Editorial: A strong voice renewed
It is long since settled that in the United States, religious leaders have every right – indeed, even obligation – to champion their faith’s beliefs in the political arena.
Perhaps no church has been more politically active in the last century than the Catholic Church but too often, the guidance church leaders have handed down has crossed the line from moral certitude to threats of eternal damnation if members of the flock voted for any pro-abortion rights candidate.
That intransigency in the face of a changing political landscape and the three decades of legal abortion has damaged Catholic leaders’ ability to lead their flock down a principled path.
But with this year’s presidential election, those who have been conflicted between their fealty to the church and the decision to support a candidate whose stands are far more diverse than Roman Catholic dogma have been given strong guidance from the nation’s bishops with an acknowledgement that opposition to abortion is not the sole litmus test when casting a ballot.
In its quadrennial guide for voters leading up to presidential elections, the 300-member U.S. Conference of Bishops has affirmed that candidate stances and party platforms as a whole are more important determinants in electing politicians with integrity than a singular position in line with church teachings.
While emphasizing their belief that abortion is “intrinsically evil,” the bishops acknowledged that Catholics who oppose abortion can vote for a pro-choice candidate if there are other issues that make the politician morally agreeable.
“At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity,’ the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” states. “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.”
The bishops’ 44-page statement cites opposition to racism, stem cell research, euthanasia, war, capital punishment, same-sex marriage as well as embracing immigrants as issues that warrant a Catholic voter’s support.
While we disagree with some of the church’s stances in areas such as gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research and abortion, it has nonetheless been an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised who lack political capital, especially here in Catholic-heavy Massachusetts.
The church’s glacial response to the clergy sex abuse scandal after decades of the Vatican’s uncompromising views on divorce, contraception and choice has marginalized its influence with the faithful.
It appears, at least in this country, the shepherds have seen their flock change and recognize that strong spiritual leaders know followers will adhere to reasoned guidance more than inflexible dictates.