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Roman Catholic Church


The church's guidelines for
politicians & other believers

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bullet "Those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them." Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (2002) 1
bullet ''I believe in an America ... where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source.'' John F. Kennedy (1960) 2
bullet ''As a Catholic, I have enormous respect for the words and teachings of the Vatican, but as a public servant I've never forgotten the lasting legacy of President Kennedy, who made clear that in accordance with the separation of church and state no elected official should be 'limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual, or obligation.' I represent all the people of Massachusetts, and they expect me to speak with respect for all of their views and values.'' Senator John F. Kerry (2003) 3

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Political scientists have traditionally suggested two main theories governing how politicians should vote while in office. These two options have been debated for centuries without resolution:

bullet A politician should mainly follow the wishes of the majority in his constituency.
bullet A politician should thoroughly investigate every piece of legislation to the best of her/his ability, and decide  whether to support it, vote against it, or attempt to modify it in order to best serve the voters who elected him/her to office.

There are also practical considerations, such as the necessity of legislation to be legal under the constitution, and the need to conform to party lines.

Recent statements by the Roman Catholic Church seek to override these criteria with their own on those pieces of legislation which have a faith or moral component.

In some matters of personal choice, the Church goes beyond simply teaching its members what it regards to be moral and immoral. Like other faith groups, it promotes legislation that forces its position on its members, and the rest of the population. This is particularly evident in the area of human sexuality, where the Church seeks to reduce of eliminate access to birth control information, contraceptives themselves, the "morning after pill," fertility treatments, and abortion. It opposes equal right for gays, lesbians and bisexuals including the right to marry.

The Church expects that Catholic politicians and other Catholic adults are to follow the Church's expectations without deviation, where applicable, even though only a small minority of adults in their district or state are Roman Catholics, and even though most voters -- perhaps including most Roman Catholics -- may disagree with the church's stand.

However, in some cases, the Church fails to convince its members to follow the Church's teachings. If the person cannot be persuaded to conform, the Church may use force in the form of denial of communion or worse.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Introduction: Is it blackmail? Should the public vote for Catholic candidates?
bullet Major social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church
bullet History of Catholic presidential nominees
bullet Reports by the Vatican (2003) and Catholic Leadership Conference's (2005)
bullet Letter by the Vatican to U.S. bishops (2004)
bullet Threatening Catholic politicians and other believers with denial of communion and worse
bullet Punishment of Catholic politicians in Canada

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "Doctrinal note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life," Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002-NOV-24, at:
  2. J. F. Kennedy, "Address to Southern Baptist Leaders (1960)," U.S. State Department, at:
  3. "KENNEDY TO KERRY: Kerry, Catholics and the White House,", 2004-MAY-03, at:

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Copyright 2003 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-16
Latest update: 2007-AUG-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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