Friday, October 24, 2014
The Bishops’ Fateful Decision Respecting the Unborn
In 1973 the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion. It was projected that the decision would not just replace illegal abortions with legal ones, but that the total number of abortions would dramatically increase (it turned out by approximately a million a year). It was clear that there were only two remedies: the Supreme Court reversing it; or a constitutional amendment proposed by Congress and ratified by the states to overturn it. This required the election of presidents who would nominate Supreme Court justices not interested in creating constitutional rights to legal abortion, and the election of pro-life members of Congress to confirm the justices, and to propose a constitutional amendment. Elections were the key. How were the bishops to proceed?
The bishops’ conference staff provided two conflicting recommendations. As their pro-life lobbyist, I recommended that the bishops conduct a major campaign to educate and correctly form the consciences of American Catholics to their responsibility to elect candidates who support the Common Good, which is protecting the human life and respecting the human dignity of every person created by God (including the unborn). And those candidates who refused to support the Common Good would be morally unacceptable for public office. The laity’s responsibility included being involved in their political party so that Common Good candidates would be recruited and nominated for office.
The Social Development and World Peace staff at the bishops’ conference disagreed with this approach. They dealt with the economy, poverty, food policy, housing, human rights, military expenditures, and U.S. foreign policy, and felt their goals and prudential judgments were more reflected by the Democrats in Congress. I was told sometime later of their concern that Roe v. Wade would cause Catholics to seek the protection of the unborn by voting for Republicans (most were pro-life [90+ percent]) instead of Democrats (about 2/3rds were pro-abortion then [94 percent now]). This shift in the Catholic vote would necessarily hurt their legislative agenda. So a campaign should be undertaken to convince Catholics that there was justification to vote for pro-abortion candidates. Their view prevailed and they pursued with the relevant bishops’ committees the first-ever Catholic voters guide published in 1976, called the “Political Responsibility Statement” (now called Faithful Citizenship). It would be the primary tool to achieve their objective.,,,
The current voter guide explicitly permits Catholics to vote for candidates who support intrinsic moral evils. It says, “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil” like abortion, “if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” But what if a voter supports a pro-abortion candidate for some other reason?
….The bishops have continued on their failed course for forty years, with fateful, disastrous results. If the bishops would change course, the legal killing, now at 56 million, could be stopped. The bishops need to teach that: (a) Legislators have the compelling moral responsibility to pursue the Common Good, protecting the human life and respecting the human dignity of every person created by God, born and unborn. And those who do not, are morally unfit for office; (b) “Catholic” legislators who support abortion are not in communion with the Church and they will not be given Communion until they are; and (c) Catholic citizens cannot in good conscience elect legislators who support the killing of the unborn (for there are no proportionate reasons to justify it).
Mark Gallagher worked with the Government Liaison Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Washington from 1974 to 2007.
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