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Bishops Call us to New Commitment to Life

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life

November 05, 2008
   It is a short statement, issued in a very ordinary way.

But the power of the words spoken by the US Bishops in their recent statement, Abortion and the Supreme Court: Advancing the Culture of Death, is too great to be ignored.

Meeting in Washington, DC for their semi-annual meeting in mid-November, the full body of bishops declared that the recent Supreme Court decision, Stenberg v. Carhart, which permitted partial-birth abortion to continue, "has brought our legal system to the brink of endorsing infanticide." This fact is evident in the statements of people like Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse, who have written, "The pro-life groups are right about one thing: the location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make such a crucial moral difference" ("On Letting Handicapped Babies Die"). According to Singer, there are "only two possibilities," namely, "oppose abortion, or allow infanticide" (Rethinking Life and Death, p.210)

The bishops' statement reviews some of the "coarsening effects" that the Supreme Court's abortion decisions have had on our culture, and makes a point of mentioning the role of men in the abortion decision. A national policy which gives men no say as to whether their unborn child will be killed or protected "encourages many young men to feel no sense of responsibility to take care of the children they helped to create and no loyalty to their child's mother." In other words, the flip side of rights is responsibilities, and those who think that the abortion license empowers women need to think again.

The bishops' statement, furthermore, points out the existence of what might be called a "consistent ethic of death." Because the Court essentially has expanded the "right to choose" to include children who are outside the womb, supporters of abortion can no longer take refuge in the assertion that they aren't sure when life begins. The bishops explain,

"Ultimately this issue is not about "when life begins," or even exclusively about abortion. Modern medicine has brought us face-to-face with the continuum of human life from conception onwards, and the inescapable reality of human life in the womb. Yet our legal system, and thus our national culture, is being pressed to declare that human life has no inherent worth, that the value of human life can be assigned by the powerful and that the protection of the vulnerable is subject to the arbitrary choice of others. The lives of all who are marginalized by our society are endangered by such a trend."

Abortion, in other words, is more than abortion. Anyone concerned about the protection of life and the advancement of human dignity in any circumstance needs to see legal abortion as a major obstacle to their goals. An attack on an innocent child is an attack on all of us, and a government that cannot protect such a child endangers the rest of us as well.

Consistent with the stance of the Church from the days of the apostles, who declared, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), the bishops declare in their statement, "We know that no human government can legitimately deny the right to life or restrict it to certain classes of human beings. Therefore the Court's abortion decisions deserve only to be condemned, repudiated and ultimately reversed."

Finally, the bishops point out that our pro-life task is far more than challenging government. It means prayer, education, and active service to those in need.

The bishops deserve our gratitude for this statement, and even more, our faithfulness in carrying it out.

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