In a recent column for the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop José H. Gomez, clarified that though abortion is often painted as a Catholic issue, it is “a matter of fundamental human rights” that must be recognized by our leaders.
Though the abortion issue is not merely a “Catholic” one, Archbishop Gomez began in his column, “it is an essential element of the Catholic faith” and the Church’s position on the subject must be clarified due to recent “misleading statements,” such as whether or not “the question of when life begins is ‘a matter of faith’.”
The archbishop first addressed the question from a scientific perspective. “I think that modern biology clearly shows us that human life begins at conception. Embryologists can show us that within just a few weeks the embryo has developed recognizable features, including his or her face, arms, and legs.”
He then pointed to the encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, written by Servant of God John Paul II: “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and ... modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to be in a position to act.”
Zeroing in on Senator Joe Biden, the prelate first clarified that he was not judging the vice-presidential hopeful’s character, but only wanted to challenge “moral reasoning.”
“It is confusing then, that Senator Biden, who is Catholic, said that while he was ‘prepared to accept the teachings of my Church,’ he refuses to ‘impose’ his views on others by seeking to ‘criminalize’ abortion. This opinion both ducks the hard business of governing in a democracy and reveals a blindness to the gravity of the abortion issue.”
“I repeat: Abortion is not only a Catholic issue or a ‘matter of faith.’ It concerns the most fundamental questions in any human civilization: Who gets to live and who doesn’t—and who gets to decide this question? Can one’s rights or freedoms include the right and freedom to extinguish the life of one who is weaker?”
The Catholic Church has always remained firm on the answers to these questions, the archbishop continued. “Our Savior chose to come among us as each one of us came into this world, by spending nine months in a mother’s womb. Blessed Mother Teresa used to talk about this a lot. She reminded us that our religion begins with the story of two pregnant women and their unborn children. And it was an unborn child, John the Baptist, who was the first to proclaim Christ’s presence— when he leapt in his mother’s womb at the Visitation (see Luke 1:39–45).”
The prelate also looked at the Didache, “a manual of Church morals written even earlier than the later writings of the New Testament.” He explained that the writings condemn “abortion as infanticide.”
“This tells us that opposition to the abomination of abortion is more than a partisan political position. For the Catholic, this belief goes to the heart of the mystery that Christ came into this world to reveal to us.” He continued, “this mystery is reflected in our country’s founding document, which speaks of our being endowed by our Creator with rights that no one can take away from us or pretend that we don’t have—the first of these being the right to life.”
This all has implications “for our participation in the political process,” Archbishop Gomez noted. “A Catholic must be prepared to live and defend the truths that Christ came into this world to die for. A Catholic is duty-bound to ask: Is a candidate fit to hold office if he or she believes it should be legal to kill even a fully developed child in the last weeks of a pregnancy for undefined “health” reasons?
“And again, can we accept candidates who support experimentation with the stem cells of human embryos, or cloning, or euthanasia? Can we make real progress on any of the critical issues that we face as a nation if we can’t agree to protect the smallest and most defenseless among us?”
Asking these questions does not “impose Catholic beliefs on other Americans,” he continued. “This is the political contribution that a morally mature people must make in a democracy. This is a bearing witness to the truths that Jesus has revealed to us—truths that, again, are enshrined in our country’s founding document.”
Archbishop Gomez concluded his column by encouraging Catholics to seek leaders with the courage to “stand up for these truths,” who aren’t “afraid to pursue peaceful and democratic means to persuade our fellow citizens of this essential natural truth that it is also a foundational aspect of the teachings of the Catholic faith.”