New Directives/Election Year
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference
April 2008

Three years ago, following the death of Terri Schiavo and the renewed attention subsequently given to health care decision-making, the North Dakota Catholic Conference published a new Catholic health care directive.

The document came at the direction of the bishops and incorporated the advice of health care providers, ethicists, lawyers, chaplains, and laypersons. The resulting directive was unprecedented in its size for an advance directive reflecting North Dakota law. It was only two pages! Most health care directives in North Dakota are at least eight pages long.

The Catholic health care directive prepared by the North Dakota Catholic Conference has proved successful. Thousands have been requested and sent out from our office. Other state Catholic conferences and diocese have used the documents as a model for their own advance directives.

We have now revised the Catholic health care directive. Don’t worry if you used the 2005 version. It is still good. The new version merely incorporates some facts we learned during the last three years, makes it more user-friendly, and even a little shorter.

The conference has also prepared a new website to make requesting the directives easier. You can view, download, or order copies of the directive in various sizes. You can also download or order a non-Catholic version of the directive. It has the same ethical principles, but without the Catholic specific references. Check it out at:

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We are still seven months from the general election, but the North Dakota Catholic Conference is getting requests for voter education material.

Every election year, the conference publishes a voter “issues card.” The small bookmark size card discusses voting responsibility and lists important issues to guide your voting decisions. As in past years, the card will not be available until late summer.

In the meantime, we encourage parishioners to take a look at
Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship. This statement discusses important principles for forming our consciences so that our political decisions conform to our faith. Copies of the statement and other useful material are available at Call our office if you cannot get it online.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference will also set up an election information website where you can get all the relevant documents and find links to information on the issues, Catholic social teaching and voting.

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All the election-related information made available through the Catholic Church is non-partisan and will not support or oppose any political candidate or political party. This neutrality is not just required by law. It is also the pastoral policy of the bishops of North Dakota.

In March, both Bishop Samuel Aquila and Bishop Paul Zipfel reaffirmed their policies that voter guides that mention or discuss candidates or political parties in any way are not permitted for distribution in the parishes. While this may seem as a hindrance to some, it actually frees the bishops and priests to focus on the Church’s teachings as they relate to the important issues of the day.

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The state’s Catholic health care providers will gather on October 14 for their annual conference. Unlike other states, where only one or few entities own and operate the Catholic facilities, North Dakota’s facilities are owned and operated by several different entities. The annual conference is the only opportunity they have to gather in one place.

This year’s Catholic health care workshop will focus on applying Catholic ethics to financial and management decisions and will take place in Bismarck.