A diverse group of prominent lay Catholics - including 11 former ambassadors and former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic National Committees - have called for a more civil tone to replace the 'divisive rhetoric and partisan attacks that define' national political debates in the US.
They have also urged that catholics resist attempts to use the Catholic Church as a political tool.
The leaders in law, politics and religion released the statement, A Catholic Call to Observe Civility in Political Debate, at a news conference at the National Press Club yesterday.
Ambassador Thomas P. Melady, the former US Ambassador to the Holy See and Timothy J. May, a Senior Partner with Patton Boggs LLP and Trustee Emeritus with the Catholic University of America, organized the statement.
"Civility should be a guiding principle in our public life," the statement says.
"Civility and its potential impact on the fabric of the Catholic Church should be of concern to all faithful Catholics, both clergy and lay people."
"The statement directly addresses controversies over Catholic politicians whose positions on various polarizing issues conflict or give the appearance of conflicting with Church teachings," said Ambassador Thomas P. Melady. "Some voices have been shrill. The language at times has been offensive. The level of dialogue and conversation in too many instances has not met the standards that one expects in a country trying to establish worldwide standards for all democracies."
It cautions Catholic politicians whose positions contradict Catholic teachings. "Catholic politicians who advertise their Catholicism as part of their political appeal, but ignore the Church's moral teachings in their political life confuse non-Catholics by giving the appearance of hypocrisy," it says. The statement urges lay Catholics to "avoid public statements that undermine the authority of the Church's leaders."
"As lay Catholics we should not exhort the Church to condemn our political opponents by publicly denying them Holy Communion based on pubic dissent from Church teachings," the statement reads. "An individual's fitness to receive communion is his or her personal responsibility. It is a bishop's responsibility to set for his diocese the guidelines for administering communion."
The document goes on to say that bishops and all involved in church leadership "should not permit the Church to be used, or appear to be used, as a partisan political tool."