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Voting as a Catholic Citizen
October, 2016
by Most Rev. David D. Kagan, Bishop of Bismarck

“Our votes as Catholic citizens have to focus on who and what protects human life and dignity and therefore, who will strengthen and advance the common good of us all. Take your well-formed Catholic conscience into the voting booth and then vote.” – Bishop David Kagan, Diocese of Bismarck

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

You may recall that four years ago in October, 2012, I wrote to you about the right and privilege we have as citizens to vote. I write again in this “Year of Mercy” that each Catholic citizen has that privilege and duty to participate in our Nation’s governing by the exercise of our constitutional right to vote in national, state and local elections. As your Bishop I urge you again to exercise this cherished right.

I will not tell you for whom you should vote nor will I tell you for whom I intend to vote. However, I ask you to vote as a Catholic citizen who has properly formed his or her conscience. A properly formed Catholic conscience does not contradict the defined truths of our Catholic Faith in matters of faith and morals. I wish to explain what this means in relation to the issues on which your votes will have a lasting impact.

What is “a properly formed Catholic conscience?” The Catechism says: “A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience” (1798). The Catholic Church’s teachings are the means for us to properly form our consciences so that we seek always what is objectively true and good.

At the heart of all Catholic moral and social teaching is a single fact: the respect given to an individual human person must always be first and must govern every law and action so that the person’s life and dignity is always and everywhere protected and defended. In other words, from the first moment of human conception to the last moment of life on earth, the person must be respected without exception.

For the reason, there are some actions that are never acceptable and should not be made so by law, they include: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and not recognizing the unique and special role of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

All the other social, economic, and political issues only gain importance from the fundamental issue of the respect for the individual person and the inviolability of each person’s life and God-given dignity.

If there is no respect for the life and dignity of each person from conception to natural death, then every other moral and social evil can be justified. 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 this election year the positions of the major political parties and their candidates are well known and advertised. What I ask each of you to do before you vote is to consider carefully what our Catholic Church teaches about the issues, and then consider how your vote for a particular candidate will contribute to the common good of us all as persons with that human dignity which must be respected and protected in all circumstances.

Ours is a representative form of government and those whom we elect therefore are supposed to represent us. When you vote, please, I ask you to vote for the candidates who represent you as Catholic citizens. This is easily discovered by reading the public statements and votes and observing the actions of the candidates. Our votes as Catholic citizens have to focus on who and what protects human life and dignity and therefore, who will strengthen and advance the common good of us all. Take your well-formed Catholic conscience into the voting booth and then vote.

I close with a timeless quote from Saint John Paul II. He wrote: “The common outcry which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination” (Christifideles Laici, 38).

May our Good God bless and guide us at this important moment and may Our Blessed Mother continue to intercede for us!

Sincerely yours in Christ,


The Most Reverend David D. Kagan
Bishop of Bismarck

Your Faith, Your Vote
Your Faith, Your Vote is a resource for Catholic and other voters of faith from the North Dakota Catholic Conference.


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The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.

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