Statement from Archbishop Jerome Hanus in response to comments
made by Sister Michelle Nemmers at Democratic Rally in Dubuque, IA
October 31, 2004
The Friday issue of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald included an article
describing the thoughts, words and political activities of a Catholic Franciscan
Sister from Dubuque. She claims to be presenting a position which is compatible
with Catholic teachings.
In fact, Sister Michelle Nemmers is wrong. Her words show that she does not
understand the Catholic Church's teaching. She is quoted as saying that it can
be acceptable to choose abortion. This is totally contrary to the teaching of
the Roman Catholic Church.
Abortion is the killing of an innocent human being. "Direct abortion is never
a morally tolerable option. It is always a grave act of violence against a woman
and her unborn child" (Bishops' Statement 1998). We know and believe this from
Scripture. We know it also from human reason.
When Sister Michelle declares that there are times when it is permissible to
have an abortion, she is wrong. Even when she says, "It should be the extreme
last choice," she is wrong. It is never morally permissible to procure or to
support or to cooperate in an abortion.
Sister Michelle seems to want to present herself as a teacher of Catholic
thought. As the Catholic archbishop of Dubuque, it is my responsibility to
assert that she is not a qualified teacher of Catholic thought. What she has
said is erroneous. No Catholic who desires to be in communion with the Catholic
Church should accept or follow her words.
Some other Sisters have made claims that their partisan position can be
justified by appealing to the Bishops' document, "Faithful Citizenship." Let me
affirm that they do not speak for the Church. They are expressing their personal
opinion. They have a right to express their opinion. But Catholics should not
quickly conclude that personal presentations are the authentic Catholic
The Catholic Church does not endorse political parties or particular
candidates. But the position of the Church has been clearly stated by the
Bishops. "Catholics who are privileged to serve in public leadership positions
have an obligation to place their faith at the heart of their public service,
particularly on issues regarding the sanctity and dignity of human life... No
public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic,
can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent
human life" (Living the Gospel of Life, n. 31)