As a Catholic priest who heads one of the nation’s largest anti-abortion organizations, I have been asked by many people about the vote that the U.S. Bishops had in their semi-annual meeting earlier this week regarding whether or not they should say that abortion remains a “preeminent priority” among the issues about which the Church is concerned.
They did indeed vote to say that, and with good reason. Let’s look at some of the background and context.
The U.S. Catholic bishops have a general meeting of all the bishops twice a year: in June and again in November. Every four years, at the November meeting prior to a presidential election year, they discuss and vote on a document that will be used to educate Catholic voters about the Church’s position on the issues they need to consider at the voting booth.
As Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia pointed out in the discussions, “It’s been a very clearly articulated opinion of the bishops’ conference for many years that pro-life is still the pre-eminent issue.”
The key document in this regard that the bishops’ conference has issued is "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics (1998)." In that document, the bishops point out the following:
“[T]he failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the 'temple of the Holy Spirit' — the living house of God — then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house's foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person's most fundamental right — the right to life. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand. Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights." (n. 23)
Notice that this assertion of the foundational importance of the right to life, and therefore of the problem of abortion, is based not on a Biblical or religious teaching, but on logic. Life is the foundation. The best healthcare or education plan in the world does not help the child whose life was destroyed in the womb by abortion.
The position is also based on the simple arithmetic fact that no crime, disease, act of terror, war, or any other cause of death in the United States or in the world claims more human lives than does abortion. There are about a million children killed each year in the USA by abortion. Abortion kills more people in a single week than have been killed by the death penalty in all the years that records have been kept, put together! And the comparisons to every other form of killing can go on and on, with abortion dwarfing the numbers every time.
Moreover, as St. John Paul II articulated in his landmark encyclical "The Gospel of Life" (see n. 11), the extraordinary gravity of the problem of abortion flows also from the fact that these are the most defenseless victims of all, and are being killed by the decision of their own family members! Moreover, he explains, it is bad enough when an act of violence occurs that is recognized to be unlawful. But when that violent act is re-branded as a “right” and considered as such in law, another layer of evil is added to it.
And when the state does such a thing, John Paul II went on to say that such a state becomes “a tyrant state,” and that “the disintegration of the state itself has begun.”
That sounds like quite a “preeminent” issue.
What will concern many from this week’s meeting is that some 69 bishops did not in fact want to describe abortion that way. The question many of the faithful have for them is: Exactly what has changed? Are there any victims more defenseless? Is there any right more foundational to all the rest than life itself? Has any act of violence claimed more victims than abortion?
What matters here are the basic factual and logical answers to these questions, not what a particular bishop might be saying or thinking. We’re living in the midst of a holocaust. Let’s not allow ourselves to be embarrassed when history looks back at our age and wonders why that wasn’t evident to us.
Fr. Frank Pavone is one of the most prominent pro-life leaders in the world. He became a Catholic priest in 1988 under Cardinal John O’Connor in New York. In 1993 he became National Director of Priests for Life. He is also the President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, and the National Pastoral Director of the Silent No More Campaign and of Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry of healing after abortion. He travels to about four states every week, preaching and teaching against abortion. He broadcasts regularly on television, radio, and internet. He was asked by Mother Teresa to speak in India on abortion, and was asked by then-candidate Donald Trump to serve on his Pro-life and Catholic advisory councils. He has served at the Vatican as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which coordinates the pro-life activities of the Catholic Church. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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