WASHINGTON (June 14, 2004) -- In testimony submitted to the Democratic and Republican party platform committees, the nation's Catholic Bishops have called for "a new kind of politics—focused on moral principles not on the latest polls, on the needs of the poor and vulnerable not the contributions of the rich and powerful, and on the pursuit of the common good not the demands of special interests."
"The central question should not be 'Are you better off than you were four years ago,'" the Bishops declared. It should be "How can 'we'—all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable—be better off in the years ahead?"
Declaring "our nation has been wounded," the bishops suggest the reality of war and economic stress has "taught us that no amount of military strength, economic power, or technological advances can truly guarantee security, prosperity, or progress. The most important challenges we face are not simply political, economic, or technological, but ethical, moral, and spiritual. We face fundamental questions of life and death, war and peace, who moves ahead and who is left behind."
The testimony submitted to the party platform committees is the text of Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, the Bishops' quadrennial political responsibility statement, which reminds Catholics of their obligations as citizens to participate in the public life of the nation. The statement also summarizes the Catholic Church's teaching on public policy issues that have important moral and ethical dimensions.
Faithful Citizenship was issued by the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) last fall.
"The Catholic Church's teachings on such issues are rooted in a commitment to defend the life and dignity of every human being and to further the common good," said Msgr. William P. Fay, General Secretary of the USCCB, in a letter of transmittal. "We believe they can inform the choices of all people who share our commitment to justice and peace in our nation and world. We ask that you review the statement…and take these ideas into consideration as you carry out your work."
The Faithful Citizenship statement outlines questions and a set of principles drawn from Catholic social teaching to guide the participation and choices of Catholics.
"In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; participation in the political process is a moral obligation. All believers are called to faithful citizenship, to become informed, active, and responsible participants in the political process," the bishops said.
"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 create and then destroy human lives in a quest for medical advances or profit; to turn away from poor women and children because they lack economic or political power; or to ignore sick people because they have no insurance. Nor can we neglect international responsibilities in the aftermath of war because resources are scarce. Catholic teaching requires us to speak up for the voiceless and to act in accord with universal moral values."
"For Catholics, the defense of human life and dignity is not a narrow cause, but a way of life and a framework for action," the bishops said. "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 it protects the life and dignity of the human person."
The statement outlines how this teaching has been applied by the Bishops' Conference to specific issues under the themes of "Protecting Human Life, Providing Family Life, Pursuing Social Justice, and Practicing Global Solidarity."
The Bishops' statement noted the Catholic community brings to public life broad experience in serving those in need. "Every day the Catholic community educates the young, cares for the sick, shelters the homeless, feeds the hungry, assists needy families, welcomes refugees," they said. "On many issues we speak for those who have no voice. We have practical expertise and daily experience to contribute to the public debate."
The Catholic community, which has a presence in virtually every part of the nation, is the largest non-governmental provider of education, health care, and human services in the United States.
The Bishops' testimony is being submitted to both parties as they begin this month the process of drawing up new party platforms in preparation for this summer's conventions. It was directed to the chair persons of each party's platform committee: the Honorable Rosa Delauro of the Democratic Party and the Honorable Bill Harris of the Republican Party.
In his transmittal letter, Msgr. Fay noted that since Faithful Citizenship was issued last fall, thousands of copies of the statement have been distributed in Catholic parishes and organizations and downloaded from the Conference's website. "Through the introduction of Faithful Citizenship in classrooms, workshops and other events across the country, we are prompting Catholics and non-Catholics alike to contemplate how basic values should shape political choices," he wrote.