ST. AUGUSTINE, September 28, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - Although Catholic voters have received mixed signals this election year from some prelates, Bishop Felipe Estévez has sent a clear message to the faithful of his diocese: human life and family issues have top priority when deciding for whom to vote.

In a letter to the Catholics of the diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, where Estévez presides, the newly-appointed bishop urges the faithful to “take your Catholic beliefs, values, and consciences into the voting booth with you.”

While refraining from specific political endorsements, Estévez notes that it is “my responsibility to remind you that, for us Catholics, some issues are simply never morally acceptable,” beginning with those that violate the right to life.

“The taking of an innocent human life, whether inside the womb or not, and up until natural death, is always and everywhere intrinsically evil,” the bishop writes. “Such issues as embryonic stem cell research and attempts at human cloning are also direct attacks against the dignity and uniqueness of human life made in the image of God.”

Moreover, Catholics have an obligation to defend the institution of marriage, the prelate observes, calling the dignity of traditional matrimony “of central importance” which “must never be undermined because marriage is a cornerstone of any stable society.”

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“Any attempts to re-define marriage as something other than between a man and a woman, should be vigorously opposed by a Catholic as contrary to reason, the natural law, and the divinely revealed truths of the Bible,” writes Estévez. “Beyond these fundamental issues, and closely related to them is the issue of religious liberty – our ability as Catholics to live our lives publically according to our faith and morals at all levels of society.

Although Estévez doesn’t specify any candidates in his recommendations, he explicitly calls for a “yes” vote on two proposed state constitutional amendments, numbers 6 and 8, which would prohibit public expenditures for abortion or abortion-related services, and which would allow state funding of faith-based organizations.

Estévez, 66, was installed as Bishop of San Augustine in June of 2011 following his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI to replace retiring bishop Victor Galeone. He was born in Cuba, and fled the communist and anti-Catholic regime of Fidel Castro through Operation Peter Pan in the early 1960s.