News Religion

Bishops to Parishoners: Vote This Way or Go to Hell

Robin Marty

A new flyer provided at Catholic churches advises parishoners to vote against "evil."

Election day is nearly here and the Catholic church is doing everything it can to ensure its parishioners know how the leadership wants them to vote. As the country gets closer to the day of reckoning, the religious body is becoming less and less subtle in the fine art of advocating without technically endorsing actual parties or candidates.

The newest push comes from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the form of the “US Bishops Faithful Citizenship Material.” The insert, which the group has encouraged church leaders to provide to their parishioners, reminds voters that to be good Catholics, they need to toe line when it comes to marriage, abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and “religious liberty.”

The USCCB church insert making the rounds prior to election day make it clear that “life” is the key issue as a means of “preventing evil,” a duty that the bishops are giving extensive priority over the act of “doing good.”

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because
they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. These intrinsically
evil acts must always be rejected and never supported. A preeminent example
is the intentional taking of human life through abortion. It is always morally
wrong to destroy innocent human beings. A legal system that allows the right to
life to be violated on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

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Interestingly, the USCCB states that Catholics are not “single issue” voters, then urges them to remember that the single issue of abortion constitutes an inherent evil, which should automatically make a candidate unsupportable.

As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a
single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal
abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify
a candidate from receiving support.

The Bishops’ political strong-arming is referenced in Green Bay, Wisconsin Bishop David Ricken’s letter to his own flock. In the letter, Bishop Ricken explains that those who don’t vote for candidates who follow the church’s social issues stances when they vote literally put their immortal souls in danger of damnation.

“A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals. Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally ‘complicit’ with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.”

Missing from Rickon’s line up of Catholic values to support is a dedication to helping the poor, unless you count the mention of many of the area residents who are being assisted through Catholic charities, charities the Bishop insists must be kept free of government interference.

Bishop Edward J. Burns of Anchorage, Alaska is more open to the idea that caring for the needy is part of Catholic values, and one that must be weighed by voters along with the conservative social issues. In his own letter, published in the Juneau Empire, Bishop Burns advises:

Congressman Ryan has been a resolute advocate of Catholic moral teaching on the defense of the unborn and traditional marriage between one man and one woman. However, the Federal budget that he has proposed could do harm to the poor and vulnerable by neglecting their legitimate needs. For example, Congressman Ryan proposed a budget that has received a critique by the Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace committees of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, stating that “a just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.”

Those two sentences serve as the counter balance to five paragraphs urging readers to vote for the moral order of preserving life. “While democracy is the best means whereby citizens participate in the political governance of the country, it is only successful when first and foremost there is a complete and thorough understanding of human life and dignity. The attack against the very essence of human life, such as abortion, constitutes an intrinsic evil.”

Vote as we tell you to, or be prepared for an eternity in Hell? That’s a pretty strong sentiment, and it’s one that Catholic voters may be ready to reject. According to a new poll out by the American Civil Liberties Union and Catholics for Choice, most Americans, even a vast majority of Catholics, disagree with the USCCB’s attempts to coerce them into accepting a worldview under the guise of religious liberty. Catholic laypeople reject by large margins allowing Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide necessary abortions or emergency contraception, allowing businesses with religious owners to refuse to provide insurance coverage including birth control, or even letting the Bishops try to influence their parishioners at the ballot box in the first place.

“This poll comes at an important time as the bishops ramp up their opposition to contraceptive coverage,” said Sara Hutchinson, domestic program director at Catholics for Choice via statement. “It shows the rift between what the bishops would like all of us to think and what Americans and American Catholics actually think, as well as what we truly want and how we will vote on these issues.”

Will voters side with the bishops, or pick candidates who best represent their vision for the country, and in how many cases will the two actually overlap?

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