NEW ORLEANS — The updated voting guide issued by the U.S. bishops will maintain Church teaching as explained by both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI, said leading bishops at a recent gathering.
“Pope Benedict, in his encyclical entitled God Is Love [Deus Caritas Est] showed how the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments leads seamlessly to the service that the Church provides to the poor and the vulnerable and the common good,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore explained.
He added that Pope Francis has also emphasized this in his papacy, and “that perspective might be more amply reflected in any sort of revision that might be done.”
“Pope Francis, with characteristic simplicity, said that all the Church asks is for the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety. And I think that summarizes very nicely what Pope Benedict was also teaching us,” he noted.
Archbishop Lori heads the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. His comments came in a June 11 press conference at the bishops’ assembly in New Orleans.
The archbishop addressed “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a teaching document introduced in 2007 to help the faithful form their consciences to vote. The U.S. bishops voted unanimously at their meeting to draft a “limited revision” of the document and a new introductory note.
“Faithful Citizenship” begins by listing acts that are “inherently wrong and evil” and can never be justified by a public official, and then covers prudential matters, explained Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, the vice president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference.
“People must use their prudence to vote. But you can help form their consciences in something like ‘Faithful Citizenship,’” he stated.
The drafted update will leave the document “essentially the same,” but will include edits and a cover note to reflect developments in the Church since it was authored, notably Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World) and encyclicals by Pope Benedict, he said.
The Church’s response to poverty is “one level” where Pope Francis’ insight and reflections will be important for the edits, Cardinal DiNardo noted, also adding that “you want to take into account Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate (Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth), which deals with some of the same things about poverty and the economy.”
He also explained that this additional focus on poverty will not replace the issue of abortion, saying, “Our very significant commitment always will be to human personal life. It’s non-negotiable.”
Cardinal DiNardo responded to a question by Rachel Zoll of The Associated Press about the role of abortion as a central voting issue. Zoll had suggested that Pope Francis wants “less emphasis on hot-button issues and more emphasis on compassion, mercy and the broader view."
Pope Francis has stated numerous times that he is a “son of the Church” who agrees with Catholic teaching on moral issues, while also saying that “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
In response, Cardinal DiNardo explained that the two aspects of the faith are not mutually exclusive. Abortion remains a “crucial” issue, like a “pillar” of a house, he said, but “Pope Francis is reminding us that those pillars of the house also support a house that has to deal all the time with questions of poverty.”
The cardinal said, “We’ll want to make sure we speak very insistently about the role of poverty, about the role of the economy and what happens in those issues.”