In my new book Abolishing Abortion, I don’t mention many members of Congress by name, but one that is mentioned is Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro.
I reference her February 28, 2006 press release, “House Democrats Release Historic Catholic Statement of Principles: Expresses Commitment to Dignity of Life and Belief That Government Has ‘Moral Purpose.’”
As I say in the book:
Whatever else was “historic” about it, it was one of the most profound examples of disjointed thinking on the abortion issue ever published. The fact is that the fifty-five Democrats who signed the document have for the most part voted consistently to deprive children in the womb of their most fundamental right, life itself.
Yet while voting for policies that permit, expand, and even fund the dismemberment of living children, these Catholic Democrats had the nerve to declare, “We are proud to be part of the living Catholic tradition—a tradition that promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life, and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are most in need. As legislators, in the U.S. House of Representatives, we work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being.”
And then, most unbelievably, they say, “We are committed to making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
The most vulnerable among us? The only human beings in our nation today to be considered “nonpersons” also happen to be the youngest, the smallest, and the most dependent. If they are not “the most vulnerable among us,” then who is?”
(Abolishing Abortion, pp. 63-64, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2015).
Well, she has done it again.
Just days before the publication of my book, she published yet another letter, signed by even more of her colleagues, and addressed this time to the Holy Father, in anticipation of his September 24 speech to Congress. In a profoundly hollow and self-contradictory fashion, she praises the Pope’s “solidarity with the poor and the marginalized,” and then goes on to urge him to address a litany of social problems, with no mention at all about the violence of abortion.
She and her colleagues are apparently intent on ignoring — and encouraging others to ignore — what the Pope has said about the unborn child, and about the indissoluble link between advocacy for the right to life and advocacy for other human rights. To cite just two examples:
“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. … [T]his defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.” (The Joy of the Gospel, n. 213)
“Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?” (Laudato Si, n. 120)
So what should we expect when the Pope addresses Congress?
It is reasonable to expect that he’s going to treat the abortion issue as he has treated it so far. It is mentioned in the key documents he has issued, and is described as interrelated with the defense of other human rights. He is certainly not going to leave out the unborn, even if he does not dwell on the abortion issue at length. But the simple point that advocacy for human rights is incompatible with “pro-choice” will be a substantive rebuke to DeLauro and her colleagues.
What we should also expect is that groups both within and outside the Church will, in their commentary on the Pope’s visit, try to equate all the social issues with abortion, if not totally exclude the unborn from any consideration of social justice. That attempt will be made, but it will also be counteracted by those of us who understand that three things have not changed:
- The math has not changed. It remains true that nothing claims more human lives than abortion.
- The logic has not changed. It remains true that every other right we have depends on life itself, and that the child in the womb is more vulnerable than anyone else.
- The teaching has not changed. Papal encyclicals like “The Gospel of Life,” and statements of the US bishops like “Living the Gospel of Life” clearly show the urgent priority of the abortion issue, and the Pope, as a son of the Church, does not teach in a vacuum, but in the context of these prior teachings.
So let’s welcome Pope Francis, not with the deceptive rhetoric of abortion supporters, but with the clear conviction of pro-life advocates who know that their position is right not because the Pope says it is, but rather that the Pope embraces it because it is right.
Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life