It is a common misperception of politicians seeking office that the Catholic vote can be courted by addressing a narrow range of issues. In reality, the great majority of U.S. Catholics, in agreement with the U.S. Catholic bishops, will vote for candidates based "on the full range of issues, as well as on the particular candidate's personal integrity, philosophy and performance [Faithful Citizenship, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 2004].
Members of the media and some of our own religious leaders do a great disservice to our church and nation when they attempt to use one or another issue as the benchmark for Catholic identity. To characterize the whole content of our faith in a single issue is inappropriate and unjust.
"The Christian faith is an integral unity. Thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust ones responsibility toward the common good" [Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, November 24, 2002]. The Catholic church teaches that all life is sacred. A candidate for office must understand that the church stands against any policy or course of action that diminishes life, dignity, or the rights of human beings: abortion, capital punishment, war scandalous poverty, denial of healthcare, mistreatment of immigrants and racism, to name but a few. All are essential issues to a "pro-life" voter.
For over 30 years, PAX CHRISTI USA has raised the immorality and injustice of modern warfare as a serious affront to our church's proclamation of the sanctity of life. Over the past two years we have seen over 900 U.S. military and over 15,000 innocent Iraqi civilians killed in what Pope John Paul II repeatedly stated was an unjust and unnecessary war. Contrary to words used in political speeches, a commitment to the sanctity of life must be judged by the actions taken to defend and promote life in all its forms. War is a defeat for the culture of life. We do not consider political leaders who bring about or perpetuate war to be "pro-life".
There are sixty million Catholics in this nation. We take seriously the responsibility of voting. Each of us will evaluate candidates based on what our conscience : formed by reading the signs of the times in light of the example of Jesus in the Scriptures and the church teachings throughout the ages : demands. We will examine the broad range of issues, measuring "all candidates, policies, parties and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity and rights of the human person, whether they protect the poor and vulnerable, and advance the common good" [Faithful Citizenship, U.S. Catholic Bishops 2004].
In the gospels, Jesus implores us to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to bless the peacemakers, to set free the oppressed, and to care for the widow, the orphan, the stranger. Soon we will look for and vote for candidates who take as seriously as we do the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.