The statement about faith and politics issued this week by the US Catholic bishops is intriguing.
"We bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote," the new statement said. "Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences."
So far so good, after all helping inform the conscience of adherents to the faith is the core activity of any religion. The problem is that later in the statement the bishops stress that voters must consider the church's teachings on abortion and other moral issues when they select a candidate for the White House or any other office. If they don't, bishops said, it's not clergy who will judge them but God.
The reality is that life is more complicated that this. What if you favour a candidate who supports the present legal framework for abortion but is opposed to the death penalty, against the war in Iraq and in favour of stem cell research? Would voting for such a candidate really put my chances of eternal salvation at risk?