As I was trying to explain myself to the diocesan political guy in the second round of e-mails, it occurred to me that there is a fundamental problem with the way that many bishops have made the argument against voting for pro-abortion politicians. The arguments have been long, carefully crafted, and thoughtful. Nothing technically wrong with that, but I’m not sure how thoughtful we, as a nation, really are anymore.
As a result, the longer the statements get and the more nuance that is introduced (usually in an attempt to prove that Catholics aren’t really that most dreaded of epithets, the One Issue Voter), the more room for misinterpretation that is introduced.
Dissident (or confused) Catholics view wordy nuance in USCCB documents and bishops’ statements like most drivers around here view turnsignals: more as a sign of weakness than as helpful clarification.
I only did three statement highlights tonight; I’ll do more tomorrow. Right now, I have to go make a nice, large poster… I mean *sunscreen*… for the minivan with the most clear quote I can find from our bishop’s letter to display in the church parking lot tomorrow. Maybe it will jog a few consciences. I plan to go park in front of the parishes in a few of the more left-leaning areas of town, too. I’m not as brave as Randall Terry; I’d really rather not get arrested. (and if feels like wimping out to say that…) I want to believe that our priests and bishops want to provide good leadership; I’m just trying to make sure that people can’t miss what’s being said.
No need for clarification here:
From Bishop Jospeh Martino of Scranton:
Being “right” on taxes, education, health care, immigration, and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life. Consider this: the finest health and education systems, the fairest immigration laws, and the soundest economy do nothing for the child who never sees the light of day. It is a tragic irony that “pro-choice” candidates have come to support homicide – the gravest injustice a society can tolerate – in the name of “social justice.”
Even the Church’s just war theory has moral force because it is grounded in the principle that innocent human life must be protected and defended. Now, a person may, in good faith, misapply just war criteria leading him to mistakenly believe that an unjust war is just, but he or she still knows that innocent human life may not be harmed on purpose. A person who supports permissive abortion laws, however, rejects the truth that innocent human life may never be destroyed. This profound moral failure runs deeper and is more corrupting of the individual, and of the society, than any error in applying just war criteria to particular cases.
Furthermore, National Right to Life reports that 48.5 million abortions have been performed since 1973. One would be too many. No war, no natural disaster, no illness or disability has claimed so great a price.
In saying these things in an election year, I am in very good company. My predecessor, Bishop Timlin, writing his pastoral letter on Respect Life Sunday 2000, stated the case eloquently:
Abortion is the issue this year and every year in every campaign. Catholics may not turn away from the moral challenge that abortion poses for those who seek to obey God’s commands. They are wrong when they assert that abortion does not concern them, or that it is only one of a multitude of issues of equal importance. No, the taking of innocent human life is so heinous, so horribly evil, and so absolutely opposite to the law of Almighty God that abortion must take precedence over every other issue. I repeat. It is the single most important issue confronting not only Catholics, but the entire electorate.
… As Pope John Paul II clearly states:
“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…” (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101)
3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the “only issue” – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years…
4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.” …
To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.
From Bishop Holley, the auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C.:
… the number one cause of death in the African American community has been abortion. We have lost over 13 million lives. To put that in perspective, it is one third of our present Black population. Since 1973, twice as many Black Americans have died from abortion than from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined.
As I noted in my recent Respect Life Program article, “A Reflection on the African American Family and the Culture of Life” (http://www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/holley.pdf), our legitimate commitment to other social concerns must not push the primary moral issue of abortion onto the back burner. It clearly must be at the heart and center of our discussion of the survival of African American people.