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Voter Education

Voter Education Materials

The United States Catholic Bishops have issued a document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” (also in Spanish), which provides guidance on how to form one’s conscience for voting, as well as principles of Catholic teaching on which we should rely. The document is also available in a two-part summary for use as a bulletin insert: Part 1 and Part 2 (Spanish – Parte 1/Parte 2).

The following are other resources to assist in forming consciences for faithful citizenship:

Permissable Political Activity by Catholic Institutions

There are legal limits on the kinds of political activity that can be carried out by religious organizations. In general, religious organizations and their representatives have the right, protected by the First Amendment, to speak out about issues and matters of public policy, and to seek to influence legislation. We encourage our parishes and people to vigorously exercise their freedom of speech, to bring Catholic values to bear in the public square. However, our organizations may not engage in any way in partisan political activity.

The New York State Catholic Conference has guidelines that will help Catholic institutions in applying these rules to their activities.

Note: The “voter guides” (i.e. documents that compare candidate positions on issues) from outside groups are not to be distributed by parishes in the Archdiocese, because such guides may not fairly represent the issues of interest to the Church, and may involve the Church in forbidden partisan political activity.

Information about Elections and Candidates

To find out about the candidates in the upcoming elections, go here.

Note: The website linked above is not affiliated with the Archdiocese or any other Catholic institution. We have no control over, nor do we take responsibility for or endorse, the contents of the website or the organization that sponsors or hosts it. This link is provided for information only, and should not be considered in any way an explicit or implicit endorsement of any candidate, or a comparison of any candidate’s positions to the teachings of the Church.

Church Teaching on Forming Conscience for Voting

In his address to members of the European Parliament (March 2006), Pope Benedict XVI laid out the public policy priorities for the Church:

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today: protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family–as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage–and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role; the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the Bishops of the United States offer the following guidance on making a morally responsible voting decision:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.

38. It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation. Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well-being…

In their statement Living the Gospel of Life, the Bishops of the United States said:

Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life. But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has also given guidance to Catholics in making morally sound decisions on public policy matters: Doctrinal Note on Catholics in Public Life. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also provided similar guidance: Catholics in Political Life.