Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Catholic Voters and the Presidential Election

"Trying to Vote in Good Conscience

ELIZABETH F. BROWN, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

[ABSTRACT:]  In November 2007, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship - A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States." This statement by the American Catholic Bishops provides guidance to Catholic voters on how to execute their responsibilities in accord with Catholic social teaching.

Despite some flaws, "Forming Consciences" has three major virtues that will aid American Catholics as they try to vote in good conscience. First, it reaffirms the need for American Catholics become more familiar with and to apply the broad range of Catholic social teachings when voting and exercising their other civic duties. Second, it explicitly rejects the notion that Catholics should be single issue voters. Third, Forming Consciences encourages, but certainly does not require, American Catholics to adopt a holistic ethical approach when evaluating candidates and issues. Such a holistic approach tends to provide better solutions, certainly on economic and environmental issues, than the narrow definition of issues and problems currently used in politics.

This essay comments on how useful the document is in actually helping the average American Catholic, who is not already an expert in Catholic social teachings, discern how to vote. As part of this assessment, it focuses on how much weight Catholics should give to economic and environmental issues based upon the guidance provided by the Bishops' statement. These issues were chosen because they are a growing areas of concern both for Americans and for the Vatican.

This essay was written for the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies Symposium issue on "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship - A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States."

[To download/read the paper, click here.]


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