'Catholic clergy' in pro-abortion ad not actually Catholic clergy, Wester says

Bishop John Charles Wester of Salt Lake City File Photo CNA Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe. CNA file photo.

Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying that signatories to a letter in support of abortion "are not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church in New Mexico."

On Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that found a right to legal abortion in the United States, the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice published a full-page ad in the Albuquerque Journal featuring a letter signed by members of the clergy from various religions and denominations throughout New Mexico.

Two of the signatories were James Lehman from "Holy Family American National Catholic Church" in Las Cruces, and Francis Quintana from the "Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Community in Albuquerque," both of whom presented themselves as priests of the Catholic Church.

Despite the use of "Catholic" in both churches names, they are not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, Wester explained in his statement.

The American National Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Catholic Community, to which the Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Community belongs, are not part of the Roman Catholic Church. "New Mexico's three dioceses: the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the Diocese of Gallup and the Diocese of Las Cruces adamantly uphold the Church's historical belief in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death," Wester's statement added.

The letter, and the archbishop's response, came as New Mexico considers legislation that would repeal the state's laws criminalizing abortion, which date to the 1960s but have not been enforced since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

"Abortion... targets and victimizes…[a] deeply vulnerable population: unborn children and future generations. Our state must strive to protect and uphold the dignity of all peoples, from conception to natural death, and any effort to permit the killing of unborn children violates the sanctity of every human person, mother and child," Bishop James Wall of Gallup wrote earlier this month.

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