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Bishop John Smith of Trenton, NJ blasts hypocrisy of ‘pro-choice’ Catholic politicians

By Mary Stadnyk

The Monitor

Catholic Diocese of Trenton


RED BANK – In a homily expressing strong emotions and using deliberate words, Bishop John M. Smith drew several thunderous rounds of applause as he spoke straight from the heart about "what is going on in our society today" with regard to respect life issues across the board.

At the annual diocesan Respect Life Mass in St. James Church March 27, Bishop Smith expressed annoyance and even anger at the response of public officials who portray themselves as devout Catholics, but do not uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church on respect life issues. It "gives me great annoyance," he said, then was met with a round of applause as he particularly noted the stand of New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey.

"When he refers to himself as a devout Catholic and supports legislation and programs that are contrary to the teaching of the Holy Father and the bishops, he is not a devout Catholic," said Bishop Smith. "He cannot compromise what it means to be a Catholic. I speak, as your bishop, for the devout Catholics of the Diocese of Trenton. (Gov.) Jim McGreevey does not."

Along with McGreevey, there are many state legislators and members of Congress from New Jersey who claim to be Catholics and they are not when they don not uphold the teachings of the Church, the bishop said. "When we vote those people back into office, whom do we have to blame but ourselves?" he asked.

Living in the United States, a country that is "supposed" to have a democracy where the people have the right to vote, the bishop decried the fact that the Internal Revenue Service "is ready to jump down the throat of the Catholic Church when we bring a politician into a church" but it’s not the case when other religious groups do that.

"I don’t know what to do about it, to be very honest," he said. "But it’s OK to get angry."

The bishop said he found it a heartening experience to be present for the diocesan Respect Life Mass and for the procession that followed to a nearby Planned Parenthood facility where participants prayed the five Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary for the intentions of all life issues.

The bishop did note some "good things happening in the life movement," recalling "that beautiful day in Washington, D.C." on Jan. 22 when thousands of people gathered for the 30th annual March for Life Rally. It was a day, he said "that brought out people like yourselves who are trying to follow Jesus’ value of life" – from the first moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Noting that the march received hardly any media coverage and that seemed to be "very unfair" to the pro-life effort, the bishop focused on the many thousands of young people gathered for the Youth Rally and Mass in the MCI Center at the invitation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and later at the March for Life.

Speaking of adoption, the bishop said while "everyone is pro-adoption in the Catholic community," the idea many people seem to have is about adopting those "little, cute, pink, healthy" babies who will one day grow up to make their parents proud.

Often, those children placed for adoption don’t fit that image. There are many more children who are of other races, color, some with physical ailments and many with AIDS.

"Who wants to put that burden on themselves as adoptive parents?" the bishop asked rhetorically. "Do we think the lives of those who are not ‘little, cute, pink, healthy babies’ are valuable? Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves to be part of helping those children?"

It’s one thing for Catholics to chastise women who are considering abortions or structures or institutions that support the practice. However, the Roman Catholic Church makes available to women who are suffering from post abortion syndrome spiritual assistance through Project Rachel, a program that helps them to heal, to be reconciled and to be loved.

"Jesus loved the sinner," Bishop Smith said. "Do they not have the same right to that kind of love?"

While the bishop addressed the gamut of respect life issues in his homily, he emphasized that what continues to be needed "is clarity about the teachings of the Church, patience and perseverance."

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