On Tuesday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops released its “Faithful Citizenship” guide to the principles it believes American Catholics should observe in the 2016 elections. The document does not name parties or candidates the faithful must support, but emphasizes the moral teachings it wants them to prioritize when making their decisions.
While addressing issues such as poverty, racism, and capital punishment, “Faithful Citizenship” stresses abortion as an overriding concern. The “fundamental right to life” is a “principl[e] that can never be abandoned,” it says, arguing that supporting pro-abortion politicians constitutes “formal cooperation” with a “grave evil.”
The Conference voted 210-21 to approve the guide, with five abstaining. Some have argued that Pope Francis’s emphasis on issues such as immigration and the environment means the Catholic Church should divert attention from abortion toward other matters of social justice, but co-drafter Archbishop Leonard Blaire maintained that Francis, who is pro-life, wants bishops to recognize “the totality of issues of Catholic teaching” and “what’s right and true and just,” including the right to life.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholicism’s recognition as a “moral evil” dates back to first century and “remains unchangeable.” It reads, “the moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law,” and prescribes excommunication for those who formally cooperate with abortion.