A Bishop Slams The Questionnaire

You may have heard that two weeks ago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent their presidential questionnaire to the candidates for review. The questionnaire covered just about every topic under the sun, from abortion to immigration to broadcast communication.

It asked the candidates to give a “support or oppose” response so that the bishops could determine which candidate was most in line with Catholic teaching.

It all sounded pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, the questionnaire made no moral distinction between any of the topics, burying critical life issues — abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and fetal stem-cell research — among scores of other issues that simply don't have the same moral weight and on which faithful Catholics are free to disagree.

Well, it looks like at least one bishop shares this concern. On Wednesday, Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, the bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, published a statement wondering about the usefulness of a questionnaire that doesn't make a distinction between imperative life issues and debatable social policy issues.

Bishop Gracida makes such excellent points that rather than just quote bits and pieces of his statement, I’d like for you to see the whole thing. Believe me, you want to read this:


I have had an opportunity to review a copy of the 2004 Presidential Questionnaire submitted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to President George Bush and Senator John Kerry. I am disappointed that the Questionnaire is so broad and covers so many issues that are before the American public today that its value in helping to show the differences between the positions of the two candidates on the really important issues will be minimal.

While certainly there could be and should be a “Catholic” position on most, if not all, of the issues covered by the Questionnaire, from the perspective of the Church's teaching some issues far outweigh others in importance. For instance, there is no moral equivalence between the issue of abortion-on-demand and farm subsidies. The Questionnaire should have been much shorter and should have been limited to questions on those issues on which there is a clear unequivocal teaching of the Church, e.g., abortion, cloning, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research and marriage.

There is no clear unequivocal position of the Church on such issues as the minimum wage, immigration, farm subsidies, etc. The inclusion of questions in the Questionnaire can only result in confusion in the minds of Catholic voters who do not understand that there is no moral equivalence between these two groups of issues. I can only hope that both presidential candidates will refuse to reply to the Questionnaire, or, if they do reply, that the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will recognize the danger to Catholic voters and will publish those replies with a clear teaching on the greater importance which should be attached to the replies to the first group of questions I have listed above that have far greater moral implications for the nation.

+ Rene Henry Gracida

Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi

10 August 2004

I only hope that his brother bishops — and those in charge at the USCCB — will make the same distinctions clear when the questionnaire is finally released to the public.

Deal Hudson is editor and publisher of CRISIS Magazine. You can reach him via email at hudson@crisismagazine.com.

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