The U.S. Catholic bishops have come out in a united front in a statement on abortion and politics, warning politicians not to misinterpret the election results as “a referendum on abortion,” and that “aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans.”
Cardinal Francis George, writing on behalf of all the U.S. bishops, begins his statement by heralding the historic election of Barack Obama as president and saying that the bishops look forward to working “for the common good of all” with the new government.
After listing priorities such as immigration, education, health care and religious freedom, the bishops state that the “fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents.”
Yet, they note that, “Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law.”
Of particular concern, the bishops say, is that “a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself,” referring to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).
The Act would “outlaw any ‘interference’ in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry,” according to the U.S. prelates.
The bishops further warn that impact of FOCA would be wide-ranging, including forcing all Americans to subsidize and promote abortion with their tax dollars; a cancellation of all parental notification and informed consent measures; and the striking of all partial-birth abortion bans and infants born alive protection laws from the books.
They further charge that abortion clinics would be deregulated, the Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be revoked and that the Act could force health care workers to violate their consciences.
Addressing the full assembly of bishops on Tuesday afternoon, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago said that Catholic hospitals would be forced to close if FOCA passes, since they would refuse to perform abortions. "I don't think I'm being alarmist," Paprocki added.
The entire body of bishops agreed with Bishop Paprocki in their statement, saying, "It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.”
The U.S. bishops make certain to point out that they are united in their opinion of “the legal protection of the unborn.” We are “pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men,” they write.
“The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted,” says the statement, which also notes that although it comes from Cardinal George, it is “written at the request and direction of all the Bishops.”
The vehemence of the bishops’ opposition to abortion was expressed during discussion on the statement on Tuesday afternoon. "Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow--die tomorrow!--to bring about the end of abortion," Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis said.
The bishops’ statement also sends a message to President-elect Obama and his new administration, warning them not to misinterpret the election results through an ideological lens that sees them as “a referendum on abortion.” This interpretation will make the “unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis” impossible to achieve, the bishops alert.
“Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected.”
Aware that President-elect Obama’s advisors have recently signaled that his administration will reverse President Bush’s executive order on stem cells, as well as the Mexico City policy which restricts federal funds from going to pro-abortion organizations outside of the U.S., the bishops explain that these reversals will only divide the country.
“Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion,” they state.
Reiterating their “great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation,” the U.S. bishops thank politicians for their sacrifices, while at the same time reminding them that “the common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.”
The statement closes by assuring President-elect Obama and his family of the prelates’ prayers for a smooth transition in government. “Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected ‘watchman.’ May God bless him and our country.”