‘Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty’: A Statement of the Bishops of NYS

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‘Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty’: A Statement of the Bishops of NYS

October 1, 2008

A statement on voting and political responsibility by the Catholic Bishops of New York State.

Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty
By the Catholic Bishops of New York State

Every four years, 12 months prior to the presidential election, the Bishops of the United States issue a statement calling Catholics to faithful citizenship. Simply put, faithful citizenship refers to our duty as Catholics to be full participants in the public square in order to make our nation and the world a better and more just place. With this duty comes the responsibility to exercise our right to vote and to be engaged in the political process. This right did not come easily, having been bought with the blood of our forebears and protected through the centuries by our Constitution and the men and women in uniform who defend it.

We Catholics are called to look at politics as we are called to look at everything – through the lens of our faith. While we are free to join any political party that we choose or none at all, we must be cautious when we vote not to be guided solely by party loyalty nor by self interest. Rather, we should be guided in evaluating the important issues facing our state and nation by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church.

Our national and state elected officials have profound influence on countless matters of great importance, such as the right to life, issues of war and peace, the education of children and how we treat the poor and vulnerable. We must look at all of these issues as we form our consciences in preparation for Election Day, November 4.

It is the rare candidate who will agree with the Church on every issue. But as the U.S. Bishops’ recent document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship makes clear, not every issue is of equal moral gravity. The inalienable right to life of every innocent human person outweighs other concerns where Catholics may use prudential judgment, such as how best to meet the needs of the poor or to increase access to health care for all.

The right to life is the right through which all others flow. To the extent candidates reject this fundamental right by supporting an objective evil, such as legal abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem cell research, Catholics should consider them less acceptable for public office. As Faithful Citizenship teaches, “Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policie