In November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops held their annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.  Unfortunately, the document they produced, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” is both disheartening and, frankly, politically useless.

The bishops tell the reader that “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many.”  This statement is in paragraph 28 and is welcomed by all of us who toil in the pro-life vineyard.

However, in paragraph 42, they contradict themselves by saying, “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters.  A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.  Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”

How can shepherds of the Catholic Church equate abortion and racism?  Could it be that a hateful attitude and an act of direct murder are equally evil in Church teaching?  Where is that written?

And why, pray tell, would the bishops suggest to us that support for such an evil “may legitimately lead a voter . . . ”?  Does that mean that a Catholic could cast a vote for someone who supports such an evil?

Then again, if you thought that the paragraph I just cited is as bad as it gets, you would be woefully incorrect.  There’s more.

In paragraph 64, the bishops say, “Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed”; but in paragraph 32, they already said that “incremental improvements in the law” can be acceptable.  That has to be one of the most politically motivated sentences in the document.  It left me wondering if those “incremental improvements” could include exceptions such as rape, incest, and life of the mother, which are nothing more than reasons to kill certain preborn children.  But let’s face it: The bishops have supported such exceptions for years.

The bishops further state in paragraph 33 that “prudential judgment is also needed in applying moral principles to specific policy choices in areas such as the war in Iraq, housing, health care, immigration and others.”  Are we to conclude that these other issues are of equal moral value in determining how a Catholic should vote?

Well, here is your answer.  In paragraph 34, the bishops state that “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.”  But they continue in the same paragraph to instruct that, “At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”

If you are now totally confused about what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is telling the faithful about the political process and how to form a proper conscience before casting a vote for a particular politician, join the club!  Clearly, the bishops do not place at the top of their agenda the murder of innocent preborn babies and the supremacy that this morally evil act should take in deciding for whom to vote.  Clearly, they want the faithful to view killing the preborn as just another political issue, even though they say it is intrinsically evil, which, of course, it is.

I am disgusted with this statement.  Indeed, abortion is mentioned 15 times; but war is mentioned 21 times, and poverty is mentioned 17 times—and the word murder is not mentioned in connection with abortion once.

As my friend Phil Lawler put it, “Quoting that statement, and citing the list of causes that runs on (and on and on and on) in the USCCB statement, a Catholic voter could attempt to justify support for a candidate who favors unrestricted legal abortion and same-sex marriage, explaining that his favored candidate takes the right stand on such ‘morally grave’ issues as gun control, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, global warming, Medicare and Medicaid, teachers’ salaries, or immigration.”