A group of 96 influential Catholics issued a petition yesterday that explicitly criticizes a statement released by pro-choice politicians last November that calls for greater "civility" from Catholics in political discourse.
The signers of the new statement believe the November statement would have the effect of silencing the pro-life movement and silencing criticism of pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
Most of the signers of the new statement are influential in the public-square, public policy, or academia. Among the 96 signers are university professors, think-tank scholars, journalists, authors, doctors, lawyers and others. They include such Catholic luminaries as Templeton Prize winner Michael Novak, authors Robert Royal and Peter Kreeft, and columnist Russell Shaw.
"Rather than giving pro-abortion Catholic politicians a pass, we should vote them out of office and encourage them to repent," said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and one of the organizers of the statement.
"Too often these days civility is defined as giving in to the way the media define the issue under debate, whereas honesty demands insisting upon a different way of looking on things, even when this attempt is treated as a nuisance," said Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute.
"I signed this statement because, as the Church teaches, abortion is the most important issue in the world; it is not an issue like others, it is not one on which reasonable people can disagree," said William Saunders of the Family Research Council. "We cannot let calls for civility toward pro-abortion Catholic politicians obscure our fundamental obligation to oppose abortion."
The new statement called A Catholic Response to the "Call for Civility" says in part:
"All men and women of good will value civility, but civility is not the highest – or the only – civic virtue," says the petition. "Rather, justice is. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in Deus Caritas Est, "Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics.
"If Catholic politicians advocated segregation or – even worse – slavery, would there be a call for civility towards them?" continues the statement. "If Catholic politicians said the poor are poor because of their bad behavior and we are not obliged to help them in any way, wouldn't we say they are heartless and even un-Christian? Some ask for civility now for one reason: abortion.
"The lack of public civility comes not from pro-lifers but from those Catholic politicians who support the right to kill innocent life in the womb and those who support defining man-woman marriage out of existence. But, some want to treat these politicians differently because they agree with them on important but purely prudential questions like health care, and the minimum wage.
"Though not all of its signers intend it, we believe the effect of the "Call for Civility" would be to silence the pro-life and pro-family movements," concludes the statement. "We oppose this effort root and branch. In short, we will feel free even strongly to condemn the public policy positions of Catholic politicians who support abortion, embryo-destructive research, and homosexual marriage. They stand against the teachings of the Church and in favor of morally repugnant practices that are counter to the common good and that should be unwelcome in a just or even polite society."