Election 2016: U.S. Bishops on Voting

Thoughts from our shepherds, plus a prayer asking the intercession of the Blessed Mother, as Election Day nears.

(photo: Shutterstock)

“The right to life is the most important and fundamental right, since life is necessary for any of the other rights to matter. There are some issues that can legitimately be debated by Christians, such as which policies are the most effective in caring for the poor, but the direct killing of innocent human life must be opposed at all times by every follower of Jesus Christ. There are no legitimate exceptions to this teaching. The health of our nation depends on a deep respect for human life from the moment of conception until natural death, and the future of our society depends on how we protect that right. If we don’t, eventually we will go the way of Rome and Greece and other great civilizations that have risen and fallen. Some, both in politics and in the Church, have stated that it is the Church that needs to change her teaching to include abortion, same-sex unions and even euthanasia. Yet, in faithfulness to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel and to Sacred Tradition, the Church cannot change her teaching on these issues without denying Christ. … So my advice to Catholics in voting in this presidential election is to first look at who forms you and your conscience. Is it your personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the Church, the voice of God which cannot contradict the truth or revelation, or is it the ideology of some political party? Secondly, look at how you have been a leaven in society. How have you sought the common good and the values of the Gospel, especially by serving the poor, the needy, the unborn and the dying? If you truly live your Catholic faith, you will not find complete alignment with any political party, and that is okay. Thirdly, look at how each party platform supports human life from conception through natural death, the freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience, the family and the poor. Finally, do vote, as every Catholic has an obligation to participate in the political process.” — Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver


“In our country, over one million unborn children are killed by abortion every single year. All Catholics have a moral obligation to keep this human-rights catastrophe at the forefront of their minds when voting.” — Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City, Kansas


“The Gospel of John reminds us that the truth, and only the truth, makes us free. We’re fully human and free only when we live under the authority of the truth. And in that light, no issue has made us more dishonest and less free as believers and as a nation than abortion. People uncomfortable with the abortion issue argue, quite properly, that Catholic teaching is bigger than just one issue. Other urgent issues also need our attention. Being pro-birth is not the same as being pro-life. And being truly ‘pro-life’ doesn’t end with defending the unborn child. But it does, and it must, begin there. … In every abortion, an innocent life always dies. This is why no equivalence can ever exist between the intentional killing involved in abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, on the one hand, and issues like homelessness, the death penalty and anti-poverty policy on the other. Again, all of these issues are important. But trying to reason or imply them into having the same moral weight is a debasement of Christian thought.” — Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia


“[O]n some issues the moral obligations of Catholics, and the demands of the common good, are abundantly clear. For example, no Catholic can vote in good conscience to expand legal protection for abortion, or to support the killing of unborn children. … Abortion is a grave, unconscionable and intolerable evil, and we cannot support it in the voting booth. … [W]hen we vote, we need to carefully consider the specifics of each race. Blind partisanship can be dangerous, and we have to look past political rhetoric and media alarmism to make prudent discernments. In each race, we need to discern whether there is a candidate who can advance human dignity, the right to life and the common good. … As a matter of conscience, faithful Catholics have to weigh all those pertinent issues and make the choice that seems most in accord with the common good of our nation: with respect for human dignity, social well-being and peace. … We need a broader vision of public life, which values and proclaims the dignity of every human life and which aims for the flourishing of individuals, families and communities. … The most important part of being good citizens is living as faithful and active missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. … Christ is the only real source of our nation’s hope.” — Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska


“From the very beginning, Catholic teaching informs us that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death. The right to life is a fundamental, human right for the unborn, and any law denying the unborn the right to life is unequivocally unjust.” Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond, Virginia


“Catholics should also consider the critical role that judges increasingly play in deciding issues like abortion, marriage and religious freedom.” — Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita, Kansas


“Too much of our current political discourse has demeaned women and marginalized people of faith. This must change. True to the best hopes of our Founding Fathers, we are confident that we can and will do better as a nation. … The Gospel is offered for all people for all times. It invites us to love our neighbor and live in peace with one another. For this reason, the truth of Christ is never outdated or inaccessible. The Gospel serves the common good, not political agendas.” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference


“Life is the first right. … God gives us the gift of freedom to choose what is true and good, and therefore it is never right for anyone to choose directly or indirectly what is intrinsically evil, especially when that choice destroys the gift of life. No one ever has a ‘right’ to exercise the gift of freedom to deprive an innocent person, especially an unborn child, of his or her right to life. As we form our consciences in this and every election, our first consideration is always where a candidate stands on the first principle: the right to life.” — Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia


“Just as living a Christian life involves much more than going to church on Sunday, so responsible citizenship requires more than simply voting on Election Day. More and more, government agencies are attempting to punish individuals and institutions that adhere to the truth that marriage can only be between a man and a woman and that every child deserves a mother and a father.” — Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas


“Both [major] candidates for president are seen as having such serious flaws as to lead some people to wonder if they can vote for either candidate of the two major parties or if they should skip voting in this year’s election. In the end, people must follow their consciences, but they should also take care to form their consciences properly and make informed decisions. In this regard, the Catholic bishops of the United States provide guidance in their document ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,’ saying, ‘In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation’ (13). This reflects the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which reminds us, ‘It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. … As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life’ (1913-1915). The phrase ‘as far as possible’ indicates that there may be legitimate limits to our active participation in public life. For example, priests do not normally hold public offices in the civic sphere. Voters may also legitimately conclude in conscience that they cannot vote for either candidate of the two major political parties. In such cases, voters in most jurisdictions can write in the name of a candidate of their choosing. In all cases, voters can skip voting for a particular office, but still vote for other offices on the ballot. … The real figure to whom we should configure ourselves is Jesus Christ. Moreover, Jesus Christ is not an option in the sense of being optional. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are called to live lives of ordinary virtue and heroic, saintly holiness in imitation of Christ, as intentional, dedicated and faithful disciples of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” — Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois


“When we vote, our choices must never be reduced to a mere calculation of self-interest. Each of us has a moral obligation to work toward the common good. Our vote should always be cast in favor of what is best for society.” — Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Salina, Kansas



Prayer to Our Lady, Patroness of America

In 1959, the U.S. bishops once again solemnly entrusted the country to Mary. Their prayer is well worth our consideration:


Most Holy Trinity: Our Father in heaven, who chose

Mary as the fairest of your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose

Mary as your spouse; God the Son, who chose Mary as your

Mother; in union with Mary, we adore your majesty and

acknowledge your supreme, eternal dominion and authority.


Most Holy Trinity, we put the United States of America

into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may

present the country to you.


Through her we wish to thank you for the

great resources of this land and for the freedom

which has been its heritage.


Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on

the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace.


Have mercy on our president

and on all the officers of our government.

Grant us a fruitful economy born of justice and charity.


Have mercy on capital and industry and labor.


Protect the family life of the nation.

Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations.

Through the intercession of our Mother,

have mercy on the sick, the poor, the tempted, sinners —

on all who are in need.


Mary, Immaculate Virgin, our Mother, patroness of our land,

we praise you and honor you and give ourselves to you.


Protect us from all harm.


Pray for us, that acting always according to your will

and the will of your divine Son, 

we may live and die pleasing to God.