Last year, responding to the blatant contradiction of the so-called pro-choice Catholics, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) issued its statement, “Abortion: A Real Slaughter of the Innocents Is Being Carried Out Every Day Throughout the World.” The declaration, published as a half-page advertisement in The Washington Post, reasserted that a Catholic is by definition anti-abortion and supported this affirmation with ten conclusive Papal texts from Pius XI to the present. It also circulated as a leaflet in last year’s March for Life.
Today, in light of the confusion surrounding Catholic moral obligations regarding abortion, the American TFP feels that anti-abortionists will profit by having at hand some recent statements by Catholic bishops who have stood out in the fight against abortion. By publishing these, we both satisfy this need and pay just homage to the valiant statements of these prelates.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1989 Abortion Statement
We who revere human life as created in the image and likeness of God have all the more reason to take a stand. For us abortion is of overriding concern because it negates two of the most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life, and preferential concern for the weak and defenseless.
No Catholic can responsibly take a ‘pro-choice’ stand when the ‘choice’ in question involves the taking of innocent human life.
No Catholic can responsibly take a ‘pro-choice’ stand when the ‘choice’ in question involves the taking of innocent human life.– NCCB statement
Special Tribute to Jailed Bishop Austin Vaughan, Auxiliary Bishop of New York
Bishop Vaughan has long stood out for his active pro-life stance and his insistence that it is a Catholic duty to be pro-life. In fact, his most effective statements on abortion have not been only his words but also his anti-abortion convictions transformed into heroic action.
Because of his participation in Operation Rescue missions in front of abortion facilities, Bishop Vaughan has been arrested on several occasions and even imprisoned. This is the very reason he is not here with us in the 1990 March for Life: He is presently serving a fifteen-day jail sentence for his rescue activities.
The Nine Bishops of Ohio
In a December 15 statement on abortion and political life, the bishops responded to Ohio Attorney General Anthony Celebrezze Jr.’s recent statement on abortion:
- We Catholic bishops of Ohio are making this statement about abortion and political life in response to the questions and expectations which have been addressed to us in the last few weeks.
- The willful destruction of innocent human life, born or unborn, is a social evil of the greatest magnitude. Any society which finds it acceptable for a parent to destroy an unborn child or which provides for such destruction by public funding has sown the seeds of its own destruction. If a defenseless unborn child is dependent for survival on the forbearance of another or on the ability to survive independently from his or her mother, then human life has become cheap indeed and we are all vulnerable.
- We cannot judge the state of anyone’s conscience before God. . . . But it is clear to us that, objectively speaking, the tolerance of abortion in our society and the refusal to allow religious and moral principles to influence public life are positions which are both morally and socially wrong.
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati
Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland
Bishop James A. Griffin of Columbus
Bishop Andrew Pataki of Ruthenian Byzantine diocese of Parma
Bishop Albert H. Ottenweller of Steubenville
Bishop James R. Hoffman of Toledo
Bishop James W. Malone of Youngstown
Bishop Louis Puscas of Romanians of the Byzantine Rite in the U. S.
Bishop Robert M. Moshal of St. Josaphat in Parma
Archbishop Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia
Following the signing into law of the Abortion Control Act of 1989 by Pennsylvania Governor Casey restricting access to abortion, Archbishop Bevilacqua released a statement on November 17.
“I firmly hope that the direction to increase protection for the pre-born, upheld by the Supreme Court, and now enacted into Pennsylvania law, will inspire other responsible legislatures to choose the path to life.”
Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston
At the Assembly for Life in Boston, Cardinal Law affirmed:
“It is clear that the pro-life movement is here to stay. There is no way in which the human spirit will long endure a moral evil like abortion.
Those of us who recognize abortion as the taking of innocent human life do not find that with the passage of time and millions of more deaths we are less committed. Far from it. I find myself today more convinced than ever that the killing must stop.”
Bishop James McHugh of Camden, N.J.
Prior to the November 7 election, Bishop McHugh issued a atstatement titled “Respect for Life and Political Responsibility.”
“A candidate should ultimately be judged on his or her personal integrity, philosophy and performance. Anyone who attempts to separate his or her personal moral convictions from the shaping of public policy is unreliable and unworthy of trust.”
Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego
Bishop Leo Maher made headlines in 1989 when he denied Lucy Killea, a California assembly woman, “the right to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church” because of her “pro-choice stand.” Part of his statement communicating this decision follows:
I regret to inform you that by your media advertisements and statements advocating the ‘pro-choice’ abortion position in the public forum you are placing yourself in complete contradiction to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, and consequently I have no other choice but to deny you the right to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church….
The ‘pro-choice’ stand is a choice for abortion. This is against both the teaching of the Catholic Church and divine law. The harm you are doing by espousing the ‘pro-choice’ view will require great efforts to repair. Like those who have abortions, the guilt remains with them, and so will your guilt remain with you as an advocate of this heinous crime.
Since the ‘pro-choice’ stand involves the taking of innocent human life, it only proves how immoral abortion is. If you say abortion is a matter of choice, you are forgetting someone. ‘Pro-choice’ is a phrase that is incomplete; it lacks an object. One must ask the natural follow-up: the choice to do what? In this case, it is the choice to take a child’s life.
John Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York
Cardinal O’Connor was named head of the Bishops’ Pro-Life Activities Committee at the recent bishops’ meeting in November. His opposition to abortion and support for Operation Rescue has made him a target of sacrilegious attacks by pro-abortion activists.
According to an Associated Press report, abortion rights and AIDS activists disrupted the December 10 Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral resulting in the arrest of 43 people. Thousands of others protested outside, criticizing the Cardinal and Church teaching. The archdiocesan paper, Catholic New York, reported that the Blessed Sacrament was desecrated at least seven times during Communion.
Answering media allegations that the Church “forced obedience to a religious political agenda” last November, Cardinal O’Connor answered:
“Is abortion a question of religious belief? What religious belief that an unborn is a human being? In my view, the terrifying reality is that there are Catholics and others who absolutely refuse even to look at the question of whether the unborn is a human being. The ‘right’ of privacy has been made an absolute, so that a woman is led to believe that even if the unborn is a human being, she has the prior right to ‘privacy’ to kill her unborn.”
At a news conference in Albany on January 17 of this year, Cardinal O’Connor repeatedly emphasized the importance of forcing lawmakers to vote their consciences publicly on abortion saying those who personally oppose abortion but think they must take a pro-choice position to get elected should leave office rather than betray their beliefs.
The Bishops of Montana
On November 20, Montana’s bishops issued a statement addressed to Catholic state officeholders. Bishops Elden Curtiss of Helena and Anthony Milone of Great Falls Billings responded to Catholic state officials who supported a pro-choice position on November 19 at a pro-choice rally in Helena.
We have not violated the principle of the separation of church and state by our public action. The First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a church or favoring one religion over others. The Church has the right in our democratic society to enter into public debate over moral issues which concern the dignity of human life and the quality of human life. We seek no favors as we enter this public arena, and we hope there will be no discrimination directed against the Church because we have been compelled to raise our voices in response to the voices of others.
We do not accept the dichotomy between private and public morality that is urged as a compromise by some people in the abortion debate. For anyone to state publicly that they are personally opposed to abortion but support the right of women to choose abortion is inconsistent. This double standard of morality would be disastrous for our society if it were followed to its logical conclusion: e.g., someone saying that ‘I am personally opposed to grand larceny and drug trafficking and murder and rape, but I support the right of our citizens to engage in these activities if they so choose.’
If some Catholic officeholders have come to the conclusion that in the pluralistic society women must be given the option of choosing abortion in order to guarantee their civil rights, then we have the obligation to remind them that preborn babies have no option but death in these decisions. The Church must defend the most defenseless in our society, which in this issue means babies before and after birth.
Bishop Albert Ottenweller of Steubenville, Ohio
Bishop Ottenweller has joined those who have participated in Operation Rescue missions, resulting in his July 15 arrest.
This is a question of civil rights, we’ve got to be willing to take a stand in order to protest the killing of the unborn. We need to make people think about 22 million unborn children, the weakest in society, whose lives are being snuffed out. Something must be done to make people look soberly at the issue. To show how deeply I feel about abortion and the dignity of human life, I am willing to go to jail along with the – other members of our group.
Auxiliary Bishop Patrick V. Ahern, Vicar of Staten Island in New York City
Bishop Ahern is chairman of the New York Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee. He has emerged as a leader in the antiabortion movement, preaching against what he calls an alarming erosion in the conscience of Catholics regarding abortions.
If we stop preaching on abortion, are we not quietly allowing the issue to be lost?
So we must preach on it if we wish the consciences of our people to be not only informed but sensitized, if we wish abortion to be for them a matter of life and death in the sense they would never under any circumstances go near it, and also to stir up in them the courage to give witness to others of their conviction.
We do not accept the dichotomy between private and public morality that is urged as a compromise by some people in the abortion debate.