I believe that the outcome of the coming election, a mere 12 days away, and every implication that it has for the pro-life movement in this country lies in the domain of the Catholic Bishops of the United States.
Democrats have installed the strongest abortion plank to date in their platform and their candidate Barack Obama has promised to make the signing of FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) a priority of his administration. When we pro-life Catholics read on the website of our bishops a description of FOCA here and here, our hearts quail. We have worked so hard for small pro-life gains that to see them all overturned would be very hard.
Like sheep that crowd around their shepherd for protection from a rampaging predator, we must crowd round our bishops now and beg them to help us.
I believe they can. I believe that we have been brought to a situation where we need their voices more desperately than we ever have before. Where the unborn need their voices. Where our nation needs their voices.
What specifically do we need? What is the message that has to get out? Who is the target audience? Where and how can that audience be reached?
The target audience has to be those millions of Catholics who are still of the “seamless garment” mentality. Who in “good,” but ill-formed, conscience still vote for pro-abortion politicians when there is another alternative.
That audience has to be reached immediately through every medium — at weekend homilies, through diocesan organs, by mass-mailing, by television and radio spots, newspaper pages, and Catholic websites.
The message has two components and both of them are perfectly legal, meaning that neither one of them violates the rules regarding the kind of communications allowed to tax-exempt organizations.
The first component of the message is a repudiation of the “seamless garment” policy as popularly understood, that is, as a “loophole” for voting for pro-abortion politicians. A perfect example of how to communicate this clearly and unequivocally was the Joint Statement by Bishops Vann and Farrell.
Among the bishops who have so encouraged us by being similarly outspoken on this are: Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton, Bishops Paul Loverde and Francis DiLorenzo of Arlington and Richmond, Virginia, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island and oustandingly, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput. But we need all our shepherds now! We need clear and unequivocal statements — by every bishop to every parish.
The second component is voter education. Voter education is perfectly legal. It is not endorsement of one candidate or another. It is abundantly clear that the campaign of Barak Obama has been engaging in subterfuge regarding his position on abortion. Out of the millions of Catholic votes to be cast a week from Tuesday are many that will be made by voters knowing neither how extreme the views of Barak Obama are on the issue of abortion nor the danger the pro-life movement faces from FOCA.
FOCA is on the bishops’ radar and the information about it on the USCCB website is extensive, but so far that website is not connecting the dots for Catholic voters. A vote for Obama is a vote for FOCA. What FOCA is and Obama’s promise to sign it into law should be part of the voter education. Archbishop Chaput has been making it very clear and we need more such exposure of Obama’s extremism.
Triggered by Pelosi and Biden, a number of bishops spoke up this campaign to give abortion the unique priority it deserves in our discourse about national policy and to correct “pro-choice” Catholic politicians who misrepresented Catholic teaching. Among others, we have to thank Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, PA, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, CO and Bishop James Conley, his auxiliary, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, OK, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT, Bishop Fran Malooly of Wilmington, DL, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, MA. You have lifted our spirits by speaking the truth!
And with great directness the USCCB has responded both last week and this week to the argument that overturning Roe v. Wade is a “lost cause.” Thank God for the steadiness of Cardinal Justin Rigali, another shepherd who gives us heart.
We have just days left. Will we look back four years hence at the unraveling of every pro-life gain, at pro-abortion and anti-family judicial tyranny entrenched for another generation, and perhaps even at legal persecution of faithful Catholics and any other Christian who resists the culture of death? We pray not!
Please Shepherds, Fathers, help us!