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A Perplexing Political Potpourri

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a new document on November 14, 2007, to guide Catholic voters in the upcoming elections. It is titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States” — and if you think the title is long, wait till you get a load of the full text. It has 90 sections, runs 43 pages long, and is exceedingly wordy and verbose (the bane of editors!). As can be expected from a document approved by the full body of the USCCB — liberals, moderates, and conservatives — by a margin of 221-4, it runs all over the map, touches on myriad topics, and suffers from information overload — no easy accomplishment in our information era.

What makes this document so maddening is that it buries the burning political issues of the day under an avalanche of lesser considerations. The bishops say, “Intrinsically evil actions…must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia” (#22). So far, so good. And then, “Human cloning and destructive research on human embryos are also intrinsically evil” (#23). O.K., fine. But then the bishops say, “Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity such as genocide, torture, racism and the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror or war can never be justified” (#23). Wait a minute — are the bishops saying that racism is an intrinsic evil?

Now, the NOR is opposed to racism, but it cannot be put on a par with intrinsically evil acts such as abortion and targeting of non-combatants, which are murder. Nowhere does the Catechism call racism an intrinsic evil.

Elsewhere, the bishops say, “Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes…a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues…” (#29). Racism, immigration policy, and lack of health care are serious issues, but they are not on the same immoral plane as the death penalty, unjust war, and war crimes, which involve the direct taking of life. The bishops’ inclusion of racism only serves to dilute the moral imperative to defend human life.

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