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 CNS Story:

GUEST COMMENTARY Sep-3-2008 (870 words) xxxa

Politicians ignore moral law at the peril of millions of the unborn

Catholic News Service

Responding to editors' requests for a regular sampling of current commentary from around the Catholic press, here is an unsigned editorial titled "Politicians ignore moral law at the peril of millions of the unborn," which appeared in the Aug. 27 issue of the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn.

Once again some of the country's most prominent politicians have been caught in a sticky trap trying to reconcile the obvious contradiction of their Catholic faith and their support for abortion rights.

The latest Catholic politician to dive into the muck was U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In a television interview on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Pelosi tried to argue that church teaching on when life begins and whether abortion is evil is somehow unsettled and open for debate. She tried to say that since the church hadn't yet made up its mind on the issue Catholic politicians were free to ignore church teachings in weighing their public votes and actions.

Cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests -- not to mention laypeople -- moved quickly to correct Speaker Pelosi's errors and to restate the church's unequivocal teaching for nearly 2,000 years that human life begins at conception and that all human life is sacred and requires our protection.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine, issued a statement rebuking Speaker Pelosi, saying she "misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion."

"In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, 'Since the first century the church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law,'" according to the statement.

Church leaders from around the country issued their own statements condemning Speaker Pelosi's words and reinforcing the obligation of all Catholics to remain faithful to church teaching.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley, both of Denver, the site of the Democratic convention, issued a statement that said, "Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it -- whether they're famous or not -- fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith."

Even if Speaker Pelosi had never uttered a word about abortion, the issue was certain to dominate the headlines as Sen. Joseph Biden, another Catholic politician who has voted consistently to support abortion rights, was selected by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to be his running mate.

Sen. Biden has used a common, false argument in excusing his support for legalized abortion. He, like many other politicians, has said that despite his personal opposition to abortion he has no right to impose his view, which springs from his faith, on the rest of America. So many politicians have used that argument to absolve themselves of their responsibility to make reasoned, honest judgments on what is right or wrong, what is just or unjust, what is moral or immoral. Those are judgments that do not rest in the hands of any single faith or any single denomination. They are judgments founded on an absolute, moral law that all life has value, all life is precious and we do not have the luxury to choose to ignore, discard and destroy a unique human being.

To the certain consternation of abortion rights advocates, the Catholic Church has found an ally in this fight: science. With every new development in understanding genetics and how they influence so much of our lives, it becomes more and more difficult to deny that a unique human being is created at the moment of conception, and thus more difficult to deny that every human being is entitled to the most fundamental right to life no matter where they are in their personal arc of human development.

For 2,000 years, the church has been steadfast in preaching that all human life is sacred because we all are created in the image of God. And after 2,000 years we are still called to follow the example of Jesus who opened his arms to the most vulnerable around him, to seek them out and to comfort them.

As a church, we do not endorse candidates or parties in elections. However, like Jesus, we do stand staunchly in the corner of the weak, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. There is no more vulnerable a group than the unborn, and we must remember them as we choose our leaders.

As Americans, as Christians, as Catholics we expect our elected leaders to work for liberty and justice for all, born and unborn. They don't get to choose who is worthy of respect, protection and love. And they don't get to misrepresent the church's teachings to hide their failure to follow the Gospel and to live their faith on this issue.


Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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