A Letter from Bishop John J. Myers
Bishop of Peoria, Illinois
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
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
for letters of other bishops about abortion.