USCCB statement on political responsibility

/ 21 November 2007

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has released this year’s statement on political responsibility, meant to be a guide for Catholics in voting. It’s actually pretty decent, and even well nuanced. Understanding the need to form one’s conscience well is a key theme, and this statement — unlike some from the past — suggests that such a process is challenging and will not always result in similar outcomes across the board. The bishops also issue a clear call to political engagement:

"The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable. The Catholic call to faithful citizenship affirms the importance of political participation and insists that public service is a worthy vocation"

Unlike some of their past statements, this one also does not focus solely on "life" issues, but also points out the intrinsic evil of racism, war, and other compelling issues.</P

And the bishops reiterate seven key themes of Catholic social justice teaching: the right to life (and dignity of the human person); a call to family, community and participation; human rights and human responsibilities; a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity with our neighbors (understanding "neighbor" in truly global terms); and caring for God's Creation.

As much as I am frustrated with Catholic leadership these days (both at home in my own parish, and then nationally around the sexual abuse crisis), I have to admit: it's Catholic social teaching that keeps me "in" the church. It's a profound gift to the wider Christian community.