Clarity From Kansas City Bishop Finn On A Catholic's Duty In The Voting Booth
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, D.D. Bishop of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph
An interview conducted by Hugh Hewitt.
HH: As promised, I am joined now by Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic
Diocese of Kansas City, St. Joseph. Bishop Finn, welcome to the program,
it’s a pleasure to have you on.
RF: Thanks, Hugh, I’m glad to be with you.
HH: Now Bishop, as of this morning, the latest poll that I’ve seen, IBD Tipp
poll says that up to 13% of Roman Catholics are undecided on the
presidential election. Speaking right to them, what should they be weighing
in their minds?
RF: Well, I just don’t think there’s any question that in all of Church
teaching that the life issues, particularly the protection of unborn
children against the crime of abortion, has to be our greatest priority.
This is an ongoing slaughter of 4,000 children every single day for the last
35 years. And if we don’t do anything about it, we bear a lot of
responsibility. If we support and promote persons who have pledged to extend
it and intensify the slaughter, then we bear a great responsibility with
HH: When you say bear a great responsibility, does that rise to the level,
in the eyes of the Church teaching, to grave sin?
RF: I think it is, of course. You know, how important is, you know, someone
might say how important is my vote. Well, ask somebody if they think what
they think if their vote was taken away from them, or if they felt that they
had been defrauded of their vote. And I think all of us as Americans would
say my vote’s very, very important. So…and then we’re talking about the
willful destruction, direct destruction of a human life. And so when you
couple the gravity of the sense of our vote, and the gravity of the action
of abortion, and we see candidates pledge that they’re going to, for
example, in addition to promoting everything that we have right now, they’re
going to enact the Freedom Of Choice Act, removing all reasonable
limitations. So many Americans say they want limitations on abortion. The
Freedom Of Choice Act would remove every single limitation that’s been put
in place by well-meaning folks for the last 35 years – parental
notification, mandatory waiting periods, counseling, the use of ultrasounds,
and not to speak of the fact that taxpayers will have to pay for abortions,
and also the conscious clauses will be removed from individual healthcare
workers, or even institutions. So you can’t support a person who wants to go
to complete full-scale war against the unborn.
HH: Bishop Finn, if a Catholic comes to you and says yeah, but I’m worried
about the poor, and there’s global warming, and candidate X is so much
better than candidate Y on those, even though candidate X is pro-choice, and
in fact, an absolutist when it comes to abortion rights. Doesn’t that
balance out? What’s the response?
RF: Well, you know, some people say that if you have some candidate who
wants to do all kind of great things for the poor, that this is going to
reach abortion at its foundations. But the foundation of abortion is not
poverty. The poor don’t necessarily hate their children and desire to get
rid of them or don’t want them anymore than the rich, some of them want
them, and some of them dispose of them. But the real root of abortion in our
country is this total disregard and numbness about the value of human life.
It’s the idolatry of self and selfish convenience. It’s the total neglect of
personal responsibility. These are the things that are at the root of
abortion, not just poverty. I’m afraid some people think that if we throw
enough money at people, well then they’re going to stop all their choices
for abortion. I don’t think that will work. I don’t think that it would be
the solution fully, even if it was. And the same people who are then
promoting someone who wants to remove limitations on abortions, which are
measurable at having reduced abortions by 125,000 a year through parental
notifications and the like, they can’t be serious. They can’t be serious
that voting for someone who’s going to throw some more money at the poor is
going to reduce abortion. What they’re looking for is a way to salve their
conscience, and give them a rationalization that will help them sleep
tomorrow after they vote.
HH: I’m talking with Bishop Robert Finn of the Archdiocese of Kansas City.
Bishop, I’ve had Archbishop Chaput on this program, I’ve read Cardinal
Rigali’s letter as well. And still I have people come up to me in places
like Ohio and Minnesota after I’ve done this last week when I was traveling
around, tell me that their local priests are counseling them it’s okay to
vote for Barack Obama, it’s okay to vote for a candidate who’s radically
pro-choice because of other reasons. If such a priest if known to you in
your diocese, do you discipline them.
RF: Well, we certainly have to talk in a very serious way. I think priests
are subject to many of the same limitations as other people. They may have
grown up in a particular partisan household that favors a candidate
regardless of their moral stance. They’re among those people who want to
look for a way to rationalize their conscience. But yes, as a bishop, I have
to try to hold my priests accountable for misleading people.
HH: And does that, do you communicate to their parishes that their priest is
not to be listened to when you discover something like that?
RF: No, I mean I would not typically denounce the priest to his parish,
because that’s not good for the unity of the flock, either. But it may mean
that as the father of my priests, I have to have some heart to heart talks.
HH: If I can keep you, Bishop, I will come right back and ask you a couple
- - -
HH: Bishop Finn, a lot of Catholics are wondering what to do tomorrow, it’s
voting day. And I want you to sum it up for them, because it can’t be
repeated enough how they’re supposed to approach this most important civic
exercise with a sort of Catholic worldview.
RF: Well, I think that they have to see their apostolic mandate to do what
they can to support human life. This slaughter’s been going on for so, so
long, and it’s going to be a tough battle before us no matter what. But we
can’t set it back that much more. People have to realize that they will be
held accountable for these important decisions before God. I won’t know.
They’ll do what they do privately. So they have to pray. They have to pray
for the light of the Holy Spirit, they have to study what the candidates
stand for, but also study what the Church teaches. The teaching is
exceedingly clear. Don’t follow a false shepherd. Read it in the Catechism
of the Catholic Church. Read it in the statements of our Holy Father’s. And
they’re non-partisan. They’re not even Americans. But again and again, they
hold up for us the values of life. And then pray for the fortitude on the
determination to exercise this important act of patriotism in a way that
expresses a virtue and a value, rather than hides behind a party.
HH: When you say they will be held accountable for their votes, do you mean
that it could cost someone their eternal soul?
RF: Well, of course. I mean, the decisions that we make are important, and
they have…you know, these people who get elected, they don’t just arrive all
on their own. We elect them. We, you and I support them or we don’t. And so
we have some participation in that. Now you know, someone wrote to me and
said well, you know, I voted for Obama, I’ll repent later. And well, you
know, I hope that God does change a heart if they feel that they’ve made a
terrible mistake and to have to repent. But it’s much more important and
vital that we make the right decision when it’s before us.
HH: Do you think, last question, Bishop Finn, thanks again for being here,
if someone votes for Obama and they know they’re voting in their mind for
abortion rights absolutism, could they receive, under the Church’s teaching,
Communion the very next day?
RF: Well, they shouldn’t. It’s not a matter of public action, so it’s not
the same scandal as a public official who places, a legislator who places a
public vote in support of abortion. But no, if formal cooperation, there’s
absolutely no doubt about it that if you agree with the right of abortion,
you shouldn’t be, you’re in grave sin. You shouldn’t be receiving the
HH: Bishop Finn, thank you.
End of interview.