One would assume this to be a positive turn in events for all those of the Catholic faith who have wondered about their belief system in regards to abortion.

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops approved principles this week to guide Catholics in choosing whom to vote for, and parting from some past perspectives, leaving the door open for them to back candidates who support abortion rights.

Nearly all the bishops approved this document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” This broad consensus may help the Catholic church avoid the schism that occurred in 2004, church experts said, when some conservative Catholic groups declared voting guidelines identifying abortion as “non-negotiable.” A group of bishops touched off a debate about whether Catholic candidates who support abortion rights should be denied holy Communion.

Past documents did allow Catholics to vote for candidates who support abortion rights.

The issue has received renewed interest this year with the Republican candidacy of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and a Catholic. He has supported abortion rights.

The set of principles discusses “intrinsic evils” and defends them as actions that “must always be rejected and opposed.”

Abortion is among a few evils greater than others, the document asserts. But it also concedes that Catholics face difficult decisions when voting and in some cases might be able to vote for those who support abortion rights or stem cell research. “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons,” the document says.

It is difficult for this author to understand how one could vote for a candidate with a belief system which in their minds contains an act that is as horrific as any abhorrent act can be.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been issuing reflections on how the church’s moral teachings could shape Catholics’ political decisions since the 1970’s. This was the first time that an open discussion was held. The approximately 300 bishops had a chance to vote for it.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee, that pulled together this document, said it was not aimed at the candidates.

Rather, it is “a summary of Catholic teaching,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “It offers a basic moral framework on what it means to be a Catholic and American, a believer and a voter in this coming election year.”

The set of principles will be issued as an insert that priests can put into a Sunday bulletin, but its dissemination is not mandatory, Bishop DiMarzio said.

The document seemed to offer flexability for a variety of belief systems which is unusual since the Pope’s position is fairly precise on the point. The Rev. Frank Pavone of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life said he was pleased with it. Catholics, whom abortion is not the sole issue when voting, have also been given freedom to maneuver around the issue.

“Can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who is pro-choice?” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “What they are saying is, ‘Yes.’”

Cardinal George has close ties to the Vatican and will be host to Pope Benedict XVI on his trip to the United States in April. But the cardinal has recently come under fire because of two cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests that occurred during his tenure. Yet another blemish for the beleaguered church and it’s rank of pedophilic patriarchs. An ironic twist. Victims’ rights groups have asserted that Cardinal George failed to act quickly enough to remove the priests once accusations surfaced. This was mentioned as a side note to the issue of conscience and morality, which lay at the core of the proposition.