Canadian bishops offer voting advice to Catholics

  • September 15, 2008

Canada's Catholic bishops have released a four-page Federal Election 2008 Guide on their web site. The bishops take on complacency and apathy. "Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics," they write in the introduction.

In the statement released Sept. 15 by the Episcopal Commission on Social Affairs for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the authors also look askance at popular cynicism about politicians and the political process.

"There is also deep gratitude owed to all who are running for or serving in political office," they write.

The first specific issue the bishops highlight in their guide is "Respect for the life and dignity of the human person."

In three paragraphs on the subject, the bishops do not threaten to cut Catholic politicians off at the communion rail for failing to pass laws that limit abortion.

"One of the greatest responsibilities of a Catholic is to love life, respect it and protect it," write the bishops. "The sacredness of the human person is at the heart of the Gospel."

The life issues named in the bishops' election guide include:

  • protection for the human embryo and fetus;
  •  defending the most vulnerable and poorest;
  • supporting people with disabilities, the elderly and ill;
  • respecting the life and dignity of those who are dying;
  • protecting people from exploitation in the use of biomedical technologies;
  • promoting peace and ending violence;
  • encouraging policies that help people balance family life and work.

The bishops invoke the "preferential option for the poor" by quoting both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

On the war in Afghanistan the bishops ask, "Are the political parties ready to engage in a peace process for Afghanistan?"

The bishops devote three paragraphs to the environment, calling it "a fundamental debate that Canadian society can no longer ignore."

The Catholic view on the environment is the long view, say the bishops. "True political wisdom means acting now to obtain long-term results. This is the opposite of pursuing only short-term political
interests," the bishops write.

A Catholic can't vote for laws or policies which directly contradict "the fundamental contents of faith and morals." But making political choices may well involve "choosing the lesser evil," they say.

"Tolerating something that is wrong does not make it right. In a complex world, accomplishing good with courage and determination often means taking a round-about route. Doing good sometimes involves
having the patience of a martyr."

As far as the bishops are concerned, politics is about much more than voting.

"Informed and responsible citizens engage their political representatives in ongoing public dialogue on pressing social issues," write the bishops. "This is a sign of a healthy community, for which all its citizens should be striving and insisting. Canadian Catholics should settle for nothing less, if they are to be truly responsible."

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