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Bishop Strickland . . . Abortion And Solidarity With Children

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Texas Bishop Tells Catholic Priests in His Diocese to Lead ...By MOST REV. JOSEPH STRICKLAND

Pope St. John Paul wrote in his seminal encyclical on life, “To claim the right to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin’ ( John 8:34).”

We are called to stand in solidarity with those who have no voice. To accept legalized abortion in the law and purport to “privately oppose it” is a perversion which promotes a counterfeit notion of freedom.

In the Joy of the Gospel ( Evangelii Gaudium), Pope Francis wrote: “(A)mong the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care, with particular love and concern, are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist, and conservative.

“Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.

“Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, ‘every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offense against the creator of the individual’ [ Christifideles Laici, n. 37].

“Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life” (nn. 213, 214).

The Child in the womb is our first neighbor and it is always and everywhere wrong to take the life of an innocent neighbor. And, as Pope Francis stated, there is absolutely nothing “progressive” about legal abortion. It is regressive, moving us backward. Our failure to recognize the right to life in the civil law of the state undermines our claim to be a compassionate and caring society. All the talk about compassion for the poor rings hollow when we fail to hear the cry of the ones whom now St. Teresa of Calcutta rightly called the “poorest of the poor.”

There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children in the womb and calls it a right. No politician or political candidate who advocates for legalized abortion, or for euthanasia, passive or active, should ever receive the support of Catholic Christians. They are being morally incoherent in choosing to support them.

Moral Coherence And Political Participation

The pro-life position is a worldview, a lens through which we view every political, cultural, social, economic, security, and international issue. This worldview must also inform every aspect of our participation in society, including how we vote. With the presidential election in the United States upon us, the allegations of “single-issue politics” are again being leveled against anyone who condemns procured, legal abortion as immoral and intrinsically evil. This is happening not only in the broad circles of American society but even within the Catholic Church.

The phrase “moral coherence” was used in an important instruction released in 2002 from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled A Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life. That teaching document was directed to “the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies.”

It should be read by every Catholic and by other Christians who want to know what the official Catholic Church teaches. I wish it were made mandatory reading for all Catholics who run for public office, and all Catholics who hold public office.

The teaching in the instruction also informs the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church sections pertaining to the political participation of Catholics (see nn. 565-574). Anyone who thinks the teachers of the Catholic Church are not clear on our duty as Catholics to vote in a manner which is morally coherent has either not read Catholic teaching or simply rejects it.

Sadly, many Catholics are not even aware there is such a Compendium on social teaching. The term “social justice” has been co-opted by people with agendas inconsistent with promoting the real common good.

Here is an excerpt from the Compendium regarding the proper role and place of the social teaching of the Catholic Church: “The social doctrine of the Church is not an intrusion into the government of individual countries. It is a question of the lay Catholic’s duty to be morally coherent, found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible.

“There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life,’ with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture. The branch, engrafted to the vine which is Christ, bears its fruit in every sphere of existence and activity.

“In fact, every area of the lay faithful’s lives, as different as they are, enters into the plan of God, who desires that these very areas be the ‘places in time’ where the love of Christ is revealed and realized for both the glory of the Father and service of others. Living and acting in conformity with one’s own conscience on questions of politics is not slavish acceptance of positions alien to politics or some kind of ‘confessionalism,’ but rather the way in which Christians offer their concrete contribution so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.”

We must expose, oppose, and replace the current culture of death. Catholic citizens will be judged the most severely if we fail to act in a morally coherent manner when we exercise our right to vote. The biblical adage should echo especially in our ears, “To those, to whom much is given, much more will be required!” ( Luke 12:48). To Catholic Christians has been given the clear social teaching of the Christian tradition. We must read it and live it, in every aspect of our lives, including our citizenship and how we vote.

Catholic Christians should not vote for any candidate who denies that the fundamental right to life must be recognized and protected in the civil law when another candidate is available who recognizes that fact. This is the case even when the alternative candidate may not fully comprehend all the implications of that recognition.

In good conscience, if there is no difference on this matter between the candidates, one could hypothetically refrain from voting. However, voting carries with it its own moral obligation. Not voting can have the effect of helping to elect a candidate who denies the right to life.

We should determine which candidates’ positions will move us closer to ending legalized abortion, work to influence them and surround them with good counsel, and then vote for them. If they are elected, we must then do all we can to expand their understanding of the truth concerning the right to life and its vital implications across the public policy spectrum.

Certainly, the right to life has implications not only in the womb, but throughout the entire spectrum of life. The embryonic human person, the child in the womb, the disabled, the needy, and the elderly are all members of our human family. We can never condone their intentional killing as an exercise of a “freedom to choose.”

However, human life — and the fundamental right which protects it — begins in the womb. Procured abortion is never a moral choice but a crime, whether the civil law of the state currently prosecutes it or not. Political candidates who deny this right to life are complicit in this crime and must not be supported.

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