Pax Christi is urging a “seamless garment’ approach to the US presidential vote and a focus on issues as “equally sacred” for Catholics as the opposition to abortion.

– There are other “issues of seriousness and importance for people of faith”

The Catholic non-violence and just peace movement released “with urgency” September 16 a “statement of principles” it said was designed as “to inform the decisions that our members, partners, and all people of conscience will make” in the 2020 US presidential elections.

“The leaders we choose will impact people in the United States and many others around the world. Therefore it is incumbent that we elect leaders with the values, character and integrity required to serve our communities”, Pax Christi said in its presentation of the document.

Though the movement said its principles for voting had been shaped by “our deep trust in the gospel message of Jesus” and by “the transformational principles of Catholic Social Teaching”, the document notably contains no reference to abortion, a wedge issue that continues to divide Catholics in the run-up to the presidential poll.

In response to a question about why it had not included opposition to abortion as one of its principles for Catholic voters, Pax Christi USA pointed to a 1981 statement that it renewed in 1989, 2001 and 2011 in which the organisation sets out its commitment to a “consistent ethic of life [that] opposes not only abortion, but also the death penalty, war, the nuclear arms race and anything that threatens life”.

However, Pax Christi USA said that it chose in its statement of principles for the 2020 elections “to concentrate on some of the issues that Pope Francis has said are ‘equally sacred’ as issues of seriousness and importance for people of faith and yet are not framed as issues central to our identity as Catholics in the way the hierarchy has raised up issues around the sanctity of life”.

Having said that, the peace movement clarified that it would be adding more election resources to its website in coming days.

– “What is foundational to every decision we make is our responsibility to love God through loving our neighbor”

What, then, does the Pax Christi statement of principles for the 2020 elections contain, if not the opposition to abortion that some Catholics have made the defining issue of the campaign?

Framing its engagement in these presidential elections as being “guided by a spirituality of nonviolence, our history as peacemakers, and a commitment to work for that justice which affirms the dignity of all human beings, individually and collectively, and assures peace for all creation”, Pax Christi set out a series of 18 points to help guide voters on issues as diverse as the legacy of slavery and racial justice, immigration, climate change and militarism.

Each of Pax Christi’s principles for voters, the group said, is shaped by a “discernment of the current signs of the times” in the light of “our commitment to follow in the footsteps and example of Jesus – born to a people suffering oppression, forced to cross borders as a refugee, devoted to supporting the struggles of marginalized peoples, persecuted and violently killed by the ruling Empire”.

Pax Christi insisted that its statement is intended “to be a living document, one open to the discernment and dialogue to which the future calls us”, but one nonetheless borne out of a conviction “that what is foundational to every decision we make is our responsibility to love God through loving our neighbor, both near and far, with a preferential option for those who are impoverished”.

Presenting its document, Pax Christi appealed to voters in the forthcoming elections that they keep in mind the necessity of “applying the gospel message to our common life together as one people, within and outside current borders”.

Full text of the Pax Christi statement of principles:

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.