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    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Bishops repair Catholic Democrats' ignorance regarding "primacy of conscience"


    The March 10 “Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life” from three U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ officials was made in response to the Feb. 28 statement of 55 Catholic U.S. House Democrats, in which said they are sometimes required by conscience or because of the religious diversity of the U.S. to disagree with the church "in some areas."

    The Bishops address the Democrats' misunderstanding of conscience:

    As the church carries out its central responsibility to teach clearly and help form consciences, and as Catholic legislators seek to act in accord with their own consciences, it is essential to remember that conscience must be consistent with fundamental moral principles. As members of the church, all Catholics are obliged to shape our consciences in accord with the moral teaching of the church.

    ...we also need to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s constant teaching that abortion is a grave violation of the most fundamental human right – the right to life that is inherent in all human beings, and that grounds every other right we possess. Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the vocation and mission of the laity, Christifideles Laici, which the representatives’ statement cites, declares: “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination…. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor.”

    Some of what the 55 Democrats originallly said:

    The Democrats' Feb. 28 statement said the signers "believe we can speak to the fundamental issues that unite us as Catholics and lend our voices to changing the political debate – a debate that often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues."
    Affirming Catholic teaching on "the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion," the politicians pledged to support alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, improved access to children's health care and child care, and "policies that encourage paternal and maternal responsibility."

    "In all these issues, we seek the church's guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience," the statement said. "In recognizing the church's role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the church in some areas."

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