Joint Statement of the Bishops of Dallas and Forth Worth, USA

From the Bishops of Dallas and Forth Worth in Texas.

Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell, Bishop of Dallas and Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Fort Worthare on the issues.

They have issued a joint statement.   Here it is in SPANISH.

This is from the hated PDF format.

Office of the Bishop Office of the Bishop
Diocese of Dallas Diocese of Fort Worth
October 8, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The month of October is Respect Life Month in our churches. It is a time in which we as Catholics are called to reflect upon the gift of life that has been entrusted to us by our Creator and to focus our attention on the many
attacks against human life that exist in our culture today. This year, Respect Life Month takes on a more profound meaning as we face an election in our country where the protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake. Therefore, as your Bishops, we wish to take this opportunity to provide clear guidance on the proper formation of conscience concerning voting as faithful Catholics and to articulate the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues as they relate to other issues of concern.

The Church teaches that all Catholics should participate as “faithful citizens” in the public square, especially through our voice in the voting booth, and that we have the responsibility to treat the decision for whom we will vote
for with profound moral seriousness. We must approach the right and duty to vote with a properly formed and informed conscience in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today. Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation concerning this teaching.

1. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence. Some  issues involve “intrinsic evils”; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified. Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states:

“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.” (22)

2. The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good. As Pope John Paul II clearly states:

“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…” (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)

3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the “only issue” – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost. Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion. Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research. In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders. This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation. As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished.

4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”

As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states:

“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. It must always be opposed.” (28)

5. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following: [PAY ATTENTION]

a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,

b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning,  there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year. [Get that?] To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible. [There it is.]

6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation. [I am so glad they added this.  Our decisions to cooperate with evil, fight evil, strive to limit evil, remain apathetic in the face of evil, call evils good, tell people evils are good, etc…. these affect not just our neighborhoods, countries and cultures, they affect our membership in the Kingdom of God, reclaimed for us by Christ.  We can lose what Christ won for us by our actions and inactions.]  As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils. May God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell
Bishop of Dallas

Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann
Bishop of Fort Worth


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  1. TJM says:

    Very forceful, indeed. They provide no “seamless garment” smokescreen. Bishops Farrell and Vann are to be commended. Tom

  2. Clarity from bishops is what we need. This letter is clear. Both these bishops are acting as bishops should. May God strengthen them and reward them. Let us pray that other bishops are as straight forward.

  3. MS says:

    Sorry, thought I attached it in Word also?

  4. Patrick T. says:

    The key line here is this:

    “To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.”

    To my knowledge, this is the first time any bishops have taken this extra step. Others have come close, but no one has gone this far. This essentially says it is morally impermissible to vote for Obama in this current presidential election.

    Great stuff…God bless Bishops Farrell and Vann!

  5. TJM says:

    Friends, don’t forget to vote. The media is working very hard through push polls and “newstories” to discourage the anti-Obama forces and
    keep them at home on election day. Tom

  6. Matthew M. says:

    Father Z.
    with regard to PDF files, you can usually select the text from them and copy it into another document. [Yes. I know that. Let’s not do this again.]

  7. William of the Old says:

    At the other end of the spectrum, there is a posting today on Whispers in the Loggia entitled, Barack’s Bishop:

  8. Brian Day says:

    This sentence has me scratching my head:

    Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. (bolding is mine)

    Racial discrimination is wrong, but does it rise to the level of intrinsic evil? Up until now, I would have thought not.

    Otherwise a very strong letter.

  9. Carl says:

    It is very encouraging to see bishops who are not afraid to proclaim the Truth. I am proud to have had H.E. Bishop Farrell as coadj. bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington. May Our Lady’s prayers protect him and shower all of our Lord’s blessings upon him.

  10. Brian says:

    Thank you Bishops for your your straightforward presentation of the “Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues” as they relate to voting and abortion, “the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years.”

    This presentation is focused, coherent, and air tight. How could any Catholic reading this justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate when there is a pro-life alternative?

    The Bishops have given fair warning, “the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation.”

  11. paul says:

    These bishops are truly good- would that more bishops started to speak up for the rights of God and and our fellow man (including the unborn).

  12. An intrinsic evil is one that is wrong under all circumstances because of its very nature, not circumstances or intention. I would say that racial discrimination (to treat someone unjustly merely because of race) would fall under that rubric.

  13. Cornelius says:

    Brian – ” . . . public policies permitting . . . racial discrimination . . .”

    Good catch. This is mystifying. While I prescind from your question of whether racial discrimination is an intrinsic evil or not, I’m not aware of any policies promoted by either candidate that legalize, endorse, or permit “racial discrimination”.

    These days, “racial discrimination” is largely in the eye of the beholder. For instance, laws requiring banks to grant home loans without regard to race or ethnicity might be regarded by some as racially discriminatory if they result in a disproportionate number of loans being given to one race (or denied to one race).

    It seems to me that, except in the most obvious of cases (e.g., Jim Crow laws), this statement of the Bishops opens up a Pandora’s box of clashing prudential judgments.

  14. Flambeaux says:

    IIRC, support for racial segregation was sufficient grounds for Archbp. Rummell to excommunicate several prominent Catholics in LA in 1962. Among his supporting documentation were declarations by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore and repeated papal declarations of the evil of racial segregation.

  15. Brian Day says:


    I return the compliment. Yes, my question was whether or not racial discrimination rises to the level of intrinsic evil. (And I am leaning towards Fr Thompson’s explanation.)

    I don’t want to chase down a rabbit hole, but I wonder if affirmative action also falls into the racial discrimination category? Your Pandora’s box analogy is apt.

  16. ckdexterhaven says:

    Think of how many hearts could be changed if even just one American bishop took to the airwaves and provided moral guidance. Look at what Bishop Sheen did in the 50’s! Our bishops are losing a golden opportunity to point to Truth.

  17. David Kastel says:

    Everyone vote for the guy who approved of Ginsburg and Breyer for the Supreme Court or else you lose your eternal salvation. Voting for a candidate who votes to keep abortion legal is a mortal sin! (This is completely laughable – the only time since V2 that any bishop has mentioned the possibility of damnation and it is with regard to an election.)

    But – get this – the candidate himself (whether Biden, Giuliani, Pelosi, etc.) is not guilty of mortal sin for his vote (presumably) since if he were he would be excommunicated latae sententiae, as per canon law regarding those who participate in abortion, and they would have to be denied communion. How is it possible that those who participate “tertiarily” in abortion (by voting for the pro-choicer) more guilty than those who participate secondarily (the pro-choice politicians themselves?)

  18. David Kastel says:

    We should not take action on the bishops words until their own actions conform with their words. If pro-choice votes amount to participation in abortion, then they have to deny communion to those who publicly vote for abortion.

    As it is, the bishops themselves are committing a grave sacrilege, as well as directly violating canon law, every time they give communion, or allow their priests to give communion to the pro-choice politicians. They need to remove the beam from their own eyes.

    Do as I say, not as I do…

  19. David2 says:

    David Kastel,

    You miss the point entirely and your analysis is bunk.

    Obama, Biden, et al are sinning by supporting “aborion rights”; if it’s done deliberately with full knowledge of the Church’s position (and how could they not know not?). You are mixing up sin and canonical penalty – two entirely different, though related, things.

    To advocate or support “abortion rights” is a grave sin. The excommunication [Can 1938) applies only to a person “who procures a completed abortion”.

    Pelosi, Biden et all, however should be refused Communion as persons “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” under Canon 915.

    I don’t see how this is laughable at all; laughable for the Church to hold a consistent position?

    Please do not mislead people with specious “analysis” ?

  20. David2 says:

    And David Kastel,

    The Bishops should deny Communion.

    You can’t excuse flouting the moral law because “the Bishops aren’t upholding the law properly”. I cannot excuse my own sin on the basis that the world is full of sinners…

    That is infantile, and clearly wrong.

  21. Let us not forget that two wrongs do not make a right.

    Also, if two candidates do not have perfect positions, we must opt for the better of the two.

  22. Clear teaching, now if that 5b paragraph was included in the Faithful Citizenship document…but it’s great to see more Bishops’ getting on the ball.

  23. Justin Messer says:


    What would this mean about Third party candidates and supporting them. The above article aimplies strictly a choice between the two top parties in he USA.

  24. Fr W says:

    While this letter is marvelous and strong, I continue to scratch my head about the moral reasoning the bishops are using. There are many things that are intrinsic evils: contraception is an intrinsic evil, lying is an intrinsic evil. Yet in the political sphere, these do not rise to the level of show-stoppers. It seems that it is not because they fall into the category of intrinsic evils that abortion and euthanasia are show-stoppers, but rather because they are so heinous.

  25. Hettie B. says:

    It’s so wonderful to receive this statement from my local bishops!

  26. J. C. Oberholzer says:

    From 5b: To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.

    Why cannot bishops say the words, “morally impermissible and therefore mortally sinful, requiring a good confession before Communion, as well as before death to avoid hellfire?”

  27. Nathan says:

    All, it appears that the good bishops’ words are getting some attention where needed. From the Dallas Morning News, via The Curt Jester:

    “The bishops’ letter was distributed or read at parishes across the Diocese of Dallas this weekend. The Fort Worth Diocese is distributing the letter through its newspaper, which is being mailed to all registered Catholic families in the diocese.

    Nicole LeBlanc said several people at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas walked out during the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass when the letter was read at the time usually reserved for a homily.

    Ms. LeBlanc, an Obama supporter, said she, too, was upset.

    “As a Catholic, we’re taught about being independent moral agents with free will,” she said. “That letter from the bishops is basically telling us that if we vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights, we are basically immoral and our souls are imperiled.”

    In Christ,

  28. TJM says:

    Maybe Ms. LeBlanc should decide whether her Faith means more to her than her political party. I was a Democratic Party official at one
    time but left the Party over this issue. The people who walked out of Mass sound childish. Hell, I’d be walking out every week, if hearing
    what I wanted to hear was the criterion for staying through Mass. My pastor is both a liturgical and political lefty. I guess I should mimic the liberals and just walk out in a snit. Tom

  29. Trey says:

    David, as I think some pointed out above, mortal sin does not equate to excommunication. If it did… well, we wouldn’t have many Catholics left!!! Knowledge of unconfessed mortal sin requires us not to receive the Eucharist so as not to profane it, and cause a sacrilige. That is not the same as excommunication.

    The sad thing is that at least 1/2 of Catholics will likely ignore this and vote pro-choice. And lots are listening to “Catholic” theologians and pastors – not just politicians – who openly dispute the truth of this document. I think we should take David up and start some excommunicating, but then, perhaps that is yet one more reason why I’m not “in charge.”

  30. Nick says:

    These bishops are coming uncomfortably close to violating the 2009 Freedom from Hate Speech Act —

  31. John says:

    Apparently we need more bishops named Kevin. One website explains the name comes from Kenneth which in old Gaelic could mean “born of fire.”

  32. Patrick says:

    In the context of this upcoming election for President, is it morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for Obama?

    Many have made the case that it is. Can you please explain why it is not, if it is not?

    Thank you

  33. Jordanes says:

    Off on a tangent: Actually “Kevin” is the Gaelic name “Coemgen,” which means “handsome beloved” — boys named Kevin are under the patronage of St. Kevin of Glendalough. “Kenneth” is an Anglicisation of the Gaelic names “Cinaeth” (said to mean “born of fire,” though I have my doubts) and “Cainnech” (“handsome”).

  34. TJM says:

    Patrick, he’s for the “Minimum Wage” the holies of holies of liberals. I guess it doesn’t matter the aborted baby don’t get a shot at it. Tom

  35. David says:

    Obama and McCain both accept that the Court has upheld Roe v Wade for 40 years, and neither would choose to ignore the Court and tell the states it is ok to enforce their abortion laws.

    Neither can change the (unjust) law and neither will ignore it, as would be just. To vote for either on the abortion issue is equally bad as a practical matter, since neither will do the good that they must do.

    The Church has always taught that unjust commands (including those of courts) need not be obeyed. Why don’t the bishops mention that to us and to these pro-choice politicians???

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