Catholic bishops amend, approve 2008 voters guide

Abortion, torture, genocide among issues addressed

November 15, 2007|By LIZ F. KAY | LIZ F. KAY,Sun reporter

Roman Catholic bishops gathered in Baltimore approved a voters guide yesterday for the coming elections - repeating their long-standing opposition to abortion but this year adding torture and genocide to the matters that should be considered.

"It offers a basic moral framework on what it means to be a Catholic and American, a believer and a voter in this coming election year," said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The document does not endorse specific candidates but does outline the church's position on abortion and other issues that are deemed threats to the sanctity of human life - described as intrinsic evils.

This year it also speaks to issues in the news, including torture, genocide and targeting of noncombatants.

"As strongly as ever, we've said the value of human life is sacred," said Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of Baltimore after the vote. "Innocent human life can never be directly taken."

John Kenneth White, a political science professor at the Catholic University of America, predicted the guide would have little impact on voter's behavior.

American Catholics don't vote in a monolithic bloc as they might have done decades ago, when they might have identified themselves first and foremost as Catholics, said White, author of the 2003 book The Values Divide: American Politics and Culture in Transition. Today, party affiliation and church attendance are better predictors of voting behavior - even across denominations.

Catholic voting patterns mirror that of the general public, White said. In 2004, a slightly higher percentage of Catholics voted for President Bush - 53 percent, compared with 51 percent nationally.

Nearly all of the more than 220 bishops attending the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the "Faithful Citizenship" document and a shorter summary that can be distributed at churches.

A committee of the conference has issued similar papers every presidential election year since 1976, but this is the first time the consideration of this document went before the entire body of bishops.

According to the document, a voter cannot support a candidate who favors an "intrinsic evil" such as abortion or racism - to do so would risk formal cooperation with that evil. It also discusses the related obligation to serve the poor and to seek justice and peace.

However, one may disagree with a candidate's position on a life issue but still support him or her for other "truly grave moral reasons." The voter also could refrain from voting - an "extraordinary step" - or vote for the candidate least likely to advance a morally flawed position.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, an anti-abortion group that created a presidential voter guide in 2004, supported "Faithful Citizenship."

"We're certainly going to promote it," along with other church teachings, Pavone said. "No document is going to be sufficient all by itself."

Alexia Kelley of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good said in a statement that "building a consistent culture of life requires supporting women and families, ending an unjust war, ensuring workers are paid a living wage and immigrants are treated with dignity."

DiMarzio, the committee co-chairman, said regular churchgoers would heed the bishops' recommendations.

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