Bishops release latest version of ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,’ Catholic guide to voting


Bishops release latest version of ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,’ Catholic guide to voting

Article here:

Document here:

While I appreciate the USCCB creating this, the PDF version is 42 pages, which I find daunting. And I find it reads like a lawyer’s document. Anyone know of a condensed version of this? Or one that is easier to understand?


Thank you for posting this. I really love Faithful Citizenship. Initially, I found the length somewhat daunting but now I think that’s part of the point. Examining our consciences is a process and should be an ongoing one. I find that reading a bit of it each day, and then really thinking and praying about it, has been really helpful to me.

It’s tempting to want a quick “guide,” or worse, to look for a document that simply reaffirms what we already believe, but Faithful Citizenship is so much more. I know it has lead me to rethink some things, and also, to try harder to stop thinking about politics in terms of “sides.” It reminds me of that Lincoln quote about not praying for God to be on our side but to pray that we are on God’s side.

Bishop McElroy has written an excellent article that I think is a great companion piece to, though definitely not a replacement for, Faithful Citizenship. I also like to reread Pope Francis’ address to congress from time to time as I think there is much in that address to help guide us in our role as citizens. As I said earlier, I think all of this is meant to be an ongoing process so I am always wary of guides or people who insist they have the right answer, or that there even is one right answer when it comes to voting.

Anyway…thanks again for posting the link. I hadn’t seen the update yet.

(Eta: I edited this to add that when I said it was tempting to want a quick guide, I wasn’t directing that at you, Emerald Oak. Your post just got me thinking about that general criticism of Faithful Citizenship that I’ve heard others express.)


Instead of posting one Bishop’s take on the document why not use the usccb’s own summary (4 pages total):

Part 1

Part 2


From the link above:

What Public Policies Should Concern
Catholics Most?

• Address the preeminent requirement to protect human
life—by restricting and bringing to an end the destruction
of unborn children through abortion and providing
women in crisis pregnancies with the supports they
need. End the following practices: the use of euthanasia
and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of illness
and disability; the destruction of human embryos in the
name of research; the use of the death penalty to combat
crime; and the imprudent resort to war to address international

Note the use of the word preeminent


Wow, I am quite disappointed to see a glaring omission in the above quotation: restoring marriage, which is an exclusive and permanent union between one man and one woman and must be guarded as such by the State. That issue, as Catholic Answers can attest (see their “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics” as well as Tim Staples’ CD on the Five Non-negotiables), is more important to Catholic voters than war, the death penalty, etc…
I wonder why the Bishops have left this out while including lesser, “negotiable” issues if you will.


Once again, the USCCB voters guide doesn’t indicate that voting can be reduced to one black and white issue for catholics, especially between Hillary and Trump because both clearly lack integrity. Not sure how anyone could use the guide and come up witb a clear choice other than either not voting or voting for a 3rd party.

Really, it seems Pope Francis’s vision of the church isn’t a triumphal institutional one, but one that instead focuses on showing God’s mercy and the kerygma of Christ. You can’t fix the world by choosing between two horribly flawed candidates. Though Trump at least is a lesser bad IMO–the focus should be on ourselves becoming better christians.

Voting in national elections is becoming a waste of time–who cares who wins this election, nothing will change.


I suspect that’s only true for a small percentage of Catholics. Most of us are okay with it and I really don’t think it’s the state’s responsibility to protect the definition of a word.

Life issues are more important than others. I don’t consider gay marriage to be a pro-life issue. Straight people are still getting married and getting pregnant, same sex marriage hasn’t slowed that at all.


Dear friend,
Truth is objective and universal. There is no such thing as “true for a small percentage of Catholics.” When I say that the protection of marriage is more important than war and capital punishment, I am stating an objective fact, not suggesting that American Catholics feel it is more important. Regardless of what individuals feel, truth is truth, and it doesn’t change. I encourage you to read Catholic Answers’ booklet “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics”. It is available on the Catholic Answers online Shop, and if my memory serves it is only 40 cents! :thumbsup: You can’t beat that.
But, I will quote the relevant section of the booklet here,
“True marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Legal recognition of any other union as ‘marriage’ undermines true marriage, and legal recognition of homosexual unions actually does homosexual persons a disfavor by encouraging them to persist in what is an objectively immoral arrangement. 'When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral’ (UHP 10).” (Bolding, italics, and underlining mine). UHP stands for the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which is an organ of the Church’s Magisterium, and so is guided in its teaching by the Holy Spirit that it may teach truth and truth alone) called Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons
This is far more than the state protecting the definition of a word. It is the state’s obligation to protect the foundational institution of all society, marriage and the family. The state is protecting a fundamental and crucially important institution, not a word.
I also should mention, in response to you comment that most are alright with it, that regardless of our being “okay” with the legalization of homosexual unions, they remain an objectively immoral and disordered reality which is extremely dangerous to the common good. And given the fact that Almighty God is certainly not “okay” with such unions, we should not be either. We stand with Christ in all things.
I also suggest reading What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George. This work examines the issue in a secular manner.
May God bless you always.


You and I have completely opposite opinions of that document.

It’s tempting to want a quick “guide,” or worse, to look for a document that simply reaffirms what we already believe, but Faithful Citizenship is so much more.

Actually, that it reaffirms what we already believe is my objection to this document. It provides justification for holding on to whatever position one has already taken. It doesn’t provide guidance, it provides cover, and it doesn’t appear that the newest iteration is an improvement on the original version. I can support any position I wish and cite a passage in that document that justifies taking it.
*This document consists mainly of the statement adopted overwhelmingly by the bishops in 2007, plus certain limited revisions by way of update…*The document is also updated to take account of recent developments in the United States in both domestic and foreign policy…
Great. Frankly, I’m not interested in the political musings of the bishops about our foreign and domestic policies as those don’t involve any great moral choices. Like most political issues - while an extreme position may be immoral - for the most part there are no moral issues involved, and the bishops are simply expounding on their own political preferences.



Read the document. It isn’t left out. This from the introductory notes:

The document is also updated to take account of recent developments in the United States in both domestic and foreign policy:
:black_medium_small_square:The ongoing destruction of over one million innocent human lives each year by abortion

:black_medium_small_square:Physician-assisted suicide

**:black_medium_small_square:The redefinition of marriage—the vital cell of society—by the courts, political bodies, and increasingly by American culture itself **

:black_medium_small_square:The excessive consumption of material goods and the destruction of natural resources, which harm both the environment and the poor

:black_medium_small_square:The deadly attacks on fellow Christians and religious minorities throughout the world

:black_medium_small_square:The narrowing redefinition of religious freedom, which threatens both individual conscience and the freedom of the Church to serve

:black_medium_small_square:Economic policies that fail to prioritize the poor, at home or abroad;

:black_medium_small_square:A broken immigration system and a worldwide refugee crisis

:black_medium_small_square:Wars, terror, and violence that threaten every aspect of human life and dignity


I guess someone might see it this way if he or she had expected or desired the USCCB to reduce the complex process of choosing candidates to an oversimplified binary scenario.

Huh? I’m not sure how you’re defining foreign and domestic issues but how is something like physician-assisted suicide not an intrinsically moral issue?


Thank you Deacon Jeff, perhaps that will teach me to read a document in full before commenting on it ;). Although, it seems from the quotation that I commented on that marriage was not mentioned in the issues that should matter most to Catholics.


What I expected is pretty much what we got. What I desired is something that doesn’t mean all things to all people.

Huh? I’m not sure how you’re defining foreign and domestic issues but how is something like physician-assisted suicide not an intrinsically moral issue?

The number of issues that involve moral choices is quite small. Euthanasia happens to be one of those issues. Foreign policy, the tax code, health care, and immigration are prudential; they do not face us with moral choices. Why would we expect the bishops to have expertise in any of those areas? I look to the bishops for moral direction; I do not look to them for political opinion.



I think we have a reflection of what Pope Francis said about no moral issue is negotiable. This may be why the use of the word “preeminent”. Only one thing can be first. It seems pro-life issues are given precedence over sexual immorality issues.


From the CCC:

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

The need to apply prudential judgment does not render an issue not of moral value.


Indeed, it seems to me that the four of the Five Non-Negotiables which pertain to life (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning) are indeed more serious than the issue of homosexual unions. If the bishops only included such issues, I would not be as troubled. The problem is that the Bishops included war and capital punishment which, although they do pertain to human life, are not the same caliber as the aforementioned pro-life issues, since those four are black and white, whereas capital punishment and war are not. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, there may be legitimate differences of opinion among Catholics concerning the application of capital punishment and the waging of war, but not so with abortion and euthanasia.


Yet they are still life issues about which the Church has been teaching us for quite a will. Yes there can be some differences, but there can also be immoral positions. Likewise, social issues involved in helping the pregnant may no be cut and dry, but some positions will lead to more abortions and some will not.


Certainly we do have important teaching on when war is just, as outlined in the Catechism. But where we can differ is on whether those conditions are met. And yes, there absolutely can be immoral positions when it comes to waging war. And the death penalty is no light matter either. As St. John Paul II told us, in our day it is probably rare if ever that capital punishment is necessary. Nonetheless, we can differ as to whether in fact it is in a particular case, and I suppose we can differ as to whether the state of our criminal justice system would justify the illegalization of capital punishment. I personally would favor ending capital punishment.
As regards the greater life issues, what is cut and dry is that abortion is always, regardless of circumstance, gravely wrong (murderous), and it must be entirely outlawed, just as the murder of innocent born human beings is.
And we certainly must send up a lot of prayers for this election, that Clinton may not secure one or even more Supreme Court justice(s), which of course would be entirely devastating regarding both life and marriage issues.
May God bless you always my friend :).


This is true but it misses the point. If I believe option A is the best solution while you believe it is a horrible choice, which of our positions is more prudential? More moral? Given that we are not faced with moral choices - beyond deciding to try to solve the problem as best we can in the first place - no reasonable choice can be said to be either more or less moral than any other choice unless an intrinsic evil is involved. When a bishop speaks out on a political issue, however, the implication is that to oppose his solution is to make an immoral choice. It isn’t true and his involvement simply widens the gap between the two sides by shifting the debate from the specific proposals to the “goodness” of the people making them.



The problem with this assertion is that deciding on whether a particular position will have a particular effect is usually an opinion, an educated guess. When it comes to making policy choices we are doing what we think is best, not what we know is best. With (e.g.) abortion we can say “A is right, B is wrong”, but with most issues (e.g. immigration) we can only say “I think A will turn out to be the better choice.” This is why most political issues are not also moral issues: people may legitimately hold opposing positions. They are morally identical because no moral choice is involved.


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