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Bishop Robert McElroy on Conscience

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

In a talk yesterday on the engagement of the Catholic conscience with American public life, Robert McElroy of the San Francisco Diocese reviewed three dimensions of conscience that, he argued, should frame our understanding about our role as citiznes:

The Motivational Level: McElroy urged his audience to examine what motivates them in their political lives, to determine whether tribalism or self-interest were at the heart of their motivation or whether they were striving to be an instrument for attaining the common good.

The Directive Level: McElroy identified key social teachings of the Church that should inform conscience, including:

  • The right to life and the dignity of the human person
  • The enhancement of family life
  • human rights
  • The option for the poor and the vulnerable
  • The dignity of work and the rights of workers
  • Solidarity
  • Caring for God's creation

The Deliberative Level: McElroy pointed out that these key aspects of Catholic social teaching "bisect American politics."  Republicans, he said, tend to focus on the right to life and family values; Democrats are in sympathy with the option for the poor and the concern with the environment

To McElroy, voting is a moral act.  It's not an endorsement of a candidate's entire platform; it's an assessment, using conscience, of what person will best advance the common good in the particular situation they face.

McElroy's talk is available here as a podcast.




Tags: conscience