have been writing pastoral letters, columns in diocesan newspapers, letters to the editor and blog entries urging Catholics to look closely at where candidates stand on life issues.

"The right to life is the right through which all others flow. To the extent candidates reject this fundamental right by supporting an objective evil, such as legal abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell research, Catholics should consider them less acceptable for public office," said a statement released Oct. 2 by the New York bishops.

The statement, "Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty," signed by New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan and the state's other Catholic bishops, said it is "the rare candidate who will agree with the church on every issue." But they also noted, citing the U.S. bishops' 2007 document ,"Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," that "not every issue is of equal moral gravity."

"The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all," said the statement, issued by the New York Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops.

The bishops stressed the importance of casting votes informed by faith and conscience not only in the national election but also in state and local elections. The full statement can be found online at www.nyscatholic.org.

In a pastoral letter read at all Masses in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., during the weekend of Oct. 4-5, Bishop Joseph F. Martino stressed that a candidate's views on abortion outweighed all other issues.

"Being right on taxes, education, health care, immigration and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life," the bishop's letter said. It added that the "finest health and education systems, the fairest immigration laws, and the soundest economy do nothing for the child who never sees the light of day."

The bishop said it was "incumbent upon bishops to correct Catholics who are in error regarding these matters." He also said Catholic public officials who "persist in public support for abortion and other intrinsic evils should not partake in or be admitted to the sacrament of holy Communion."

"I will be vigilant on this subject," he added in the letter distributed at all diocesan parishes as part of Respect Life Weekend in the diocese.

In the U.S. Catholic Church, October is observed as Respect Life Month and the first Sunday in October, Oct. 5 this year, is designated as Respect Life Sunday.

A statement from Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George and the other Illinois Catholic bishops stressed the need for Catholics to strongly consider the sanctity of human life when voting and to also recognize "a hierarchy" among these issues.

The statement "Our Conscience and Our Vote" was issued Sept. 22 through the Illinois Catholic Conference and is available online at www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org.

"The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong," the statement said. "It is not just one issue among many and must always be opposed."

The Illinois bishops said other life issues should not be ignored. "Issues such as racism, the use of the death penalty, unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, failure to attend to the needs of the poor, and unjust immigration policy also must be addressed because of our belief in the sanctity of human life," they said.

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for guidance before voting and to familiarize themselves with church teachings "that affect political choices."

"Voting is not a small matter to be dealt with casually or carelessly," they added. "It calls upon all to reflect seriously and prayerfully on moral issues that reflect God's design for the common good."

In a column for the Sept. 26 issue of Today's Catholic, newspaper of the San Antonio Archdiocese, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez reiterated what the bishops said in "Faithful Citizenship." The statement, he said, stresses that "all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions."

"Our No. 1 priority," the archbishop wrote, "must always be to promote the sanctity of human life and the right to life -- especially for the unborn, the aged and the sick. Unless the right to life is protected, all other rights in our society are at risk."

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee, also quoted "Faithful Citizenship" in his Oct. 2 blog at www.bishoploriblog.org, stressing the point it makes that there are "intrinsically evil actions" which "must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned."

"In our nation," he wrote, "abortion is at the forefront of these intrinsically evil actions."

He pointed out that "while 'Faithful Citizenship' acknowledges that one may only vote for a politician who supports policies supporting legalized abortion for truly grave moral reasons, a conscientious voter must question what grave moral issue rises to the level of nearly 49 million lives lost to the evil of abortion."

He also said a politician "who opposes abortion should not go unchallenged if he or she adopts positions that undermine human dignity in other ways."

Two New York bishops wrote to The New York Times disputing a Sept. 17 article in the newspaper that described a "running debate" among Catholics about how to cast their vote in light of church teaching on abortion.

The letter, signed by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said how to vote is "not a dilemma for the bishops."

The bishops emphasized that Catholics need to " look at the whole teaching of the church on justice and peace, serving the poor and advancing the common good -- beginning with a fundamental priority on protecting innocent human life from direct attack as in abortion."


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