For over 30 years the United States Bishops have issued a document to coincide with the year leading up to the Presidential Election. This all began following the Supreme Court rulings legalizing abortion in the United States.
The documents focused on helping American Catholics form their consciences as they prepared to enter into the election process, realizing that they had responsibilities relative to living out their faith in a way that would enhance our American society.
In 2007 the Bishops approved and issued the document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. This document was widely used throughout the United States by dioceses and parishes to prepare Catholics for carrying out their responsibilities in the political process as Americans. In the Diocese of Cleveland there were numerous opportunities for parishioners to enter into an understanding of forming their consciences so they as Catholics with a rich tradition of teaching could contribute to the good of our nation and society.
I was then very grateful to all the individuals who took advantage of this opportunity which was of great personal value for their increased awareness of the relationship that needs to be fostered between our faith and its teaching on the one hand and on the other hand on involvement in the public life of our country. Also, I was very grateful for those in the diocese from Catholic Charities, the faculty of our seminaries, members of our legal office, and individuals with special expertise who so generously gave of their time and talent to make possible the diocesan-wide effort to encourage people to live their faith in a public way.
Recently, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to re-issue the 2007 document with an "Introductory Note" to update the document for the coming National Elections in November of 2012. They did this because of a conviction that the substance of the 2007 statement proved very good and was appreciated by those who read it, those who attended lectures and workshops about it, and those who heard homilies on its substance. The Bishops did feel it would be advantageous to add the "Introductory Note" to recognize issues and concerns of the present.
I am asking many of the same people who worked on this project in 2008 to gather again to draw up a plan whereby this important matter may again be brought before us all so that we as Catholics and Americans may enter into the election process well prepared thereby being faithful to our heritage and teachings as Catholics and being good American citizens desiring what is best for the life of our country, respecting the dignity of all people.
In the "Introductory Note" there are several points of significance which I wish to share with you as they raise challenges we as Catholics and as Americans need to be aware of and their possible impact on our society.
Since there is no value in the national order higher than life itself, the Bishops call our attention to the ongoing threats to life in our society beginning with abortion and including other threats to the dignity of those who are vulnerable, sick and/or elderly, and the unwanted.
There have been increased efforts to limit the ability of faith-based communities, including the Catholic Church, from carrying out ministries of education, health care, and social services according to their consciences.
As we well know there are increased efforts to change the very nature of marriage from that reality of a permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman which has been the fundamental institution in society and throughout societies.
In light of the economic situations that continue to challenge so many of our neighbors and society itself the need to be ever attentive to those who are most threatened and affected by it all is paramount for all of us to attend to especially on behalf of those who are poor and vulnerable.
These four particular issues, along with others, are raised up by the Bishops as calling for our attention, and in particular to be well aware of the teachings of our Church and what those teachings bring to the discussion.
A well informed and committed person enriches the civil discourse by bringing to the fore the wisdom of our faith, thus the need we all have to form our consciences in these grave areas of concern.
As programs are scheduled and announced throughout our diocese in the new year, I strongly urge all to take advantage of these opportunities as a way of living their Catholic faith for the good of all.