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A Letter from Bishop John J. Myers

Bishop of Peoria, Illinois

June, 1990

My dear friends:

A decision of the Supreme Court in July of 1989 which reaffirmed the role of government in regulating abortion has resulted in renewed controversy. In the months since then, some politicians who consider themselves good Catholics have endorsed the view that abortion ought to be legal and even funded by the government. Some Catholic voters appear confused and some even to have faltered in their obligations in conscience to the unborn.

I have recently issued a "Pastoral Statement on the Obligation of Catholics and the Rights of Unborn Children." I invite you to reflect upon and pray about the pastoral statement. It flows from my deep concern for the unborn, but also from genuine concern about those who misguidedly support abortion, including Catholic voters and Catholics in public life. Patience, compassion and pastoral concern must always characterize our dealings with women who, for whatever reason, seek to deal with unwanted pregnancy by the expedient of abortion. At the same time, it is important to note that sound pastoral practice can only be based on the truth. And the truth is that direct abortion is the unjust killing of innocent human beings.

Catholics have the same freedom as other citizens in making political choices. They also have the duty to follow a well-formed conscience. This pastoral statement respects this freedom and does not favor one political party over another or recommend one candidate in preference to another. It does attempt, however, to make clear the moral framework within which Catholics must make their political decisions if they are to be responsible.

Catholic faith and teaching have condemned abortion since the earliest days of the church. Modern technology has made the question more urgent, but science has confirmed our understanding that at conception a unique human being begins. This unborn human being shares with every other member of the human family a basic moral right to life.

Public law and public policy must be committed to justice for every person. We Catholics have made a comprehensive commitment to justice and to seeking a decent life for everyone, especially the poor and marginalized. No right, however, is more an issue of fundamental justice than the right to be born, the right to live.

I joined the other Catholic bishops of this country in November of 1989 in approving a statement which includes the point: "No Catholic can responsibly take a pro-choice stand when the choice in question involves the taking of innocent human life. " No one can reasonably claim to be "personally opposed" but publicly in favor of pro-abortion laws and policies. My pastoral statement builds on this teaching:

"Let there be no doubt that striving for legal abortion is radically inconsistent with the Catholic faith. Any citizen or public official who helps to make abortion more widely available, or any priest, religious or theologian who teaches that it ought to be made available, commits a grave injustice against the most vulnerable members of the human family. Those who openly commit such injustices while purporting to share the Catholic faith scandalize the faithful and undermine the teaching of the church. By their own actions they seriously weaken their own relationship with the church, the Body of Christ. "

Catholics who, because of an incorrectly formed conscience, dissent from this church teaching, should recognize that they have separated themselves in a significant way from the Catholic community. Such a choice has serious consequences, even if the person acts in the mistaken belief that it is permissible.

We must pray for one another, for the unborn and for all those who hold responsibility for public policy. We must address other citizens and our public officials with determination and conviction, but we must also attend to the tone of the public discourse. Our Lord Jesus displayed dignity in even the most difficult moments. He always respected others, even those who unjustly sought His death. He calls us to act, surely, but always following His example of love.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta has often said, "If you do not want your babies, give them to me. " Echoing her words, I say in the name of the Catholic community of the Peoria Diocese, if you do not want your babies, give them to us. We will accept them. We will find them homes. We will offer them a chance to live and to love. We will share with them the good news of Jesus Christ.

We stand in need of a moral miracle. However great our own efforts, only the Provident God can touch the hearts and minds of millions of our sisters and brothers who are tragically mistaken on the important issue of abortion. Let us ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, to seek the grace from her Divine Son, that each member of our society may love the unborn as He loves them. As children of the loving God, we must turn to Him in the face of these seemingly insurmountable problems. His truth will set us free.

With kindest personal regards, I am

Sincerely in the Lord,

Most Rev. John J. Myers
Bishop of Peoria


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