By RACHEL ZOLL, AP
Wed Nov 14th
Roman Catholics voting in the 2008 elections must heed church teaching when deciding which candidates and policies to support, U.S. bishops said Wednesday.
And while the church recognizes the importance of a wide range of issues — from war to immigration to poverty — fighting abortion should be a priority, the bishops said.
"The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many," the bishops said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly adopted the statement, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," as they ended the public sessions of their fall meeting.
The document does not recommend specific laws or candidates, and it emphasizes that "principled debate" is needed to decide which policies best promote the common good.
But "that does not make (moral issues) optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore church teaching," the bishops said.
American bishops have been releasing similar recommendations for Catholics before every presidential election since 1976. However, in recent years, some independent Catholics groups have been distributing their own voter booklets.
Among them are Priests for Life and California-based Catholic Answers, which distributed material on five "nonnegotiable" issues: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex marriage. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which formed last year, issued a guide emphasizing church teachings on war, poverty and social justice.
But the bishops urged Catholics to only use voter resources approved by the church.
The document makes clear the broad concerns in Catholic teaching that make it difficult for parishioners to feel fully comfortable with either the Democrats or Republicans.
The bishops say helping the poor should be a top priority in government, providing health care, taking in refugees and protecting the rights of workers, and the bishops highlight the need for environmental protection.
However, they also oppose same-sex marriage, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, in addition to their staunch anti-abortion position.
The prelates say torture is "always wrong" and they express "serious moral concerns" about "preventive use of military force." But at the last minute Wednesday, they added a sentence acknowledging "the continuing threat of fanatical extremism and global terror."
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.