As the U.S. bishops prepare to strongly oppose the expected pro-abortion policies of an Obama administration, two Catholic Democratic commentators have published an editorial calling on the bishops to focus on other issues besides abortion. That call, however, appears to be too little, too late.
Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, made their case in a Sunday editorial in the Baltimore Sun. Claiming that Catholic voters’ majority preference for Obama shows they care about other issues, they argued the abortion rate decreased more quickly under the Clinton administration.
They also advocated social programs instead of legal protections for the unborn as more effective means to reduce the numbers of abortions.
Citing episcopal statements deeming pro-life issues central to responsible voting considerations, the two writers said “all this talk about abortion,” which they characterized as defending “the need to vote Republican,” showed some bishops wanted a Republican victory.
Whelan and Townsend’s editorial followed action at the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting last week in which American prelates pledged to work with the Obama presidency “for the common good of all” on issues such as immigration, education, health care, and religious freedom.
However, even though Whelan previously had warned the bishops not to make any strong statements on abortion, which he claimed would be counterproductive and “only alienate Catholics,” they did nothing of the sort.
At their annual meeting, the bishops insisted that life itself is a “fundamental good,” lamenting the removal of legal protection for the unborn mandated by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. They also attacked the proposed Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) as “legislation that is more radical” than Roe v. Wade.
While campaigning for the Democratic nomination in 2007, President-elect Barack Obama promised to sign FOCA in his first legislative act as president.
According to the bishops, FOCA would remove the states’ “modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry” while forcing all Americans to subsidize and promote abortion with their tax dollars. It could even mandate that Catholic hospitals cooperate in or even perform abortions.
The bishops also defended their focus on pro-life issues.
“The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted,” the bishops’ statement said.
The statement was written under an unusual process, with USCCB President Cardinal Francis George being asked to write the letter with the bishops’ approval. In normal circumstances, such a statement would have needed to pass through an administrative committee.