The Catholic church, that is.
We’re probably all aware of the LDS Political Neutrality statement; periodically, we hear it read across the pulpit, and we can also read it here. It’s a fairly brief document, creating a skeleton of dos and don’ts. Essentially, the statement does two things: (1) it reminds us that the Church doesn’t endorse candidates (which position is likely a result, in part, of its desire to remain tax-exempt); and (2) encourages members to participate (through voting and running for elective office) in our communities.[fn1]
Ours is not the only viable model for a church’s addressing its congregants’ political life. The Catholic Bishops of the United States have also produced a document on the political responsibilities of Catholics; at 31 pages, I doubt it will be read at Mass, but it creates an interesting counterpoint to our Political Neutrality statement.
Though I’m not going to go through the whole document, on page 4, the Bishops describe their view of the duties of Catholics with regard to how their religious and political beliefs should interact:
As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths. We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a better world.
I like the idea of using our religion to transform the party, and not allowing the party to transform us. Moreover, on page 7, the Bishops grant that Catholics may use a diversity of methods to achieve their goals, as long as these methods address some essential goals:
Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.
A couple issues that the Bishops seem to find essential within this realm of human rights and dignity include abortion, racism, and genocide.[fn2] Ultimately, though, Catholics are to be guided by a “well-formed conscience” (p. 8) as they make their judgments in the political realm.
I agree with some of the aims that the Bishops promote and disagree with others, but I like the idea that we have a religious duty to create a more just and peaceful world, and that we need to be guided by a well-formed conscience as we figure out how to do so.
[fn1] They’ve also added a section about General Authorities not participating in political campaigns; I suspect, though, that the pulpit-letter won’t include this section, irrelevant as it is in most wards. I could, however, be wrong: we’ll see next year, I assume.
[fn2] I also like that the Bishops explicitly endorse the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit (23).