Bishop McDonnell Responds to Questions About Pro-life Issues
Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, Bishop of Springfield, MA
SPRINGFIELD – Catholic Communications interviewed Springfield Bishop
Timothy A. McDonnell recently about why Catholics are called to be pro-life.
Bishop McDonnell has made the respect life issue a priority in the diocese.
He said he hopes to inspire people to get involved to help save the lives of
the unborn, and to reach out to mothers, fathers and families affected by
the tragedy of abortion. He also emphasized there are other components to
the pro-life debate.
This conversation will air Saturday, Oct. 4 on “Real to Reel” at 7 p.m. on
WWLP-22NEWS. The story will kick off a new segment on “Real to Reel”
dedicated to pro-life issues.
Q. Bishop McDonnell, thank you for speaking with us today. What does it mean
to be pro-life and Catholic?
Bishop McDonnell: The two come together. To be human is to be pro-life.
Every human being is unique. DNA is the unique identifier in each human
being. When do those identifiers begin? They begin at the moment of
Q. Has the church always opposed abortion?
Bishop McDonnell: There has always been overwhelming evidence all the way
back 2000 years, that abortion is wrong, that it is taking what God has
created and destroying that life. That doesn’t mean that we don’t realize
that women have a very difficult time. That is why there are so many
services out there offered to help women who are pregnant.
Q. This issue is so polarizing that most people would rather avoid it, let
alone be loud and proud and say “pro-life.” How can you encourage Catholics
to really be a hero on this issue for the unborn?
Bishop McDonnell: I go to science. Since ultrasounds have become very
common, all of a sudden, the wonder of what takes place during those nine
months in the womb has become more understandable. I don’t think anybody can
look at an ultrasound or read the scientific literature without realizing
that this unique human life, this unique human being is there. I think we
have to focus on the fact that 40 million lives have been ended since Roe v.
Q. Where does the respect life issue fall on the priority list for
Bishop McDonnell: The right to life is at the basis of everything else we
do. We have to understand that. There’s no either or, abortion or social
justice. Abortion is a social justice issue.
Q. Let’s talk about the church’s position on euthanasia.
Bishop McDonnell: Sometimes we think we own our own bodies. Sometimes we
think we own ourselves. We don’t. We are in God’s hands. I can understand
the pain. I can understand the hurt that sometimes is there. But, I can’t
understand actually taking another human life. The church’s teaching has
always been life and death is in God’s hands. It’s not supposed to be in
Q. Turning to the death penalty now, many people who consider themselves
pro-life will say by no means can you compare an innocent baby to a serial
killer who has shown no regard for human life.
Bishop McDonnell: One of the things I think we have to remember is the three
theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. Hope is supposed to be part
and parcel of Christian life and hope of redemption for every human being.
Fifteen minutes before the crucifixion on Good Friday, nobody would have
thought there was any possibility at all for that thief on the cross. And
yet, redemption came through Christ.
Q. The church is not against stem-cell research, but against embryonic
stem-cell research. Explain the difference.
Bishop McDonnell: Adult stem cells can be taken from any cell in an adult’s
body and be grown in culture. All it does is take some cells from the body
and no major damage of any kind is done. Embryonic stem-cell research kills
the embryo, big difference.
Q. Can Catholics ever be supportive of a war?
Bishop McDonnell: St. Augustine is the one who looked at the just war and
the possibility of a just war. And, he said there are instances when war can
be just. Four conditions are needed. First of all, you cannot be the
aggressor. It’s a defensive action that you want to take. Secondly, the
means have to be proportionate. Third, there’s no targeting of civilians.
And number four, there has to be hope of a successful outcome.
Q. The Catholic Church cannot endorse candidates, but what can you tell
people about voting?
Bishop McDonnell: Actually, last year the bishops put together a wonderful
document called “Faithful Citizenship.” It is a document that goes through
all of the things we have to think through when choosing a candidate.
Q. Getting back to the abortion issue, as you mentioned, more than 40
million abortions since Roe v. Wade. Does this have to be everyone’s
priority to turn this around?
Bishop McDonnell: We have to remember, we are our brother’s keeper and we do
have a responsibility. But each one will meet that responsibility in a
different way. If we can change one mind, if one person can change the mind
of another about this, there is a ripple effect.
Q. How can you help people be courageous on this issue?
Bishop McDonnell: One of the things we forget is prayer is the most powerful
weapon we have in making a difference. We pray each day consistently and we
pray constantly for the mothers, we pray for the fathers, we pray for all of
the family members who are impacted when an abortion takes place. We pray
that God will help us come to the point where abortion is no longer a part
of our society’s make-up.