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2005 Bernardin Conference
Religion, Law, and Politics

9th Annual Conference   |  March 4-6, 2005  |  Arlington, Virginia

Conference Description:

The 2004 presidential election raised questions about the role of religion in public life with a new urgency. For the Catholic Church, those issues proved contentious and, at times, divisive for both leaders and people in the pews. Catholic bishops reached different conclusions about the morality of voting for each candidate and they expressed those differences in public forums ranging from pastoral letters within the diocese, to press releases, to letters to the editor of major national newspapers.

The USCCB administrative committee had approved their quadrennial Faithful Citizenship document in September 2003, but some bishops believe that the gravity of some moral issues, especially abortion, demanded a clearer focus and greater priority. Ongoing disagreements led some bishops to consult the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and to ask for guidance from Rome. Appeals to higher authorities, however, whether those of individual Catholics looking to the bishops, or the U. S. bishops’ conference looking to Rome, did not settle these issues.

After the heat of the campaign, the Catholic Common Ground Initiative chose to sponsor a dialogue on questions that were raised about the relationship of religion and politics.

The goal of the conference was to articulate foundational areas of agreement which were obscured by the polemics on this topic.  The participants explored and articulated areas of disagreement and identified areas that needed further reflection and dialogue.

Readings and Resources:

Church Teaching

Statistical Information


  • Exit Poll Data and Common Ground: The 2004 Presidential Election and the New Political Situation
    Dr. James R. Kelly
    Fordham University, Bronx, NY
  • American Catholic Political Traditions
    Dr. David J. O’Brien
    College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
  •  How Views of Law Influence the Pro-Life Movement
    M. Kathleen Kaveny

Web Resources