The Ballot and the Right to Life
Silence. A calculated and, perhaps cowardly silence about the death of
innocent babies by the nation’s abortion industry is painfully evident during
this election year. Politicians seeking our votes are ever ready to talk about
Social Security, prescription drug programs, foreign trade policy -- everything
but the issue that has seared the conscience of our nation since Roe v. Wade
made the killing of the unborn a socially acceptable practice for those facing
Abortion is the issue this year and every year in every campaign. Catholics
may not turn away from the moral challenges that abortion poses for those who
seek to obey God’s commands.
They are wrong when they assert that abortion does not concern them, or that
it is only one of a multitude of issues of equal importance. No, the taking of
innocent human life is so heinous, so horribly evil, and so absolutely opposite
to the law of Almighty God that abortion must take precedence over every other
issue. I repeat. It is the single most important issue confronting not only
Catholics, but also the entire electorate.
In 1998 Pope John Paul II presented a stirring challenge – one which has a
particular importance during this election year. He said, "Today I believe the
Lord is saying to us all: do not hesitate, do not be afraid to engage in the
good fight of the faith (cf. 1 Tim 6:12) When we preach the liberating message
of Jesus Christ we are offering the words of the life to the world. Our
prophetic witness is an urgent and essential service not just to the Catholic
community but to the whole human family."
We Catholics are called to offer prophetic witness as we take concrete and
deliberate steps to elect leaders who heed God’s law as well as the truths
advance by our country’s founders. The words of the Declaration of Independence
set forth the truths that were forever to guide an American society. The truths
of the Declaration are so fundamentally at odds with the vision of the human
person which was imposed upon the nation by the deplorable Roe v. Wade
decision: "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."
In November 1998, the bishops of the United States approved a document
entitled Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics. We
bishops declared that there is a critical need for a concerted effort to make
respect for life not a pious phrase but an agenda for action. The bishops were
clear for unambiguous Catholic witness in every sphere of American life,
including the electoral process. "We believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is
a 'Gospel of life.' We cannot simultaneously commit ourselves to human rights
and progress while eliminating or marginalizing the weakest among us. Nor can we
practice the Gospel of Life only as private piety. American Catholics must live
it vigorously and publicly as a matter of a National leadership and witness or
we will not live it at all."
As the election of 2000 approaches, I urge Catholics to focus on the real
issue of this campaign, the right to life, which in the words of Pope John Paul
II is "the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other
personal rights…" I urge you, my dear people, to give prophetic witness by
voting for men and women who believe that the equal rights afforded all of our
citizens also belong to every child, born or unborn.
With every best wish, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend James C. Timlin, D.D.
Bishop of Scranton