WASHINGTON (June 29, 2000) -- Party platforms "should be measured by how they touch the human person," according to testimony submitted today to the Democratic and Republican party platform committees by the nation's Catholic Bishops.
The testimony submitted today is the text of Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium, the Bishops' quadrennial political responsibility statement which summarizes the Church's moral teachings on important public policy issues. Faithful Citizenship was issued last October.
"The Bishops seek the support of people of good will of every religious or political persuasion for our policy positions, since we firmly believe that they advance the common good of all," said Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference, in his letter of transmittal. "In addition it has been our experience that our moral framework does not easily fit the categories of any political party."
The USCC is the public policy agency of the nation's Catholic Bishops. Like other national organizations, the Conference presents its public policy positions every four years to the platform committees of the two major political parties.
Msgr. Schnurr urged the members of both parties' platform committees to study Faithful Citizenship carefully. "I believe it can make an important contribution to the document you will place before your convention."
The Bishops use their political responsibility statement to highlight themes of Catholic social teaching that shape Catholic thinking about public policy issues.
"We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death; that people are more important than things; and that the measure of every institution is whether or not it enhances the life and dignity of the human person," they said.
The bishops explore how this teaching has been applied to specific issues under the headings of Protecting Human Life, Promoting Family Life, Pursuing Social Justice, and Practicing Global Solidarity.
The statement also exhorts Catholics to take their civic responsibilities seriously.
"Every believer is called to faithful citizenship, to become an informed, active, and responsible participant in the political process," they note.
"As Catholics, we are not free to abandon unborn children because they are seen as unwanted or inconvenient; to turn our backs on immigrants because they lack the proper documents; to turn away from poor women and children because they lack economic or political power," they said. "Nor can we neglect international responsibilities because the Cold War is over. ... No polls or focus groups can release us from the responsibility to speak up for the voiceless, to act in accord with our moral convictions."
The Bishops' testimony was directed to the chairmen of each party's platform committee: U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and Mayor Sayles Belton of the Democratic Party, and Governor Thomas Thompson of the Republican Party.
A Faithful Citizenship packet was distributed by USCC last fall to more than 19,000 U.S. parishes and dioceses across the country. Since then, an additional 65,000 printed copies have been distributed. It is being widely used as a guide to an authentically Catholic and non-partisan exercise of political responsibility. Without endorsing candidates or parties, the Bishops pressed Catholics to be active participants in the political process.
"The next millennium requires a new kind of politics, focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls, more on the needs of the poor and vulnerable than the contributions of the rich and powerful, more on the pursuit of the common good than the demands of special interests," they state.