Bishop Pfeifer: Catholic bishops must hold Biden accountable for 'pro-abortion extremism'

Bishop Michael Pfeifer, who was Bishop of San Angelo from 1985 to 2013. Bishop Michael Pfeifer, who was Bishop of San Angelo from 1985 to 2013. | Courtesy photo.

An emeritus Texas bishop has called on his fellow bishops to take action after President Biden’s proposed 2023 budget removed protections that prohibit federal funding for abortion.

“If abortion is really the preeminent life issues as we bishops say it is, then we must hold President Biden accountable for his pro-abortion extremism, calling out Biden in a proper pastoral manner, for his anti-Catholic pro-abortion policies,” Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, O.M.I., Bishop Emeritus of San Angelo, wrote in a ​​response to the Biden administration’s 2023 proposed budget, which does not include the Hyde Amendment.

First introduced in 1976, the once-bipartisan Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding from going toward abortion, with the exceptions of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The budget provision or rider, approved annually by Congress, largely impacts Medicaid recipients. 

A growing number of Democrats have called for an end to the Hyde Amendment, even as polls continue to find a majority of Americans oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion. After decades of backing Hyde, Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history, switched his position while running for election. Biden had not included the Hyde Amendment in his 2022 budget request, a move condemned by the U.S. bishops.

In his April 22 statement Pfeifer, who was Bishop of San Angelo from 1985 to 2013, pointed out (and pro-life estimates confirm) that Hyde has saved around 2.5 million babies from abortion.

“We bishops need to speak out and act more forcefully in defense of all human life but especially the life of the unborn child in the womb,” Pfeifer said. “This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials.”

He expressed hope that the president could change course.

“I hope that this statement will inspire our president and his administration to not fund the terrible evil of abortion in the planned budget for 2023,” Pfeifer told CNA. “And, I hope my comments about how the decision on Roe v. Wade was made, will lead now for this decision to be overturned.”

In his statement, Pfeifer encouraged the Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, when it decides Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization later this year.

“We need to remember and take action from what the Supreme Court admitted in Roe v. Wade: ‘if … personhood (for the unborn) is established the appellant case of course collapses for the fetus right to life is then guaranteed by the 14th Amendment,’” Pfeifer wrote, citing the decision. 

The appellant’s case for abortion, he said, has since collapsed. 

“Since science is now totally clear that human life begins at conception when a new human being is formed, so our courts and government and the American people must now oppose abortion on demand and insist that the unborn innocent life is to be protected especially when it is most defenseless,” he said.

Pfeifer highlighted one way bishops are working toward a culture of life: Walking with Moms in Need, a program by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, encourages Catholics to support and “walk in the shoes” of local pregnant and parenting women in difficult situations. 

The bishops, he said, “need to clearly state that we exhort our president and legislators, all people, to prioritize the well-being of women, children and families with both material resources and personal accompaniment so that no woman ever feels forced to choose between her future and the life of her child.” 

He urged the Biden administration to fund only programs and approve policies that recognize the dignity and sanctity of human life.

“Taxpayer funding abortion represents a serious failure to serve women in their maternity by funding despair and death instead of hope and life,” he wrote.

He cited Pope Francis calling abortion murder, and quoted the pontiff’s 2019 appeal to politicians “to treat the defense of the lives of those who are about to be born and enter into society as the cornerstone of the common good.”

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Pfeifer recognized abortion — “the direct killing of the unborn” — as the “antithesis of healthcare” for both the mother and her unborn child. He called prayer “central” to overturning Roe, blocking funding for abortion, and working toward a culture of life. 

Church teaching on abortion

The Catholic Church condemns abortion in the strongest possible terms. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes Church teaching, recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of the unborn human person and considers abortion a “crime against human life.” 

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the catechism reads. “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

At the same time, the Church emphasizes mercy and forgiveness for women who have obtained abortions.

“The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy,” the catechism says, but instead “makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

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In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which Pfeifer cites, St. John Paul II addressed abortion in light of politics.

“I repeat once more that a law which violates an innocent person’s natural right to life is unjust and, as such, is not valid as a law,” he wrote. “For this reason I urgently appeal once more to all political leaders not to pass laws which, by disregarding the dignity of the person, undermine the very fabric of society.”

The “Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life,” he added.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith discussed the late pontiff’s teaching in its 2002 doctrinal note on “The Participation of Catholics in Political Life.”

“John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, has reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” it read. “For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”