Writing in a March 10 Newsweek essay, he said the law is “about leveraging the full power of government censorship to suppress a particular viewpoint, giving police the authority to question and arrest individuals solely on the basis of their thoughts.”
In their statement, the bishops condemned all harassment and intimidation of women and said there is “little, if any, evidence to suggest that vigil participants engage in these behaviors.” The new law, they said, is too broad and “both disproportionate and unnecessary.”
At the same time, peaceful prayer and outreach outside abortion facilities are part of Christian witness and practice, according to the bishops.
“Christian prayer cannot be confined to places of worship or the privacy of one’s own home,” they said. “In each moment of every day, Christians are called to prayer.”
They cited Jesus’ “greatest commandment,” to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul and to love our neighbor as ourself.”
“This new law potentially strikes at the heart of being able to respond to this call and duty,” the bishops said. Christians are called to show “special regard for the most vulnerable and the poorest among us.”
“Who can be more vulnerable than a baby in the womb?” they asked. “As Catholics we hold that life is sacred from the first moment of conception and that harming, attacking, or denying life in these circumstances is completely foreign to the religious and cultural way of thinking of the people of God.”
For decades, since abortion was legalized in 1967, Catholics have taken part in “peaceful and often silent witness to the dignity of human life outside the places where over 10 million unborn lives have been taken.”
“Catholics feel a strong call to witness through peaceful presence to the sanctity of life and the injustice of abortion,” they said.
At the same time, love of neighbor motivates believers to “offer practical help to those in need.” Catholics have long offered “vital practical support outside abortions clinics to expectant mothers who might dearly wish to keep their babies.”
“Where there is need, Christ bids us to serve,” the bishops of England and Wales said.
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Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.