Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco has issued some forthright questions and answers regarding the new document of the United States Bishops. Here are two that especially struck me:
Q: Isn’t the Catholic Church really interested only in abortion and euthanasia?
A: No. The Catholic Church teaches that the primary human right is life. Without human life, no other human rights matter. Thus “Faithful Citizenship” concludes that abortion and euthanasia have become primary threats to human life and human dignity because they directly attack life itself. This moral preeminence of abortion and euthanasia must be reflected in the discernment of voters as they seek to form their consciences during the coming election campaign. Such a preeminence does not discard the moral importance of other issues in the 2008 campaign, but it does mean that abortion and euthanasia should exercise a special claim upon the consciences of voters.
Q: Doesn’t that answer sound as if any issue except abortion and euthanasia is a second – rate issue, undeserving of the Catholic Church ‘ s time, energy and attention?
A: In “Faithful Citizenship” the U.S. bishops teach that Catholics should avoid two errors. The first consists in making no distinctions among different kinds of moral issues involving human life and dignity. Such an error would lead someone to conclude that all issues have equal weight. For example, a politician might say in effect to Catholic voters, ” Well, I ‘ m with you on raising the minimum wage, so can’t you cut me some slack on abortion and physician-assisted suicide? ”
The second error to be avoided consists of reducing Catholic moral and social teaching to one or two issues, and refusing to be concerned about a wide range of issues. ” Faithful Citizenship ” states quite forthrightly: “Racism and other unjust discrimination, torture, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger and lack of health care, or unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns that can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on those issues. “