In place of my usual weekly column, I have received permission from Bishop Thomas Paprocki, of Springfield, Illinois, an acquaintance of mine, to reproduce a major part of a letter he sent to his flock recently regarding the upcoming elections. He doesn’t mince words. It has been somewhat edited for brevity.
As Election Day in our country approaches, people have been asking me to provide some guidance as they consider the candidates and ponder their votes. While I can’t endorse any candidates, I can provide some education and information to help inform one’s choices. The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a comprehensive voter education guide entitled, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.” Adopted in 2007, it has been updated. In the new introductory letter of the U.S. Catholic bishops at their Meeting last November, there is this key statement: “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.” The full text of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, including the new introductory letter, is available online at usccb.org.
The emphasis on abortion as our “preeminent priority” is timely, not only as we approach the 2020 election, but also because October is designated by the U.S. Catholic Bishops as Respect Life Month. This year’s Respect Life theme is, “Live the Gospel of Life.” This reference recalls the prophetic papal encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life), by Pope St. John Paul in 1995, to reaffirm the value and inviolability of every human life and appeal to all people to respect, protect, love, and serve every human life.
With specific reference to abortion laws and voting, St. John Paul wrote, “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.”
Pope Francis has called abortion a “very grave sin” and a “horrendous crime.” He indicated that he agreed with the U.S. bishops “identifying the protection of the unborn as a preeminent priority.” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and Chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee for Pro-Life Activities, in a visit with the Holy Father last January, said that Pope Francis was “stunned” when told that an estimated 61 million abortions have taken place in the United States since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision made the procedure legal.
To say that an issue is “preeminent” does not mean that it is the only issue, but that it surpasses all others in importance. It is preeminent in that it is the basic human right on which all other rights depend. if a baby is killed before birth, that person won’t be able to exercise any other human rights.
The Church has always affirmed the moral evil of abortion. Vatican II affirmed that direct abortion, willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law, saying, “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, #51).
Over the last fifty years, abortion has become a defining issue, very much as slavery was the defining issue during the time of Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century. Then, in the Lincoln-Douglas debates and speeches of other politicians, that issue consumed people’s attention and defined their political priorities. So, where do today’s political parties and the major candidates stand on abortion, the preeminent issue of our time?
The 2020 Democrat’s Party Platform states that they unequivocally believe that every woman should be able to “access safe and legal abortion.” They also pledge to “restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” the largest single provider of abortions in the U.S.; and they wish to repeal the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which, has prohibited using federal funds to pay for abortions except in the rare cases to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape. Their platform also pledges to appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges who will uphold Roe v. Wade.
Their candidates for president and vice-president, support the Democrat Party Platform promoting abortion, and calling for the use of federal taxpayer funding of abortion and the appointment of pro-abortion judges. They pledge to restore the Obama-Biden policy that mandates churches, businesses, colleges, and even religious orders to provide coverage for abortion pills in their employees’ health insurance plans.
The Republican National Committee issued a resolution stating that, due to constraints as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, they would not issue a new party platform. Instead, the 2016 Party Platform would remain intact. In it, they “assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.” They “oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion, or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.” They also “support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.” Its candidates for president and vice-president promote laws that restrict abortion, oppose federal funding for abortions, and support the appointment of judges who respect the life of the unborn.
But, not all candidates follow their respective party’s platform. Before you cast your ballot, find out where each candidate stands on critical life-related issues, such as abortion, or using taxpayer money to fund or promote abortion; respecting that churches, businesses, colleges, hospitals, and religious orders do not have to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their employees’ health insurance plans; appointing judges who respect the life of unborn babies; and physician-assisted suicide.
Our nation’s politics present us with opportunities and challenges. We are a nation founded on ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;’ but that right to life itself isn’t yet fully protected, especially for the unborn, the terminally ill, and the elderly, — the most vulnerable members of the American family.