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Reflections on Catholic Politicians and Abortion

March 1, 2000

As a national association whose mission is to strengthen the clergy in their preaching and teaching about abortion, we feel obliged in this election season, in which abortion continues to be a hotly debated issue, to echo the recent teaching of our bishops on the relationship between the Church's mission and public policy on this topic.

The Church speaks, and will continue to speak, on the issue of abortion and clearly call for public policies that limit and eventually eradicate this practice. This message is not simply the result of religious beliefs, but of American ideals. As the United States bishops wrote in November of 1998,

"As Americans, as Catholics and as pastors of our people, we write therefore today to call our fellow citizens back to our country's founding principles, and most especially to renew our national respect for the rights of those who are unborn, weak, disabled and terminally ill. Real freedom rests on the inviolability of every person as a child of God. The inherent value of human life, at every stage and in every circumstance, is not a sectarian issue any more than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian creed" (Living the Gospel of Life, #6).

Furthermore, we as Catholic priests refuse to be intimidated when, in carrying out our duty to proclaim the Gospel, we are charged with "meddling in politics." We do not endorse candidates or political parties. We do, however, challenge all in political life to reject the violence of abortion. Politics is not an arena which can absolve itself of responsibility to moral laws; nor can the Church absolve herself of the responsibility to teach those laws.

A further concern arises when those holding or seeking elected office take a "pro-choice" position and also proclaim themselves to be Catholics. No law says you have to be Catholic. But if you publicly declare that you are, don't be surprised if someone criticizes inconsistencies between your public positions and the teachings of the Church. We repeat the words of the United States bishops:

"We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public roles and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching. No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life" (Living the Gospel of Life, #32).

Priests for Life will continue to echo this teaching, particularly in the months ahead, and will continue to be a resource for the clergy to address the abortion issue with vigor, clarity, and confidence.

Fr. Frank Pavone

National Director

Priests for Life

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org