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Monday May 21, 2018
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Dear Friends:

I would like to draw your attention to an excellent video just issued a little over a week ago by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in English and Spanish.  It's titled "Conscience Formation for Faithful Citizenship." It is an excellent resource for parish groups and adult education forums.  You might also consider using this as a starter for your parish pastoral council, finance council, school commission or other leadership groups as a way of doing some formation together.  I would also suggest you might consider showing it at announcement time if you have the technical capacity.  Click here to view.  I’ve also included links to other important resources.

Forming consciences for faithful citizenship

Formando la conciencia para ser ciudadanos fieles

Link to conscience formation materials

Link to “Dos and Don’ts” for parishes during Election Season

There are several items I would point out about this video for your careful consideration and attention.

First I would uplift for you that both our teaching document and the video have been rebranded.  It's not simply "Faithful Citizenship" but "Conscience Formation for Faithful Citizenship." The Church is not telling folks how and for whom to vote.  Rather, the Church is assisting folks in forming their consciences so that they can vote well.  Conscience formation is not about voting based on one's opinion or personal interest.  It's about bringing to bear upon a voter the core moral teaching of the Church that grows from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is why the new incoming Archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori, perceptively noted that one does not find an easy home in either political party.

Second the video helpfully notes that not all issues are weighed the same.  Abortion is weighed more heavily than other issues of poverty and justice because without the right to life there are not other rights.  Beginning- and end-of-life issues book-end all other issues regarding social justice because they define the dignity of the human person from womb to tomb. This insight does not always sit well with folks on the liberal side of the scale.  There are no trade-offs in the area of public policy that allow us to forget about the unborn simply because a party or candidate is supportive of social programs for the poor.

At the same time the conservative end of the political spectrum can feel challenged because our social teaching does not start and end with abortion.  Abortion IS a starting point in our conscience formation for faithful citizenship but it threads forward to the rights of the poor and the marginal – most notably the right of migrants, immigrants and the need for a deep and lasting reform of our nation's cumbersome and ineffective immigration system.  See www.justiceforimmigrants.org for more information.

Indeed when it comes to public policy the Church often finds itself at odds with both sides of the spectrum at the time.  In terms of health care the United States bishops have noted the need for some kind of overall health care coverage since the 1920s. This was seen as a "liberal" issue until the bishops resisted the four-point HHS mandate defining a religious organization narrowly while mandating coverage for abortion inducing medications as part of "basic" health care.  That four-point memo has far- reaching implications for government interference that go way beyond the new national health plan.

Likewise the Church has found itself challenged by both ends of the political spectrum with regards to immigration reform.  Interestingly it was a Republican president, Ronald Regan, who had the foresight to first propose and implement immigration reform.  However, many of the follow-up enforcement procedures were never implemented once he left office.  And it was a Democrat, Barack Obama, who campaigned in favor of immigration reform but whose administration has seen more deportations than any other president in American history.

This is all to say that the core formation we need to provide is not one based party platforms, political candidates and the changing vicissitudes of those in public life.  Formation needs to be "Conscience Formation for Faithful Citizenship."  I hope that you will do your part.  Review the on-line USCCB video and materials.  Consider using them in your parish setting.

+Bishop Tyson

 

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