Monday, September 21, 2020

U.S. Catholic Bishops Guidelines and Primacy of Conscience in Voting in Upcoming U.S. Election

My Response: While affirming the importance of primacy of conscience and the principles of Catholic social teaching  in the upcoming election, the U.S. bishops clearly promote a one -issue approach in complex moral decision- making in their guideline on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. See #42.

In forming their consciences, Catholics must seek the truth by examining what is right and just as they discern the choices before them. Missing from the bishops guidelines is the example of Jesus in the gospels who embraced an ethic of divine accompaniment and inclusivity in moral decision making.  All our political choices should be rooted in the ethics of love and responsible action. What is the best choice  of political leaders who will do the most good and least harm in the light of deeply rooted values of justice, compassion and the fullness of life for all? 

Bridget Mary Meehan  ARCWP,,

Unsplash:John Moeses Baun

17. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right" (no. 1778).

18. The formation of conscience includes several elements. First, there is a desire to embrace goodness and truth. For Catholics, this begins with a willingness and openness to seek the truth and what is right by studying Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is also important to examine the facts and background information about various choices. Finally, prayerful reflection is essential to discern the will of God. Catholics must also understand that if they fail to form their consciences in the light of the truths of the faith and the moral teachings of the Church they can make erroneous judgments.2

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

42. As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support. Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

57. Building a world of respect for human life and dignity, where justice and peace prevail, requires more than just political commitment. Individuals, families, businesses, community organizations, and governments all have a role to play. Participation in political life in light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty for every Catholic and all people of good will.

58. The Church is involved in the political process but is not partisan. The Church cannot champion any candidate or party. Our cause is the defense of human life and dignity and the protection of the weak and vulnerable.

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