American Catholic bishops weighing in on American politics

November 16, 2008 by Eric James Wilson  
Filed under Faith, Headlines, Politics

Last week, the American bishops of the Catholic Church wrapped up a crucial meeting in the midst of what has turned out to be a very busy fall. With hundreds of bishops speaking about the need to vote with properly formed consciences and the extent to which a candidates’ stance on the issue of abortion should inform an individual’s vote, there was great interest in their Fall General Assembly.

It is too early, as some may have expected, for the bishops to address the question which has been hotly debated in Catholic circles. That question is, of course, whether Catholics can vote, in good conscience, for a candidate for office who supports abortion when another, pro-life alternative candidate exists. Of course, this is a terse summary of the situation surrounding Catholics and abortion. A number of similar questions require answers, such as can “Pope John XXIII Catholic” Vice President-Elect Joe Biden and “ardent, practicing Catholic” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be said to be faithful Catholics despite their efforts to flout Church teachings on critical moral issues?

I think we will all benefit from time to decompress from the effects of the campaign’s heated and divisive rhetoric before we examine these questions as they relate to the Obama Presidency. Indeed, time alone may reveal that President-Elect Obama’s promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) “first thing” as President was political pandering to the radical Left, and his personal ambition and political deftness (as well as our prayers) may drive him to the center on the issue of life. *

Freedom of “Choice” Act

Nevertheless, FOCA, which has become an icon for what amounts to Doomsday for pro-life Americans – a reversal of the Mexico City Policy, elimination of the Hyde Amendment, destruction of conscience clauses – was discussed at some length during the bishops’ meeting. In his closing statement on Wednesday, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), while congratulating Obama, warned that

“FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars…Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.”

Cardinal George and a handful of his brother bishops warned that such actions would leave the Catholic Church no choice but to close the doors of hundreds of Catholic hospitals since they could no longer refuse to provide abortions. This would inevitably result in a serious decimation to millions of Americans’ access to quality health care and would be anything but a boon to women.

Thousands of pro-life doctors would have no choice but to quit practicing medicine because they object to conducting abortions as part of legally required care. Religious leaders would have no choice but to remain silent on abortion because they would be accused of making hate speech since FOCA would federally prohibit any “interference” in abortion. Millions of pro-life Americans would have no choice when their tax dollars and insurance premiums would be used to help others get abortions.

Blessing the unborn

While is may seem that we may be without recourse in the political arena for the time being, the bishops are making efforts to change the culture. During their meeting, the bishops approved the “Blessing of a Child in the Womb,” which reads thus,

“May almighty God, who has created new life now bless the child in your womb. The Lord has brought you the joy of motherhood: May he bless you with a safe and healthy pregnancy. You thank the Lord today for the gift of your child: May he bring you and your child one day to share in the unending joys of heaven.”

This new blessing makes it abundantly clear that the new life created in the womb is, in fact, a child of God, and any family seeking this rite in their church will bear powerful witness to their fellow Catholics about the sanctity of the unborn life. With our nation’s 67 million Catholics in a broad state of disarray on what the Church teaches on various moral issues (viz. Nancy Pelosi, Doug Kmiec, etc.) the bishops are coming to the painful realization that this is not the age of the well-educated laity.

Cutting off ACORN

Lastly, we might file this item in the “better-late-than-never” column, the Chair of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Bishop Roger Morin, reported that it had not been giving funds to ACORN, the controversial, partisan organization which has been implicated in extensive criminal activity and voter registration fraud, since June. Consequently, no funds from the annual CCHD collection were given to ACORN to register Mickey Mouse and myriad other characters to vote.

Despite these assurances that ACORN will no longer be receiving Church funds, the CCHD reputation is irreparably tarnished and some bishops, like Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabma, are refusing to participate in the annual CCHD collection – the chief source of the group’s funds.

It doesn’t seem like anything earth-shattering emerged from the bishops’ meeting, but it did serve to demonstrate that they are steeled for the fight as they lead their flock through this challenging time. And that’s something in which I choose to take comfort.

* I readily admit this is, perhaps, too optimistic since his “Transition Team” website,, gives the following statement in President-Elect Obama’s “Women Agenda”: “Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in that case.” (


Two African American bishops and abortion

October 27, 2008 by Eric James Wilson  
Filed under Culture, Headlines, Politics

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An interesting juxtaposition emerged this week from the statements of two African American bishops on the abortion issue. First, Bishop Martin Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, released a statement last week responding to a Guttmacher Institute (named for Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood and former vice-president of the American Eugenics Society) survey which found black women in the U.S. abort pregnancies at a rate five times that of white women.

Bishop Holley, who is chair of the African American Subcommittee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), wrote,

As an African American, I am saddened by evidence that Black women continue to be targeted by the abortion industry. The loss of any child from abortion is a tragedy, but we must ask: Why are minority children being aborted at such disproportionate rates?

Many African Americans are not aware that since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy, the number one cause of death in the African American community has been abortion. We have lost over 13 million lives. To put that in   perspective, it is one third of our present Black population. Since 1973, twice as many Black Americans have died from abortion than from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined.

These fact are particularly alarming given the roots of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s number one abortion provider, which sprung from the American Eugenics Movement in the early 20th Century. Eugenicists, like the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, sought to prevent the procreation of “unfit” and “undesirable” elements of society, which for these racists, included African Americans and immigrants.

Although most Americans have forgotten the sinister aims of the birth control and abortion movements, the Guttmacher study – the research arm of Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood – reveals they are succeeding in their mission of “racial betterment.”

Counseling the African American community, Bishop Holley writes further, “our legitimate commitment to other social concerns must not push the primary moral issue of abortion onto the back burner. It clearly must be at the heart and center of our discussion of the survival of African American people.

Compare this very clear statement about the urgency with which Catholics must address the issue of legalized abortion in the United States with remarks made by Bishop Terry Steib of Memphis, who stated “we [Catholics] cannot be a one issue people.” This statement was heralded by the liberal newspaper the National Catholic Reporter as a rejection of the teaching promoted by many American bishops that faithful Catholics must not vote for pro-abortion candidates.

However, a careful reading of Bishop Steib’s remarks reveals his point is more nuanced than the Reporter and other liberal Catholic groups would like. One might interpret his statement is intended to counsel black Catholics against voting for Sen. Barack Obama simply because he is black. For example, Bishop Steib writes,

“according to our Holy Father, we disciples of Jesus cannot remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice; this means that we must be part of the game. However, politics is not just a game; it is instead a part of the commonwealth of our lives…But if we are to be involved in the political process by voting, then we must have formed our consciences well.”

Bishop Steib further cautions that “it is much easier to choose because of personality rather than the content of character. It is easier to say ‘I just like him or her; he or she is one of us’ rather than to ponder, reflect, and pray for our choice prudently.”

Quoting the USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship document, he advises the faithful that

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

Catholics believe abortion to be a fundamental moral evil and Sen. Obama has promised to make abortion a civil right, if elected, and expand access to abortions. Is Sen. McCain completely in line with all Church teachings? Clearly not, but he does support the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all 50 states.

Eric writes a column for the Washington, D.C. version of to read his other writing, visit


Cardinal Rigali warns against voting for Pro-Abortion candidate

October 24, 2008 by Taylor Marshall  
Filed under Faith, Headlines, Politics

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Another Catholic bishop has spoken out against Catholics voting for pro-abortion candidates, this time its a cardinal!

The Catholic hierarchy is teaching with a united voice that faithful Catholics cannot and must not vote for “pro-choice” candidates for political office. The Pope has stated it and the American bishops are repeating it. To vote for a “pro-choice” candidate is to deny the fundamental doctrine of Catholicism: that man is made in the image of God and as such has a right to life from the moment of conception.

Justin Cardinal Rigali is the Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia. You can read his full statement here: Faithful Citizenship and Respect for Life.


At this moment in our country’s history, defense of innocent human life is a moral responsibility for all of us. The same God who thundered from Mount Sinai: “Thou shalt not kill,” thunders still. When life in the womb is destroyed, God thunders: “This is a child!” When by the most barbaric means, unworthy of any civilized people, the brain of a child is sucked out of his or her head by a vacuum, God thunders: “This is a child!” When a baby is left to die of exposure on a shelf because of a failed abortion, and this is considered a “right” by any leader, God, the Source of all law and authority, thunders: “This is a child!” When we are faced with every modern means of education and communication, in addition to the law placed in our hearts at creation, no one, and most especially, no Catholic, can ever say: “I did not know.”

Hat tip: Clint Rain


Catholic bishops taking aim at Obama

October 19, 2008 by Taylor Marshall  
Filed under Faith, Headlines, Politics

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Americans of all religious traditions are becoming interested in the backlash of Catholic bishops against the “unnamed Presidential candidate who supports abortion”. Guess which candidate this is.

Barack Obama.

Catholic Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput described Barack Obama as the “most committed” abortion-rights candidate from a major party in 35 years. Archbishop Chaput also stated that Catholic groups supporting Obama were doing a “disservice to the church.” The Bishop of Fort Worth Kevin Vann, Texas and the Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell issued a joint statement instructing the faithful that Catholic moral teaching obliges Catholic Christians to not vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

[Read: Joint Statement from Bishop Farrell and Bishop Vann to the Faithful of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth]

Other bishops are across America are also warning the faithful that a vote for Obama is a vote for the culture of death.

Raymond Arroyo of EWTN’s “The World Over” appeared on Fox News last week explaining this phenomenon. Arroyo predicts that in the weeks to come, certain states could shift away from Barack Obama by the great numbers of Catholic reevaluating their consciences with regard to the issue of abortion in this election.

Related news:

Archbishop Chaput in Denver criticizes Barack Obama by name

Catholics Against Joe Biden: Bishop Morlino and Archbishop Chaput