Teachings, election focus in Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON — The church’s moral teachings are not just to help Catholics decide for whom to vote, but should also inspire and guide Catholics in how they lead their lives between elections.

That was the theme of a workshop presented by Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, at St. Mary’s Parish Hall in Bloomington Tuesday evening.

“What I want to bring you tonight is a whole different prism, a whole different framework, for looking at election issues than you might find on CNN or Fox,” said Gilligan, who has directed the public policy arm of the Catholic bishops of Illinois since 2003.

The workshop, “Voting a Clear Catholic Conscience,” was sponsored by the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society. Gilligan will return to the Diocese of Peoria on Monday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m., to present the workshop at Corpus Christi Church, 273 Prairie St., Galesburg.

The meeting opened with a prayer by Father Ric Schneider, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, who asked that God would “send the Holy Spirit upon us, so that we may know what we are doing, and form our consciences correctly, and then go out and vote.”

Though religion and politics can be volatile, whether alone or in combination, participation in political life is “an essential duty” for everyone, and Catholics have a moral obligation to bring their faith to bear in their political activities, Gilligan said.

The church needs to do a better job of showing “the connection between what goes on within the church walls on Sunday morning and the services the church provides outside those walls the rest of the week,” he said.

An important resource that will help Catholics see that connection, Gilligan said, is “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that encourages Catholics to actively participate in the political process every day, not just on election day. (See www.faithfulcitizenship.org on the Internet.)

Gilligan did have one criticism of the publication of that document, however. “We say it’s not just about voting — we say it’s about how we live between elections. But we only put it out around election time,” he noted.

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