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Statement of Principles Regarding Catholic Institutions, Sanctity of Life and Political Engagement

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February 26, 2008 - 1:02 PST


MANASSAS, VA (FEBRUARY 26, 2008) - With respect and concern for our fellow Catholic laity and clergy, and on behalf of the Catholic organizations which we represent, we the undersigned urge our fellow leaders of Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, charitable organizations, advocacy groups, media and other institutions to refrain from all activities that provide a public platform to, or imply support or even neutrality toward, political leaders and candidates who advocate positions on serious moral issues that are clearly contrary to Catholic teaching, most especially the Church's reverence for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.

By this shared practice, we seek to affirm what the U.S. bishops have already taught. In November 2007, the bishops noted that "not all issues are equal" in politics: "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed."

We are concerned about reports of certain Catholic institutions hosting and even participating in events that feature such political leaders and candidates. Some Catholic colleges and universities, in particular, have recently hosted or sponsored political rallies, stump speeches, and debates featuring candidates who support public funding for abortion and embryonic stem cell research, support laws to keep abortion legal, and otherwise threaten innocent human life.

Catholics are called to full participation in political life. "By fulfilling their civic duties, 'guided by a Christian conscience,' in conformity with its values, the lay faithful exercise their proper task of infusing the temporal order with Christian values, all the while respecting the nature and rightful autonomy of that order, and cooperating with other citizens according to their particular competence and responsibility."

Catholic institutions, too, share in the lay vocation to transform the world, in "fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Catholic Church." The unique mission of Catholic institutions--as Catholic--is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in society, in service to humanity and to the Catholic Church. Catholic institutions promote peace, justice, charity, individual rights, and the common good in conformity to Catholic moral and social teaching.

Too often, however, some Catholic institutions pursue a misguided engagement with public policy and politics that compromises and even undermines their Catholic mission. Catholic institutions should engage the culture from a faithfully Catholic perspective, not a position of neutrality. Political engagement does not require partisanship or endorsement of particular candidates. But it also does not require secularization, by which Catholic institutions accept moral relativism and simply mirror secular culture.

We call on Catholic institutions to join us in finding opportunities--appropriate to the nature and mission of each institution--to engage in political and public policy dialogue by publicly proclaiming Catholic teaching, especially on issues related to human life and marriage.

The U.S. bishops have said: "The Church is engaged in the political process but should not be used. We welcome dialogue with political leaders and candidates; we seek to engage and persuade public officials. Events and 'photo-ops' cannot substitute for serious dialogue." But events and photo-ops hosted by Catholic institutions are all too common. Instead of engaging political leaders and candidates on the great moral questions of the day, these moral concerns are set aside in the pursuit of public attention and prestige.

We call on Catholic institutions to join us in refusing to honor or provide a public forum for any political leader or candidate who acts "in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." This includes any politician who undermines a "culture of life" by advocating public policies to permit or support abortion, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, or any other threat to innocent human life. It also includes politicians who would threaten the institution of marriage.

Examples of honors and public platforms include awards, honorary degrees, honored position at public events, graduation and commencement addresses, lectures, debates, rallies, and fundraisers.

We affirm what the bishops have already taught about the obligations of Catholic institutions. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio objected to a pro-abortion politician's campaign speech at a Catholic university, noting that "Catholic institutions are obliged to teach and promote Catholic values in all instances." This obligation is "especially important" when Catholic institutions are relied upon "to provide leadership and clarity to the often complicated and conflicting political discourse." Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Mass., has taught that "to be a Catholic institution means that such an institution conducts its mission and ministry in accord with Catholic Church teaching, especially in cases of faith and morals." Several bishops have publicly opposed Catholic events featuring pro-abortion politicians, including Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley's boycott of a charity fundraiser and Baltimore Cardinal William Keeler's refusal to attend a college commencement ceremony.

To provide honors or public platforms allows such individuals to use Catholic institutions for the advancement of their political and public policy objectives. To some, it may imply Catholic support for those objectives, or at least diminished concern about the threat they pose to innocent human lives. It lends the resources and facilities of Catholic institutions to those who would defy our fundamental moral principles.

Catholic institutions and their leaders and supporters have a moral obligation to represent the highest goals of Catholic citizenship. It is essential that they fulfill that obligation independent of any political or economic gain or loss.

Statement of Principles Regarding Catholic Institutions, Sanctity of Life & Political Engagement

Organizational Endorsements

Ave Maria Radio
Al Kresta, President & CEO (also Host, "Kresta in the Afternoon")

Cardinal Newman Society
Patrick J. Reilly, President

Catholic Education Foundation
Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., Executive Director (also Publisher, Newman House Press; Publisher & Editor, The Catholic Response)

Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)
Austin Ruse, President

Catholic League for Religious & Civil Rights
William A. Donohue, Ph.D., President

Catholic Medical Association
Kathleen M. Raviele, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., Board President

Catholics United for the Faith
Mike Sullivan, President

Confraternity of Catholic Clergy
Rev. John Trigilio, Jr., Ph.D., Th.D., President

Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)
Curtis A. Martin, President

Brian Burch, President

Morley Publishing Group, Inc.
Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D., President (also Director,

National Association of Private Catholic & Independent Schools (NAPCIS)
Eileen Cubanski, Executive Director

Rachel's Vineyard Ministries
Theresa Burke, Ph.D., L.P.C., N.C.P., Co-Founder
Kevin Burke, M.S.S./L.S.W., Co-Founder

Seton Home Study School
Mary Kay Clark, Ph.D., President

Society of Catholic Social Scientists
Stephen M. Krason, Ph.D., President

Thomas More Law Center
Richard Thompson, Esq., President & Chief Counsel

Women for Faith & Family
Helen Hull Hitchcock, President


Cardinal Newman Society
Adam Wilson - Outreach Manager, 703 367-0333




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