The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be voting to approve the latest edition of its quadrennial guidance on how the Church and the Faithful should participate in politics. It renders its guidance by asking and answering four questions.
The first question is “Why does the Church teach about issues affecting public policy?” In fact, Scriptures and the teaching of Jesus teach us much that informs our public policy. This includes showing us what is true and good, that all human beings are in God’s image, and are endowed with dignity and rights. This becomes the foundation on which our well-formed conscience is based.
The second question is “Who in the Church should participate in public life?” The Catechism is quite clear: “As far as possible, all citizens should take active part in public life.”(1913) But the Church also calls us to engage in a way that seeks to recognize the “dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and vulnerable.” We should be guided more by our well-formed conscience than by any political party or interest group.
The third question is “How does the Church help the Faithful to speak about political and social questions?” The Church does this by helping the faithful develop well-formed sciences, through its writing and teaching. It also fosters a spirit of prudence, whereby we attempt to discern true good in every circumstance. It also assists us in its teaching role providing a framework what allows us to make difficult moral choices.
The fourth question is “What does the Church say about Catholic social teaching in the public square?” The document concludes with seven key themes about its social teaching. The first theme is the consistent ethic of life, from conception until natural death. The second is the Church’s call to family and participation in society. The third is the human rights and human responsibilities. The fourth is the principle of having a preferential option for the poor and needy. The fifth is on the dignity of work and the rights of workings. The sixth theme is solidarity and an end to racism, divisiveness, extreme poverty and disease throughout the world. The final theme is about the care and stewardship of God’s creation.
The document is a worthwhile read for all Catholics of voting age, and should be available shortly after the November 12th-15th meeting.