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Meditation 264
Catholic Bishops on How to Vote

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"I was an altar boy, but I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever." John F. Kerry

According to the New York Times[1], a group of US Catholic bishops is encouraging Americans to re-elect George Bush, solely because Senator Kerry supports continued availability of abortion rights.

As far as these bishops are concerned, a vote for Senator Kerry would be a sin that required confession prior to receiving communion. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Colorado stated of a vote for Kerry:

"If you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil? And if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."

And Chaput is not the only one. In an article in the Globe and Mail[2], we find:

"One prominent prelate, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis Mo., has even suggested that Catholics who vote for Mr. Kerry on Nov. 2 are comparable to bishops in Germany who failed to speak out against the evils of nazism before the Second World War."

I wrote[3] last August that the Catholic hierarchy was once again trying to establish control over Catholic politicians. Kerry has made it clear, however, that he will not be taking orders from Rome. So, the bishops are making it a sin to vote for him.

And they are not considering the entire platform of any of the candidates. They are regarding this as a single issue election. I would suggest, that of the issues currently facing the American electorate, abortion is far from number one.

Voting is an individual decision, not one that religious leaders should determine. I think voting is important, and I encourage it. Determination of who to vote for depends on the full range of issues, the individual voter's attitude towards those issues, and the various candidates' respective stands on those issues.[4]

In closing, I'll just go back to the John Kennedy quote I used to open Meditation 148. It is still appropriate.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute - where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference - and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. John F. Kennedy


  1. Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry, New York Times, October 12, 2004
  2. Catholic leaders condemn Kerry, Globe and Mail, October 14, 2004
  3. Meditation 148: Who do Catholic Politicians Represent? August 2003
  4. I would just like to be clear. This article is not a subtle endorsement of any particular candidate. While Kerry clearly has a better understanding of church-state separation than Bush, this is only one issue. Also, abortion is only one issue. And there are third party candidates to consider; while a vote for one of them is highly unlikely to produce a winner, it conveys a message as to which issues are important. The choice should depend upon the preferences of each individual American voter, not on something dictated from the pulpits of the various churches.