Every four years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes a report on how Catholics should think about important political issues in light of church teachings. The report typically discusses the relationship between religion and state, and hot-button issues such as marriage equality and abortion. The most recent edition of was released this week:

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have released a voter guide for the 2012 election that repeatedly calls abortion “evil” without making revisions that some conservatives had demanded for an even tighter focus on the issue.

The document, called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” is nearly identical to the bishops’ guide published four years ago. It gives high priority to fighting abortion while also highlighting social concerns such as ending poverty and war. Catholics make up about one-quarter of the electorate nationwide but do not vote as a bloc. Most don’t base their choice on a politician’s stand on abortion.

Yet as you might recall from my blog post on Sept. 12, a recent poll found that most Catholics apparently ignore this seemingly fundamental document:

A new poll of U.S. Catholics shows that just 16 percent have ever heard of the bishops’ document, and just 3 percent say they have read it.

Most worrisome for the bishops may be that three-quarters of those who were even aware of “Faithful Citizenship” say the document had “no influence at all” on the way they voted in 2008; 71 percent said it would have made no difference even if they had known about it.

Overall, just 4 percent of adult U.S. Catholics say the statement from the U.S. hierarchy either was a major influence, or would have been if they’d known about it.

Which basically means the Bishops have just wasted a good deal of time writing a report few people will read or care about.

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