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The number of voters guides aimed at Catholics and other people of faith is increasing. How do they compare?
BY TIM DRAKERegister Senior Writer
WASHINGTON — There are few
candidates, but the number of voters’ guides purporting to educate Catholics on
positions and issues is on the rise. Never before have there been so many
different election guides from which to choose.
The proliferation of issues-based
guides led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life
Activities to issue a statement in 2006.
“Some of these groups promote valid
social teachings of the Church but fail to give due attention to issues
relating to direct attacks on human life or to the protection of the family;
others deal almost exclusively with the latter issues,” wrote Cardinal William
Keeler, then chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “There
is also a concern that some of the legal advice supporting use of these
materials may be incomplete or at times influenced by a partisan
FRC Action, an arm of the Family
Research Council, has produced a detailed presidential voting guide examining
the candidates’ positions on approximately a
dozen key issues.
for Life has created a website (PoliticalResponsibility.com) and a chart
comparing the candidates, with particular focus on life and family issues.
Answers Action is again making available its “Voter’s Guide for Serious
Catholics.” The guide focuses on the five “non-negotiable” issues: abortion,
euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning and homosexual
“marriage.” To date, the group has distributed more than 10 million of its
guides online and in print.
Word Television Network has unveiled a new website (EWTN.com/Vote) linking to
audio and video resources on Church teaching.
lobbying group Fidelis has created a CatholicVote.com website and video.
in Alliance for the Common Good, which is directed by Alexia Kelly, former
director of religious outreach for the Democratic National Committee and the
Kerry-Edwards campaign, has produced a chart highlighting the candidates’ views
on the war, taxes and the environment.
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns has an election guide, as does the
Catholic Social Justice Lobby Network.
United, which distributed separate Democratic and Republican guides during the
caucuses and primaries, is putting the final touches on its own guide for the
of the guides point to the U.S. bishops’ 2007 statement “Forming Consciences
for Faithful Citizenship” for further guidance.
analysis of the guides bears out Cardinal Keeler’s words. Some of the guides,
such as those put out by Priests for Life and Catholic Answers Action, tend to
focus on issues related to life and family, while not including issues such as
the war in Iraq or the death penalty.
Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics’ references and quotes from official Church
documents,” said Jimmy Akin, director of apologetics and evangelization with
Catholics Answers. “As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in ‘Worthiness to Receive
Holy Communion,’ on issues such as the death penalty and the decision to go to
war, there can be a legitimate variety of opinion among Catholics.”
guides such as those put out by Catholics United, the Maryknoll Office for
Global Concerns, the Catholic Social Justice Lobby Network, and Catholics in
Alliance for the Common Good tend to ignore issues such as same-sex “marriage”
and partial-birth abortion, both issues that the Pope and the U.S. bishops have
highlighted as paramount for Catholic voters.
Pope Benedict XVI highlighted the
redefinition of marriage in his private meeting with President Bush during his
visit to the U.S. earlier this year. The bishops’ 2007 bulletin insert “The
Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” also discusses this
issue: “The family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, is the
fundamental unit of society. This sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of
children must not be redefined, undermined, or neglected.”
the same document, the bishops make it quite clear that the Church does not
treat all issues as morally equivalent, and that the taking of human life
through abortion is a “preeminent example” of an “intrinsically evil act that
must always be rejected and never supported.” It goes on to state that, “A
legal system that allows the right to life to be violated on the grounds of
choice is fundamentally flawed … This exercise of conscience begins with always
opposing policies that violate human life or weaken its protection.”
bishops’ stance was reiterated by Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of
the bishops’ conference, in a Sept. 2 statement.
teaching has consequences for those charged with caring for the common good,
those who hold public office. The unborn child, who is alive and is a member of
the human family, cannot defend himself or herself. Good law defends the
defenseless,” he wrote. “Our present laws permit unborn children to be
privately killed. Laws that place unborn children outside the protection of law
destroy both the children killed and the common good, which is the controlling
principle of Catholic social teaching. One cannot favor the legal status quo on
abortion and also be working for the common good.”
some groups hold to their own take on the issues.
Citizenship’ says life is a preeminent concern, but 'Faithful Citizenship' also says that it's a distortion of the
Catholic faith to neglect our other obligations to other threats to human
dignity,” said James Salt, organizing director for Catholics United.
Sugrue, associate professor of politics at Ave Maria University in Naples,
Fla., said that voters have to consider the source when approaching such
who are producing them are presented as civic-minded, but they have other
purposes and agendas. You have to be aware that they have their particular
biases,” said Sugrue. “It’s buyer beware. Each of us has a duty to know the
candidates as well as the sources from which we get information, and their
proliferation of these kinds of guides is a phenomenon of the late 19th century
and early 20th century, and the rise of interest groups in relation to
political parties. Interest groups are fulfilling the responsibilities that
political parties used to fulfill.”
to Sugrue, one cause for the rise of such groups is that campaign finance
reform has led to the displacement of political parties.
we’re shrinking contributions that can be made to candidates or parties, she
noted, “in issues-based funding, anything goes.”
The Power of Prayer
addition to producing its documents, the bishops have invited all U.S.
Catholics to pray an election novena for life, justice and peace. The “Novena
for Faithful Citizenship” is available for download or as a podcast online at
Rosenhauer, associate director for the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice,
Peace and Human Development, described the special novena as part of “the
bishop’s campaign to help Catholics develop well-formed consciences for addressing
political and social questions.”
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Get Your Guide
became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote in a 2004 letter to
may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war
and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and
Catholic voter guides that meet Cardinal Ratzinger’s and the U.S. bishops’
instructions for making the right to life the preeminent issue:
“McCain and Obama on ‘Catholic’ Issues,”
the Register’s editorial comparing John McCain and Barack Obama’s voting
records. Click “Opinion.”
FRC Action, an arm of the Family Research
Council examines the candidates’ positions on a dozen key issues.
Priests for Life has created a website
focusing on the candidates positions on life and family issues.
Catholic Answers Action’s “Voter’s Guide
for Serious Catholics” focuses on the five “non-negotiable” issues: abortion,
euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning and homosexual
Eternal Word Television Network links audio
and video resources on Church teaching.
The lobbying group Fidelis has created a
CatholicVote.com website and video.