Statement on Political Responsibility by the Catholic Bishops of New York State

Published on March 18th, 2016

Flag cathedralFor guidelines on political activity, see “Pastors, Parishes, and Political Responsibility.”

The good of a democratic republic like ours depends on the participation of its citizens. This may seem obvious but it needs to be insisted upon in today’s American society. The most fundamental action of a good citizen is to vote. All other activities in the political sphere depend on the exercise of this most fundamental right – which is equally a solemn responsibility. Regrettably, in our country today an alarming percentage of citizens do not exercise this right. In New York State, on average over the past four years, only 40 percent of eligible voters carried out their civic duty.

As the Catholic Bishops of New York State, we urge every eligible adult Catholic, without exception, to be sure that he or she is registered to vote and that all exercise their solemn responsibility of voting in this year’s elections.

If you are not registered to vote, or not sure if you are registered, please go to www.elections.ny.gov or call 1-800-FOR-VOTE. You may also go to our own New York State Catholic Conference website at www.nyscatholic.org and select “Register to Vote.”

We thank you for doing that. Now we want to invite you to prepare to vote by becoming familiar with both the candidates and the issues. Just voting for a name you recognize or a party you belong to does not fulfill your responsibility to build up a good society where human dignity, personal freedom, care for one another – especially the vulnerable – and the common good prevail as values which should be cherished in our democracy.

Sadly, determining who to vote for is not always easy. Pressure groups, especially the loudest ones, seek to shout down anyone who disagrees with them. Calm and thoughtful responses to issues are often drowned out. That makes the challenge to choose good candidates and support good programs even more difficult than in the past. But it makes these decisions even more important. We do have resources to help you.

One trustworthy resource is the booklet published this year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. To locate this resource, go to www.faithfulcitizenship.org. Based on four of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching – human dignity, subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good – this document will help you evaluate the candidates and the programs they support on the basis of our shared Catholic vision of the good society. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship can also help you in supporting candidates who are pro-life, pro-family and supportive of those policies that promote the common good of our society.

If we want to have a good, healthy and virtuous society, we ourselves need to be good citizens, dedicated to the truth and promoters of the common good. We can contribute significantly to a positive political process and reverse the negative spiral of today’s politics. But that means we must all be one in promoting human life and dignity; families that care for the vulnerable of any age or condition; and freedom and security for all our fellow citizens, as well as for all men and women in every nation throughout the world.

March 18, 2016

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