Friday, the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops responded to a
controversial statement recently released by 55 Catholic members of the
U.S. House of Representatives, saying that although their document
listed vital human rights concerns, they pale in comparison to the
fundamental right to life, which is violated in abortion.
Citing their 2004 statement on Catholics in Political Life, the Bishops said they welcomed the statement as well as “other efforts that seek to examine how Catholic legislators bring together their faith and their policy choices.”
At the same time however they said that “We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended.”
“This”, they said, “requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials,” adding that they “welcome conversation initiated by political leaders themselves.”
While acknowledging the important points made in the Democratic statement regarding important moral concerns like “priority for the poor, the protection of family life, the pursuit of justice and the promotion of peace”, which the USCCB called “fundamental priorities of the Catholic moral tradition”, they also stressed the need to reaffirm the fact that “abortion is a grave violation of the most fundamental human right—the right to life…”
This right, which the bishops said “is inherent in all human beings,” is what “grounds every other right we possess.
Here, they cited the late Pope John Paul II, who said, in his apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici, that “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life.”
“Above all,” the Pope wrote, “the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination….”
Echoing one of the statement’s concerns, the bishops said that “while it is always necessary to work to reduce the number of abortions by providing alternatives and help to vulnerable parents and children, Catholic teaching calls all Catholics to work actively to restrain, restrict and bring to an end the destruction of unborn human life.”
The bishop’s statement, entitled, “A Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life,” was signed by Cardinal William H. Keeler, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro Life Activities, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Chairman, USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy.