+ Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas
+ Ronald M. Gilmore, Bishop of Dodge City
+ Paul S. Coakley, Bishop of Salina
+ Michael O. Jackels, Bishop of Wichita
- We, the Catholic Bishops of Kansas, exercising our role as teachers, offer the following guidelines to help Catholics form their consciences on matters related to our most basic obligation of citizenship: voting. The following guidelines are intended for educational purposes only. We do not intend to endorse or oppose any particular candidate, political party, or political action committee. Rather, it is our hope that these guidelines will show how our Catholic faith and human reason shapes our thinking, choosing, and acting in daily life.
- In a democratic society citizens choose whom they vest with authority for the common good. A choice for one person over another for public office can significantly affect many lives, especially the lives of the most vulnerable persons in society, such as children in the womb and those who are terminally ill. Therefore,
- Catholic citizens have a serious moral obligation to exercise their right to vote, whether on the national, state or local level. The Second Vatican Council taught us that “all citizens are to bear in mind that it is both their right and duty to use their free vote to promote the common good” (The Church in the Modern World 75). What is more, we have a duty to vote guided by a well-formed conscience, and not simply on the basis of self-interest, party affiliation, or the personal charisma of any individual.
- Notwithstanding a possible diversity of prudential judgments, each of us should guide our decision-making on such issues by a fundamental respect for the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception to natural death. This is a non-negotiable principle. It is the foundation for both Catholic social teaching and of a just society. Respect for human dignity is the basis for the fundamental right to life. It is also the basis for the right to those things needed to live with dignity, for example, productive work and fair wages, food and shelter, education and health care, protection from harm, and the right to move from one country to another when these things are not available to us at home. Because of respect for the dignity of the human person, Catholics are obliged to come to the aid and defense of the defenseless, especially the poor. Another guiding principle is the defense and promotion of marriage as the unbreakable bond between one man and one woman. Society is only as healthy as is the institution of marriage and family.
- A correct conscience recognizes that there are some choices that always involve doing evil and which can never be done even as a means to a good end. These choices include elective abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, the destruction of embryonic human beings in stem cell research, human cloning, and same-sex “marriage.” Such acts are judged to be intrinsically evil, that is, evil in and of themselves, regardless of our motives or the circumstances. They constitute an attack against innocent human life, as well as marriage and family. Pope John Paul II warned that concern for the “right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles Laici 38).
- Concerning choices that are intrinsically evil, Catholics may not promote or even remain indifferent to them.
- A CONSCIENTIOUS VOTER’S DILEMMA. In light of the above, it is a correct judgment of conscience that we would commit moral evil if we were to vote for a candidate who takes a permissive stand on those actions that are intrinsically evil when there is a morally-acceptable alternative. What are we to do, though, when there is no such alternative? Because we have a moral obligation to vote, deciding not to vote at all is not ordinarily an acceptable solution to this dilemma. So, when there is no choice of a candidate that avoids supporting intrinsically evil actions, especially elective abortion, we should vote in such a way as to allow the least harm to innocent human life and dignity. We would not be acting immorally therefore if we were to vote for a candidate who is not totally acceptable in order to defeat one who poses an even greater threat to human life and dignity.
- VOTING IS A MORAL ACT. It involves duties and responsibilities. Our duty is to vote in keeping with a conscience properly formed by fundamental moral principles.