US Bishops' Statements


Bishop Peter A. Libasci: Voting for the Common Good (September 2016)
Our Bishop of the Diocese of Manchester has developed a document to assist Catholics and others of good will in understanding the nature of conscience and the moral obligation to vote. The issues discussed, including frequently–asked questions are: The Dignity of the Human Person, Supporting Marriage and Families, Immigration, Poverty and Protecting the Most Vulnerable, Conscience Protection and Religious Freedom, Pursuit of Peace, Caring for God’s Creation.

One question discussed is: “There are a lot of issues to consider. Should I treat all the issues equally when I am considering a candidate?” The answer, in part: “…Taking in all of this information can be overwhelming and can lead us to treat all of the issues equally. But some issues are more important than others and should bear more weight when we vote. These issues include abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, destructive research on embryos, genocide, torture, and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war.”

Click here to read the full document.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States: Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics
It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.

For citizens and elected officials alike, the basic principle is simple: We must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem.

The Bishops prioritize life and death issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and direct killing of the innocent:
Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandals of capital punishment.
Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care…but being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life…If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’—the living house of God—then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeam of walls of that house. All direct attacks on human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation.

Click here to read the full document.

USCCB: Catholics in Political Life
In public life, Catholics need to act in support of the teachings of the Catholic Church on human life and dignity.

The Bishops speak out in a common frustration and deep disappointment at some Catholic political leaders who ignore or contradict Catholic moral and social teaching in their campaigns or votes. We do not accept the too common refrain, “I’m personally opposed, but…” or “my votes are public and my faith is private”, or, “I vote my constituency, not just my own conscience.”

The life and dignity of the human person is fundamental. Without the right to life, no other rights are possible…We believe every human person has a fundamental right to life. All issues are clearly not of equal worth—life comes first.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning….that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified. If those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do, they are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace.

Catholic social teaching covers a broad range of important issues. But among these, the teaching on abortion holds a unique place. Not all Moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion, even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

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USCCB: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. These[are called] intrinsically evil acts [and] must always be rejected and never supported. Examples include: Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, genocide, torture, racism, targeting on non-combatants in acts of terror or war.

In paragraphs 34-38, the bishops give concrete guidance to Catholic voters:

[34] A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

[35]A Catholic who rejects a candidate for an unacceptable position on intrinsic evil may vote for that candidate ONLY IF there are equally intrinsic evil alternatives, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences (e.g., s/he’s in my party) or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

[36]When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. …The voter may then decide on the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

[37]In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsic evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.

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.

[42]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 the voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

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Archbishop Paul S. Loverde, Arlington
"Some have wondered whether one may vote for a candidate whose stand on abortion and other life issues is contrary to the teaching of the Church if one believes that the candidate has a better position on other issues of importance to Catholics….[However], intrinsically evil acts such as abortion or research on stem cells taken from human embryos cannot be placed on the same level as debates over war or capital punishment for example. It is simply not possible to serve and promote the common good of our nation by voting for a candidate who, once in office, will do nothing to limit or restrict the deliberate destruction of human life."

Archbishop Raymond Burke, St. Louis
"There is no element of the common good that could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses, without restriction or limitation, the deliberate killing of the innocent, abortion, embryonic stem, cell research, euthanasia or human cloning…These elements are so fundamental to the common good that they cannot be subordinated to any other cause, no matter how good…procured abortion is intrinsically evil, and as such, can never be justified in any circumstance."

USCCB: Quotes from Church Documents about Human Life, Justice & Peace
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