Letter on Catholics and Voting
My dear family of the Church of Pittsburgh,
There is an important matter that falls under my responsibilities as bishop which has taken front and center stage – the upcoming elections. One of the things I treasure most about you, the faithful of the Church of Pittsburgh, is the open way in which you offer suggestions to me and make requests of me. Sometimes those requests conflict. The election issue is one such example. Some of you have asked me to speak out publicly about the presidential candidates. That I can not do. The important document written by the Bishops of our country entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (available at www.faithfulcitizenship.org) underscores the important point that the Church cannot, I repeat, cannot tell people for whom they must vote. However, the document is very clear about highlighting two things about our voting privilege: (1) the right that we have to vote as American citizens is precious. (2) the obligation that we have to bring our faith to our voting is sacred.
As we approach the coming elections, I implore you to consider both: your right to vote; and your obligation to bring your faith to the voting booth.
To assist you in both might I suggest four important steps. (1) Familiarize yourself with the issues of the campaign; (2) Learn what the teachings of the Catholic Church are regarding those issues; (3) reflect on both in a spirit of prayer, and (4) Vote.
To assist you in understanding what the teachings of the Church are regarding the various campaign issues, I would recommend that you consult with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults or the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Moreover, you might also want to secure a copy of Faithful Citizenship. Since the presidential election of 1976 and every four years, we the Bishops have offered updated versions of this important document to assist voters as they exercise their voting rights coupled with the responsibility of an understanding of the issues from the perspective of faith.
Now there is a second issue which I need to address with you as well. Over the course of the last several weeks, several people who are recognized as Catholic leaders in our diocese have espoused a public rationale for why they personally are choosing to vote for a particular candidate for the presidency. These reflections have appeared in either local newspapers or in national periodicals. A number of you have raised questions with me about their statements.
Over the course of the past week especially, I have reflected long and hard about how I might be able to respond to the many questions that you have placed on my desk about such statements.
I wish to clarify the confusion that has been caused by these public statements with the hope that any division that has been caused by such remarks and worse any scandal that may have resulted from such comments is addressed. It is important to say once again that no one has a right to tell anyone how to vote. Moreover those who have offered their personal interpretation of the Church’s teaching do not speak for the Church and in some part do not reflect the teaching of the Church.
While Faithful Citizenship speaks about the moral choice which we each must make when we enter the voting booth, the manner in which we vote must weigh all the issues with a clear reflection on the teachings of the Church. The primary theme of Faithful Citizenship is the right to life and the dignity of every human person. As the United States Bishops made clear, this is the foundation of a moral vision for society. We cannot dismiss this foundational principle as secondary in our thinking. As the bishops insist, we cannot consider abortion or euthanasia as merely two issues among many to be weighed or dismissed with a shrug. Nor can we exclude other issues that also are pro-life: concerns about the poor and immigrants, concerns about peace and war, concerns about bigotry and prejudice, concerns about capital punishment, and other social justice issues.
Having offered these few thoughts on the upcoming electoral process, it is my sincere hope that I have clarified some of the questions which you have raised, especially in light of some well-known Catholics who advocate for your vote for a particular candidate from their own personal perspective.
As we are prepare for this year’s elections, remember to know the issues, know the Church’s teachings, pray about both and vote. To do so as a woman or a man of faith highlights the right we have as American citizens and the responsibility we have as members of the Church.
Grateful for our belief that “Nothing is Impossible with God,” I am
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend David A. Zubik
Bishop of Pittsburgh