“We reject the idea that candidates satisfy the requirements of rational analysis in saying their personal views should not influence their policy decisions; the implied dichotomy — between personal morality and public policy — is simply not tenable in any adequate view of both.” Thus spoke Bishop James Malone, president of the U.S. Catholic Conference in an August 9 statement authorized by the USCC Executive Committee. The statement came in the midst of a growing and heated debate on the relationship between religion and public policy. The Malone statement acknowledged that on some issues there is room for legitimate disagreement as to how shared moral convictions should be applied to public policy. But, it said, with respect to the direct killing of innocent human life, by abortion or by direct attacks on innocent non-combatants in war, “our views are not simply policy statements of a particular Catholic organization, the U.S. Catholic Conference. They are a direct affirmation of the constant moral teaching of the Catholic Church, enunciated repeatedly over the centuries, as in our day, by the highest teaching authority of the church.” The statement was careful to point out, however, that “As an agency of the Catholic bishops of the United States, the U.S. Catholic Conference speaks on public- policy issues, but it does not take positions for or against political candidates.”
We asked the following contributors to comment on the statement by Bishop Malone. Their reflections provide a variety of perspectives which we hope will prove useful in clarifying the issues at stake, distinctions to be made, boundaries to be drawn, and principles to be defended.
— The Editors