Bishop Outlines Norms For “Faithful Citizenship”

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn delivered an address at the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn’s annual dinner that drew on the guidance o political issues contained in the U.S. Bishops’ 2007 document.  “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.”

The Bishop told the 500 guests that a :hierarchy of values” existed, explaining that not all political issues are of equal value.  Saying that “our faith must inform our political decisions,” he said catholic voters were obliged to distinguish “between moral evil and matters of prudential judgment.”

As chairman of the Bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee, Bishop DiMarzio headed a committee of chairman of other USCCB committees that drafted the document, which was prepared in an effort to form consciences, not make decisions for voters.  It was issued last November.

In his talk, the Bishop referred primarily to New York State issues.  Pointing to pro-abortion legislation proposed by Govenor Elio Spitzer, the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act (RHAPP), he said it would legalize partial-birth abortion, a procedure which he noted the late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan described as “near- infanticide.” The Bishop called it “a most radical abortion bill.”

He went on to say that the measure would “disenfranchise parents of their right to play a central role in the most significant decisions of their most minor children “because it prohibits parental notification, and it would also expand access to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals “that destroy human life.”

“In our own country, despite significant victories that extend protection to the unborn, this modern slaughter of the Holy Innocents continues because of the policies of unscrupulous politicians,” he said.

“Only in circumstances that are extraordinarily hard to contemplate may a Catholic voter support a proponent of so great an intrinsic moral evil.” the Bishop said.

Bishop DiMarzio also questioned legislative efforts “that would undermine the family by redefining marriage.” He said that “pandering to a small but well-funded special interest group, our leadership in Albany would undermine the institution that is the bedrock of our society.”

Asserting that the business of government is to protect the common good, the Bishop asked how the state benefits by extending “the benefits of marriage” to same-sex couples.

On the issue of tax credits for the parents of children who attend non-public schools, which he strongly endorses, the Bishop said the 15 percent of children in the state who attend those schools save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.  Yet, he said, “the working poor Catholic families of our state and Diocese that are making a contribution to the common good continue to be disenfranchised.”

In contrast to a moral evil, a position on educational tax credits is a matter of prudential judgment.  “People of good faith are free to disagree,” he said.  “The Church doesn’t say that people can’t take the wrong position, the Church only says you cannot take a position that will promote immortality.”

The Bishop also addressed the subprime mortgage crisis that has resulted in a sharp rise in home foreclosures.  “We in the Diocese are committed to working with elected officials to assist those in jeopardy of losing their home,” he said.

Stating that the Diocese is also committed to ensuring that housing is affordable for working families, the Bishop said this and similar issues “are important and must be considered by voters.”

Turning to the war in Iraq, Bishop DiMarzio said Pope Benedict XVI “has made no secret of his personal opposition” to the conflict, “in which 4,000 servicemen and servicewoman have died, 50,000 have been wounded and the lives of tens of thousands, perhaps even a hundred thousand, Iraqis have been crushed.”  Many theologians content that a preemptive war cannot be justified in Catholic teaching, he said.

The curent debate over surges, or withdrawing of troops, or timetables for withdrawal, however, “is a matter of prudential judgement,” he said.

In viewing the range of issues elected officials and candidates might take on the national and local levels, Bishop DiMarzio said that support for anyone who “espouses policies that are gravely immoral” is possible” “only under exceptional circumstances that are hard to imagine.”

The “Faithful Citizenship” document urges Catholics to participate in public life and help shape society.  In specific terms, the Bishop urged Catholics to “register voters, knock on doors and be generous in your contributions to candidates and those institutions that will ensure our voice is heard.  There is so much at stake that we cannot afford to sit on our hands.”

Frank J. Keating, president of the Cathedral Club, founded in 1900, encouraged the dinner guests to join a recently-formed group, the Catholic Citizens Committee, described in a brochure as “grassroots organization of Americans who want to see Catholics and our Church treated—by government and politicians, the media and society in general.”

He said further information was available from its Web Site:

The dinner, held at the New York Hilton Feb. 7, honored Arthur J. Mirante II, president of Global Client Development for Cushman and Wakefield, NC., the real estate firm. The guests were also addresses by Edward D. Mullins, president of the New York Police Sergeants Development Association.