15 November 2007

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Yesterday at the Bishops Conference in Baltimore they published a new document on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Here are some highlights as they relate to the current debate of Catholic support for pro-abort Catholic politicians. One often hears criticism from defenders of these Catholic politicians against pro-lifers as being hypocrites because they don't support all life issues and that we can excuse their support of abortion because of the good they do relating to the other life issues. With exceptional clarity the Bishops refute this argument and denounce this moral relativism. At the same time reminding us that we cannot ignore the other "life" issues. They also speak to the obligation of a "well-formed conscience" in contrast to the more common emotional concept of "my conscience tells me its okay." The full document is available online at the USCCB website.

Doing Good and Avoiding Evil
21. Aided by the virtue of prudence in the exercise of well-formed consciences, Catholics are called to make practical judgments regarding good and evil choices in the political arena.
22. 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. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of human life, as in abortion and euthanasia.

25. The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors—basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work—is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means. Catholics must seek the best ways to respond to these needs. As Blessed Pope John XXIII taught, “[each of us] has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and, finally, the necessary social services”
(Pacem in Terris, no. 11).

27. Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity:
28. The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of human life from the moment of conception until natural is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.
29. The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. and other unjust discrimination, the use of the penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of , war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.

There were several other documents that came out of the meeting that can be read at the USCCB site.

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