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SPECIAL: Bishop Wuerl on Faithful Citizenship in 2004 Election (Part 2)

12/20/2003 - 6:00 AM PST

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Tells What Top Political Issues Catholics Should Consider

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, DEC. 19, 2003 (Zenit) - Catholic voters going to the polls next year must first assess what is the most urgent issue facing the United States.

So says Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, who shared his thoughts on the responsibility of Catholic voters as outlined in the U.S. episcopate's recent statement, "Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility."

Bishop Wuerl stressed that the primary issue the nation faces is the question of who has authority over human life, and that every Catholic's duty is to choose candidates who support human life as the sovereign gift of God.

He also noted issues that Catholics often overlook when voting. Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.

Q: What are the top issues Catholics need to consider when choosing a candidate?

Bishop Wuerl: To answer this question one must first assess what is the primary or most urgent issue facing the nation.

A hundred and fifty years ago it would have been slavery. Despite all kinds of arguments in favor of slavery, it simply would have been wrong to vote for people who insisted on maintaining the institution of slavery. Among a host of arguments in favor of slavery, many took the position that a slaveholder had a right to make a personal choice. Others argued for the need to allow slavery in order to secure economic prosperity.

Regardless of the argument brought forth, it simply would not have been right to condone or justify voting for politicians who supported slavery or even those who said they were opposed to slavery personally but wished to guarantee the right of everyone to make their own choice.

Over 50 years ago in another part of the world, legislation reduced a whole class of people -- Jews -- to second-class citizenship. This view led to the justification for concentration camps. Were a voter given a choice, one could never justify voting to support such a regime.

Today, the primary issue that our nation faces is the question of who has authority over human life. For millennia we have always understood that human life is a gift from God. We are stewards of that gift, not sovereigns over it.

Now there is an entirely different viewpoint that enjoys enormous media support. This view maintains that we, human beings, are the true sovereigns of human life and that we can simply take a human life whenever we believe a person is burdensome or inconvenient to us.

Abortion in the United States is the single most egregious affront to the basic dignity of life. With the death toll well over 40 million, it stands alongside slavery and genocide as shameful examples of legal but immoral activities.

One hundred years from now I believe people will look back on this generation and wonder how it was possible that we deluded ourselves into thinking -- and then enshrining in the law of the land -- the principle that the right to life is arbitrary and is protected only for those whose lives are deemed worthy. History will not look kindly upon a society that embraced the concept that if a person's life is inconvenient to you, you can simply kill him or her.

Just as we wonder how it had been possible for people to keep human beings as slaves, as chattel, so future generations will look back and wonder how we could so cavalierly kill our unborn children.

In choosing a candidate the primary issue should be whether the candidate recognizes and supports human life as the sovereign gift of God and responds accordingly.

Q: What are some important issues that Catholic voters often overlook?

Bishop Wuerl: When we speak of Catholic voters I think we have to make an important distinction.

My understanding is that there is data to support that Catholics who regularly attend Sunday Mass and who participate in the life of the Church tend to embrace and support the Church's social justice teaching. They also tend to be pro-life and typically support the concept that we need far more freedom and justice when it comes to the equitable distribution of the cost of the education of children.

On the other hand there are a substantial number of people who consider themselves to be Catholics but who receive almost all of their information about the teaching of the Church through the public media. In other words, their view and understanding of what the Church teaches and proclaims is filtered and often faulty. This group of Catholics tends to respond to issues much like any segment of the general populous. They simply are not well informed on what the Church teaches and why it does so.

The challenge for the Church is to get its views and positions and the rationale that supports them to the public in an unfiltered ...

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