Faithful Citizenship Has Many Aspects

Momentum, September/October 2008 | Go to article overview

Faithful Citizenship Has Many Aspects


Check Them Out on the U.S. Bishops' Web Site

US Conference of Catholic Bishops offers online resources for discussing citizenship during this election year

The heightened political climate in place as the academic years begins raises many issues about a Catholic's role as citizen. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has made volumes of useful material available on its Web site. In past years much of this material was distributed in print, but now all of the resources are available online at www.faithfulcitizenship.org.

The site contains information for families, parents, teachers and religious education staff. It includes lesson plans for all ages, as well as specific discussion of how Catholic teaching may be applied to major issues such as human life, family life, social justice and solidarity. Start by reading "What Does the Church Say About Catholic Social Teaching in the Public Square? - Seven Key Themes" on the next page and then turn to the Web site for all of the resources you will need to handle the topic of faithful citizenship.

What Does the Church Say About Catholic Social Teaching in the Public Square? Seven Key Themes

The consistent ethic of life provides a moral framework for principled Catholic engagement in political life and, rightly understood, neither treats all issues as morally equivalent nor reduces Catholic teaching to one or two issues. It anchors the Catholic commitment to defend human life, from conception until natural death, in the fundamental moral obligation to respect the dignity of every person as a child of God. It unites us as a "people of life and for life" (Evangelium Vitae, no. 6) pledged to build what Pope John Paul ? called a "culture of life" (Evangelium Vitae, no. 77). This culture of life begins with the preeminent obligation to protect innocent life from direct attack and extends to defending life whenever it is threatened or diminished.

Catholic voters should use the framework of Catholic teaching to examine candidates' positions on issues affecting human life and dignity as well as issues of justice and peace, and they should consider candidates' integrity, philosophy and performance. It is important for all citizens "to see beyond party politics, to analyze campaign rhetoric critically, and to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest" ("Living the Gospel of Life," no. 33). 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 a candidate's position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

As noted previously, the Catholic approach to faithful citizenship rests on moral principles found in Scripture and Catholic moral and social teaching as well as in the hearts of all people of good will. We now present central and enduring themes of the Catholic social tradition that can provide a moral framework for decisions in public life.

* The Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person

Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition. In our society, human life is especially under direct attack from abortion. Other direct threats to the sanctity of human life include euthanasia, human cloning and the destruction of human embryos for research. Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us to oppose torture, unjust war and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering. Nations are called to protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts except as a last resort, always seeking first to resolve disputes by peaceful means. …

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