October 21, 2008
The October 21 article entitled “Bishop urges Catholics to stay away from Obama” in the Herald News presented conclusions that may have misled readers in a way that was not intended by my October 9 column in our diocesan newspaper, The Beacon. As a bishop, my obligation is to teach based upon the message of Jesus and the insights of the Church developed over the centuries. No politician is a spokesperson for the Church or an advocate for everything that the Church teaches about an abiding reverence for life. The Church’s role is to teach about life and to invite Catholics and other persons of good will to consider the moral implications of the various issues being discussed in the presidential campaign. This was my intention in addressing the troubling situation in which some politicians support The Freedom of Choice Act.
The Catholic Church has a comprehensive approach to life issues. We are against abortion, euthanasia, and all issues that do not respect the dignity and worth of all human life. As the Bishops of our country explained in their November 2007 document, Faithful Citizenship: A Matter of Conscience:
“Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.”
As the Bishop of the Paterson Diocese, I will never tell Catholics to support a particular candidate. As a private citizen, I will go into the voting booth considering the moral teachings of the Church and the prayerful conclusions of my conscience. This is what I invite all Catholics to do, as well as all those who want to work for the common good.
Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D., S.S.L., D.D.
Bishop of the Diocese of Paterson
"The characterization that Bishop Serratelli’s column intervened in the election process is inaccurate. His October 9 column was not directed to the upcoming presidential election, but was rather totally focused on the Freedom of Choice Act and the harm it would do to the nation if it were to be signed into law. It’s absolutely, positively misleading to say that the bishop urged Catholics not to vote for Sen. Obama. All the bishop did was to point out that in a speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, Sen. Obama made the promise that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.
In addition to his column, the bishop sent a letter on October14 to all pastors in the diocese to be published in the parish bulletins in which he asked the people to read his column and call or write to their elected representatives about the Freedom of Choice Act. He did not make any statement about voting for or against a candidate."