Prepare for voting by reading election-year guidance from the U.S. bishops

Back in November, as the debates for the Democratic and Republican presidential races were just beginning, the U.S. Catholic bishops were having their own debate about politics during their annual fall general assembly.

The debate preceded votes on “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a document the bishops revise and publish every four years as the U.S. gears up for a major election year. The bishops’ debate was much more civil than what has been witnessed in the often raucous televised presidential debates, especially the Republican ones so impacted by the candidacy of Donald Trump, but it was no less impassioned.

faithful-citizenship-logo-vertical-englishThere were bishops who said the document did not adequately address poverty. Others maintained that it did reflect Pope Francis’ emphasis on that topic. There were exchanges among the bishops about the priorities for Catholic voters on topics ranging from abortion to the environment to comprehensive immigration reform.

“We urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences,” they wrote, “to teach those entrusted in their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choice in the coming election.”

Illinois voters have their say in the presidential nomination process this Tuesday, March 15. Have you spent hours in front of the television as one debate follows another? Do you watch the news channels for every analysis of the latest poll and who has the momentum? Or are you just now taking stock and making your decisions as the political commercials come in rapid fire?

Whatever your involvement in the process, now is the time to consider the guidance of our bishops.

The text can be found at Read it prayerfully and in its totality.

Just as Bishop Jenky did in remarks to permanent deacons on Saturday, the U.S. bishops call all Catholics to prayer. As we look at the choices we face, there is much wisdom in what they write in the conclusion to the document’s introduction:

“Finally, while this document is about the civil order, we cannot fail to call the faithful to prayer,” write the bishops. “The struggles that we face as a nation and as a global community cannot be addressed solely by choosing the ‘best candidate’ for political office. No, in addition to forming our consciences, we must fast and pray, asking our loving and gracious God to give us the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our daily witness to our faith and its teachings.

“Let us all take to heart the urgency of our vocation to live in the service to others through the grace of Christ and ask humbly in prayer for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on the United States of America.”

Amen. —  Thomas J. Dermody

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