Since 1975, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided a document reflecting on the exercise of “faithful citizenship” in advance of each presidential election. These statements are intended as a guide to Catholics as they prepare to vote, and the bishops themselves do not endorse any party or any candidate. Fundamentally, the bishops encourage each Catholic to take personal responsibility, to understand the issues and the teachings, and to make his or her own decision on how to vote based on a well-formed conscience.
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” is the US Bishops’ document for the current presidential election of 2008 (for official full text, click here
). In that text, the bishops explain that “In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote” (no. 7). They do however offer a vision: “We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a better world” (no. 13). The bishops go on to highlight important teachings of the church as they relate to the role of government, with statements such as “Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages” (no. 76). They take up specific concerns such as health care, with statements such as: “Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life, and a fundamental human right” (no. 80). And they remind us of the importance of working for human dignity, life and peace, such as “Catholics must also work to avoid war and to promote peace” (no. 67).
“Faithful citizenship” for Catholics means that each Catholic voter will take up his or her responsibility as a citizen, consider the issues and the candidates, pray over the teachings, and exercise their right to vote in consultation with their well-formed conscience “to help build a better world.”