Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States


1. As a nation, we share many blessings and strengths, including a tradition of religious freedom and political participation. However, as a people, we face serious challenges that are clearly political and also profoundly moral.

2. We are a nation founded on "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but the right to life itself is not fully protected, especially for unborn children, the most vulnerable members of the American family. We are called to be peacemakers in a nation at war. We are a country pledged to pursue "liberty and justice for all," but we are too often divided across lines of race, ethnicity, and economic inequality. We are a nation of immigrants, struggling to address the challenges of many new immigrants in our midst. We are a society built on the strength of our families, called to defend marriage and offer moral and economic supports for family life. We are a powerful nation in a violent world, confronting terror and trying to build a safer, more just, more peaceful world. We are an affluent society where too many live in poverty and lack health care and other necessities of life. We are part of a global community facing urgent threats to the environment that must sustain us. These challenges are at the heart of public life and at the center of the pursuit of the common good.

3. For many years, we bishops of the United States have sought to share Catholic teaching on political life. We have done so in a series of statements issued every four years focused on "political responsibility" or "faithful citizenship." In this document we continue that practice, maintaining continuity with what we have said in the past in light of new challenges facing our nation and world. This is not new teaching but affirms what is taught by our Bishops' Conference and the whole Church. As Catholics, we are part of a community with a rich heritage that helps us consider the challenges in public life and contribute to greater justice and peace for all people.

4. Part of that rich heritage on faithful citizenship is the teaching of Vatican Council II's Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae). It says that "society itself may enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, which result from [people's] faithfulness to God and his holy will" (no. 6). The work for justice requires that the mind and the heart of Catholics be educated and formed to know and practice the whole faith.

5. This statement highlights the role of the Church in the formation of conscience, and the corresponding moral responsibility of each Catholic to hear, receive, and act upon the Church's teaching in the lifelong task of forming his or her own conscience. With this foundation, Catholics are better able to evaluate policy positions, party platforms, and candidates' promises

and actions in light of the Gospel and the moral and social teaching of the Church in order to help build a better world.

6. We seek to do this by addressing four questions: (1) Why does the Church teach about issues affecting public policy? (2) Who in the Church should participate in political life? (3) How does the Church help the Catholic faithful to speak about political and social questions? (4) What does the Church say about Catholic social teaching in the public square?

7. In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God's truth. We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election.

8. During election years, there may be many handouts and voter guides that are produced and distributed. We encourage Catholics to seek those resources that are authorized by their own bishops, their state Catholic conferences, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This statement is intended to reflect and complement, not substitute for, the ongoing teaching of bishops in our own dioceses and states. In light of these reflections and those of local bishops, we encourage Catholics throughout the United States to be active in the political process, particularly in these challenging times.

To view the complete document go here:


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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  • Guest

    The bishops document contains valuable guidance in Part I regarding moral issues and the formation of conscience.

    Unfortunately, in Part II, the bishops show flawed leadership in two ways. First, they show their disdain for the intelligence of the laity by telling us which government policies we should support (child tax credits???) because we are not smart enough to make up our own minds based on our consciences.

    Second, the bishops are preoccupied with political action instead of Catholic action. Instead of calling the Catholic laity to help those less fortunate, the bishops encourage them to support government policies and programs. I don't know about you, but I have never found the love of Christ in a government program.

    I have found the love of Christ in the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Catholic Feed the Poor programs, etc. But our bishops are so preoccupied with politics that they provide little leadership to the laity for programs that involve the faithful in social action.

    I find no call for political action in the Beatitudes. Christ clearly told us to love one another. He did not tell us to subcontract the loving to the government.

  • Guest


    thank you for speaking to the issue of political action vs. catholic action.

    I take it you're not a Liberation Theology type Catholic either.  I think the bishops have fallen victim to the heresy of the First Temptation of Christ, "Turn these stones into bread and the world will bow down before you…" 

  • Guest

    Our Bishops are human and fall short of perfection.  Those of you who point to the spec in their eyes should try walking on water first.  I stand in unity with our bishops and am grateful for their hard work and dedication.  Their work at this conference may have it's flaws, but is deserving of our support and prayers.  


    Our priests and bishops need our support and prayers not our unfounded critical posts.


  • Guest


    Your comments on government programs are offensive to me.  I work for the local county welfare office where I live and see the face of Christ in all those I serve and pray for them every day.  And, they tell me they feel my prayers and empathy.  The church sponsored programs you mention are all excellent programs.  I work with all those orgs. and others on a daily basis. 



     I have read many of your posts and I am shocked with this one.  Most of your comments are very enlightening and helpful.  Maybe I am misunderstanding your comment, but you should not accuse our Bishops of Heresy.  


    You both can label me whatever label you want to use.  I find it difficult to see your catholicity in these two posts.  

  • Guest


    I find YOUR comments offensive to me.  You say you work for the welfare department.

    Many of those folks you "serve" are healthy able bodied people who have been in the system for generations.  Many more are criminals, in that they have come into this country illegally by sneaking across our borders. They are not entitled to ANY county welfare as they are not citizens. In playing "Robinhood" and giving to these underserving people you are stealing from me and others like me who prefer to have a choice in where our monies for charity go.