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Statement from Archbishop Jerome Hanus in response to comments made by Sister Michelle Nemmers at Democratic Rally in Dubuque, IA

October 31, 2004

The Friday issue of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald included an article describing the thoughts, words and political activities of a Catholic Franciscan Sister from Dubuque. She claims to be presenting a position which is compatible with Catholic teachings.

In fact, Sister Michelle Nemmers is wrong. Her words show that she does not understand the Catholic Church's teaching. She is quoted as saying that it can be acceptable to choose abortion. This is totally contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Abortion is the killing of an innocent human being. "Direct abortion is never a morally tolerable option. It is always a grave act of violence against a woman and her unborn child" (Bishops' Statement 1998). We know and believe this from Scripture. We know it also from human reason.

When Sister Michelle declares that there are times when it is permissible to have an abortion, she is wrong. Even when she says, "It should be the extreme last choice," she is wrong. It is never morally permissible to procure or to support or to cooperate in an abortion.

Sister Michelle seems to want to present herself as a teacher of Catholic thought. As the Catholic archbishop of Dubuque, it is my responsibility to assert that she is not a qualified teacher of Catholic thought. What she has said is erroneous. No Catholic who desires to be in communion with the Catholic Church should accept or follow her words.

Some other Sisters have made claims that their partisan position can be justified by appealing to the Bishops' document, "Faithful Citizenship." Let me affirm that they do not speak for the Church. They are expressing their personal opinion. They have a right to express their opinion. But Catholics should not quickly conclude that personal presentations are the authentic Catholic position.

The Catholic Church does not endorse political parties or particular candidates. But the position of the Church has been clearly stated by the Bishops. "Catholics who are privileged to serve in public leadership positions have an obligation to place their faith at the heart of their public service, particularly on issues regarding the sanctity and dignity of human life... 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, n. 31)

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