.- The Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell and the Bishop of Fort Worth Kevin Vann have issued a joint document concerning Catholicsâ political responsibilities, receiving significant reaction for insisting that there are no âtruly graveâ or âproportionateâ moral reasons to vote for a pro-abortion rights candidate that can outweigh the intrinsic evil of the millions killed by legal abortion each year.
The bishopsâ October 8 letter noted the observance of Respect Life Month, which they said takes on a âmore profound meaningâ in an election year in which âthe protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake.â
Citing the U.S. bishopsâ 2007 document âForming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,â Bishops Farrell and Vann noted that not all issues have moral equivalence, some of them being âintrinsic evilsâ that can never be justified. The bishops labeled as such evils legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and "marriages," repression of religious liberty, and public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research.
âThe destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good,â the bishops wrote. âWe cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion.â
While stating that abortion is not the only issue, the bishops called it the âdefining issueâ of the last 35 years.
A candidateâs correct position on other issues âdoes not outweigh a candidate's unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of âabortion rights.ââ
The bishops explained that a Catholic voter may only vote âin good conscienceâ for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil when they are no other candidates who do not endorse such a position. âIf both candidates running for office support abortion or âabortion rights,â a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done,â they wrote.
Catholics could conscientiously support a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil âif another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion.â
However, they emphasized:
âWhile this is sound moral reasoning, there are no âtruly grave moralâ or âproportionateâ reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.â
Some Catholics interpreted the letter as an endorsement of Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee who says he supports overturning Roe v. Wade.
The reading of the letter during Mass on Sunday at Holy Trinity Church in downtown Dallas prompted about two dozen parishioners to walk out.
Paul Dickel, who was at the Sunday Mass, told CBS station KTVT-TV: âI feel like that Bishop was really testing the division between church and state.â
According to political commentator Deal Hudson, about two dozen people on Wednesday held a protest at the diocesan chancery objecting to the letter.
Karen Garnett, Executive Director of the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas, spoke about the statement and the reaction in a phone interview with CNA on Friday.
Garnett explained that the statement was read at one Catholic parish last weekend in place of the homily.
âAbout two dozen people got up and walked out and went to the media to complain,â which she said created the story furthered by the protest outside the Bishop of Dallasâ office.
She reported that the document had generated an âoverwhelmingâ and a âstrong, supportiveâ response, estimating that positive reactions made up about eighty percent of the messages and calls sent to the diocese.
In Garnettâs view, some people are upset because donât understand the statement.
âThey think the bishops are telling them who to vote for. Thatâs not what the statement does,â she continued, explaining that the statement was issued to âclarify Church teaching.â
In response to the controversy, Bishop Farrell has agreed to meet with those who are protesting
Garnett said her office is âjust issuing the clarification that this is not partisan, itâs not about any particular candidate.â
She added that the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas âcannot be more gratefulâ to the bishops, calling their document a âreally clear statementâ that addresses what she called the âconfusionâ and âmisunderstandingâ concerning paragraph 35 of the U.S. bishopsâ âFaithful Citizenshipâ document.
That paragraph concerns the âmorally grave reasonsâ which could justify a vote for a candidate who holds morally unacceptable positions.
âItâs an answer to our prayers, we couldnât thank them enough,â Garnett said of Bishops Farrell and Vannâs statement.
Garnett added that the Dallas Morning News, which featured the story about the controversy on the front page of their metro section, invited the Dallas public to read the statement by including a link to the bishopsâ letter reproduced on their own web site.
This produced âway more exposure than we could ever hope for through the Catholic press alone.â
âThe media is actually helping us here,â she said, inviting people to read the statement themselves.
The statement may be read at http://www.prolifedallas.org/pages/Joint_Statement