Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 27, 2003
Vatican tells politicians to respect human life
Don't vote for laws that promote abortion
By CINDY WOODEN
While the freedom of conscience leaves Catholics free to choose among political parties and strategies for promoting the common good, they cannot claim that freedom allows them to promote abortion, euthanasia or other attacks on human life, the congregation said.
The 18-page Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life was approved by Pope John Paul and released Jan. 16 at the Vatican.
"Those who are involved directly in lawmaking bodies have a 'grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life," it said. "For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them."
"A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals," it said.
As well, Catholics must not focus exclusively on one issue. They are obliged to work for the common good by promoting the values encompassed in Catholic social teaching, the document said.
"The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility toward the common good," it said.
The central focus of the document is an explanation that in a democracy, Catholics have a right and a duty to vote according to their consciences as formed by Church teaching.
Especially in European countries with a Catholic majority, some commentators have tried to paint debates on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning and divorce as a debate between those who favour democracy and those who want to impose Church teaching on society.
"Living and acting in conformity with one's own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of confessionalism," the document said.
Rather, the congregation said, it is the way Christians offer their contributions to building a society which is more just and more respectful of human dignity.
The document said Catholics have a special responsibility to defend the truth about the meaning and dignity of human life when proposed laws come up against "moral principles that do not admit of exception, compromise or derogation," particularly regarding abortion and euthanasia.
Laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death, it said.
The doctrinal congregation also listed as particular obligations: "the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo"; to safeguard the family "in the face of modern laws on divorce"; to oppose attempts to legally equate cohabitation or homosexual unions with marriage; and to defend the rights of parents to educate their children.
Other obligations it listed included: protecting children; fighting "modern forms of slavery" including drug addiction and prostitution; promoting religious freedom; working for justice and solidarity in the economy; and promoting peace.
The congregation said, "Peace is always 'the work of justice and the effect of charity.' It demands the absolute and radical rejection of violence and terrorism and requires a constant and vigilant commitment on the part of all political leaders."
In a commentary also published by the Vatican Jan. 18, German Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne said the more modern society pushes an idea that truth and values are completely subjective, the more Catholics have an obligation to promote those values that are based on the reality of the human person as a creature with inalienable rights and obligations.
(The complete text in English is available online at: www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20021124_politica_en.html..)
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