Testimony before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments
of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
March 7, 1974
His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Manning
Archbishop of Los Angeles
I am Cardinal Timothy Manning. I fully associate myself with
the remarks of Cardinal Krol. I wish to touch briefly on certain
objectionable aspects of the Supreme Court's abortion decisions [Roe vs. Wade
and Doe vs. Bolton] as well as on the appropriate position of the law with
regard to human rights.
No responsible American wishes to suggest disrespect for the Supreme Court of
the United States. But honest disagreement is not disrespect. Recognition of the
crucial role played by the Supreme Court in our system of government should not
blind us to the fact that the court can err, as our history indicates. In this
case we believe it has done so, and its error is a national tragedy.
It is important to make this point because Supreme Court decisions tend to be
invested with an aura which places them almost beyond criticism. When the
Supreme Court speaks, it is presumed to be the authentic interpreter of the
Constitution. But its interpretation can be mistaken. In the case of the
abortion decisions the Court created constitutional doctrine out of opinions
which appear arbitrary at best.
Mr. Justice White spoke to this point in his dissent from the majority. "I
find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the
Court's judgment," he wrote. "The Court simply fashions and announces a new
constitutional right . . . with scarcely any reason or authority for its action
The fact is, nevertheless, that the Court has spoken and its novel doctrine
of virtual abortion on request will stand until concerned Americans avail
themselves of the means of redress which the Constitution itself provides. I
refer of course to a constitutional amendment.
An amendment is necessary first of all to protect the lives of the unborn
children who can be killed -- indeed, are being killed at this very moment -- in
the wake of the Supreme Court's decisions. But it is also needed to restore
integrity to the law itself, to make the American legal system once more the
guarantor and protector of all human rights and the human rights of all.
Human rights stand always in need of vindication and protection. One of the
distinguishing characteristics of a civilized society, and a particular concern
of the Church, is the special care required to provide protection for those of
its members who are least able to protect themselves. Conversely, it is a sign
of sickness in a society when it becomes callous to the rights of the
defenseless and deaf to the pleas of the weak.
I hesitate to say that the United States as a whole has arrived at such a
condition. Yet the stark fact is that the unborn are being destroyed in our
country at an unprecedented rate, and the destruction goes on because there is
no adequate protection in the law. No one who cherishes this nation's historic
commitment to human rights can contemplate this situation with complacency.
As Cardinal Krol has remarked, amending our Constitution is not a matter to
be undertaken lightly. Yet amending the Constitution is now essential if the
American system of law itself is to remain true to its role as protector of the
rights of all. It would be impossible to improve on the statement of principle
articulated by our Founding Fathers:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
An amendment to protect the unborn is needed now in order
that these words may continue to express the reality of American belief and