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Parish involvement in faithful citizenship efforts can range from simple bulletin or pulpit announcements to full voter registration campaigns and extensive distribution of voter education materials. The best efforts will be those integrated into ongoing parish activities and resources such as Sunday worship, school and religious education programs, weekly bulletins, and meetings of parish organizations.
Whatever level of involvement you choose, it is important to discuss this effort with the parish council and parish staff. You may want to use the Faithful Citizenship videos to introduce the bishops’ statement. Then discuss how you might best share this message in your parish. Who should be in charge of the effort? The pastor? The parish council? The social concerns committee? A special committee? A designated member of the parish? That person or group can develop a plan for parish faithful citizenship activities, and identify how the plan fits the civic responsibility guidelines outlined below. If developed by a designated parishioner or committee, the plan can then be brought to the pastor and the parish council for review and approval. Diocesan social action offices and other diocesan offices can be helpful as you develop your plan, and can provide local resources and advice. Other efforts you may want to consider:
Download and distribute the resources to the appropriate parish leaders, and urge them to integrate the message of Faithful Citizenship into parish activities.
Choose a week to distribute The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship bulletin inserts at all Masses and parish gatherings.
Periodically include in your bulletin short excerpts from Faithful Citizenship.
Invite your diocesan social action director or other diocesan leaders to a special adult education session to give a presentation on Catholic teaching about participation in public life.
Offer a training session for catechists on how they can incorporate the message of Faithful Citizenship into their lesson plans.
Focus an in-service day or faculty meeting for parish school teachers on the message of Faithful Citizenship, and how it can be woven into school activities.
Preach on the importance of be “faithful citizens.”
Conduct non-partisan voter registration drives after Masses on one or more Sundays.
Periodically include in the general intercessions prayers for those elected and for all who exercise their rights and duties as citizens.
Conduct a sign-up for a diocesan or state legislative network and encourage parishioners to participate in advocacy efforts (contact your diocesan social action office or state Catholic conference for information).
Distribute non-partisan candidate surveys if they are made available by your diocese or state Catholic conference.
Organize non-partisan candidate forums (see the tips for conducting voter education campaigns).
Parishes and other Catholic organizations that are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are prohibited from intervening in political campaigns. As a result, certain political activities that would be appropriate for individuals should not be undertaken by Catholic organizations or their representatives. The USCCB Office of General Counsel (202-541-3300) provides detailed guidance on what is allowed and not allowed under the law. Many dioceses and state Catholic conferences also provide resources for use by parishes and other Catholic organizations.
Parishes are often asked by candidates or political groups for permission to speak or distribute literature. Many parishes choose to distribute only Faithful Citizenship,materials distributed by their diocese, their state Catholic conference, or the USCCB. To avoid violating the political campaign intervention prohibition, you should seek the advice of your diocesan attorney or state Catholic conference before giving permission for the distribution of literature or providing the opportunity for candidates to speak.
These, along with other USCCB resources, and the advice and materials provided by your diocese and your state Catholic conference, can help you remain non-partisan and maintain consistency with Catholic teaching.
According to the USCCB Office of General Counsel, certain activities generally are appropriate for parishes and other Catholic organizations:
In order to avoid violating the political campaign intervention prohibition, parishes, other Church organizations, and their representatives should remember these guidelines:
While it is important to be clear about what we can’t do, the most important thing to focus on is what we can do. In a democracy, loving our neighbor and caring for the least among us means supporting leaders and policies that promote the common good and protect society’s most vulnerable members. Helping Catholics recognize and act on this dimension of their faith is an essential task for parish leaders.
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