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The Catholic bishops of the United States are pleased to offer once again to the Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, our teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement represents our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching.
The statement lifts up our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American citizens with rights and duties as participants in the civil order. First and foremost, however, we remember that we relate to the civil order as citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, whose reign is not yet fully realized on earth but demands our unqualified allegiance. It is as citizens faithful to the Lord Jesus that we contribute most effectively to the civil order.
This document consists mainly of the statement adopted overwhelmingly by the bishops in 2007, plus certain limited revisions by way of update.
In particular, this version draws on the wealth of papal teaching since the 2007 version of Faithful Citizenship, such as the later magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI and that of Pope Francis to date. From these great teachings we discern, for example, messages to the universal Church to attend in a special way: to the inextricable link between our witness to the truth and our service to those in need (Caritas in Veritate); to our role as missionary disciples, called forth from the sanctuary to bring Christ to the margins with joy (Evangelii Gaudium); and to the care for our common home and all who dwell in it, especially the poorest (Laudato Si').
The document is also updated to take account of recent developments in the United States in both domestic and foreign policy:
All of these threats, and more, speak to a breakdown in what Pope Francis has called an "integral ecology" (Laudato Si', nos. 137-55). Without the proper ordering of relationships of persons with each other, with creation, and ultimately with God himself, sin takes hold. Pope Francis reminds us that all individuals, nations, and members of the global community have the duty to place the needs of others ahead of selfish desires to possess and exploit the good things that come from God's hand.
This document is to be read prayerfully and in its totality. It would be a serious mistake—and one that occurs with regrettable frequency—to use only selected parts of the Church's teaching to advance partisan political interests or validate ideological biases. All of us are called to be servants to the whole truth in authentic love, and it is our fervent hope and prayer that this document will provide aid to all those seeking to heed this call.
Finally, while this document is about the civil order, we cannot fail to call the faithful to prayer. The struggles that we face as a nation and as a global community cannot be addressed solely by choosing the "best candidate" for political office. No, in addition to forming our consciences, we must fast and pray, asking our loving and gracious God to give us the ability to effectively proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our daily witness to our faith and its teachings. Let us all take to heart the urgency of our vocation to live in the service to others through the grace of Christ and ask humbly in prayer for an outpouring of the grace of the Holy Spirit on the United States of America.
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