The bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, has reiterated in comments loaded with political overtones church teaching that a person cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion because it would be a “contradiction in terms.”
“Just saw a headline in a Catholic newspaper with the phrase ‘pro-abortion Catholic.’ Sorry. That’s a contradiction in terms,” wrote Bishop Thomas J. Tobin on Twitter this week. “You can’t be a Catholic, at least not an authentic one, and be ‘pro-abortion.’ Or ‘pro-choice.’ It’s the same thing.”
Even though the assertion might seem noncontroversial to a casual observer, as the Catholic church’s position on abortion is well known, the bishop’s comments provoked a number of angry responses, presumably from Catholics who intend to vote for the pro-abortion Democrat ticket in this November’s elections.
Every election year brings with it hot debates among Catholics about the moral permissibility of voting for a candidate who promotes legal abortion. With Joe Biden the presumptive presidential candidate for the Democrats, the disputes are expected to rage as never before; Biden describes himself as a Catholic and yet vigorously supports abortion-on-demand.
Among important demographic groups, Catholics — while not comprising a monolithic voting “bloc”— make up nearly 25 percent of U.S. voters and in 2016 played a key role in sending Donald Trump to the White House, with the abortion issue looming large in voters’ minds.
Catholics voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by a larger margin than for any other Republican candidate in the five elections of the new millennium, according to a Pew Research Center study, and Catholic Democrats rightly fear that the margin could be even greater in 2020.
Catholic Democrats already came out swinging at New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan last week for having engaged in a conference call with President Trump on the topic of Catholic education, with the ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter (NCR) lashing out at Dolan for “capitulating” to the Republican Party.
In its editorial titled “Dolan delivers the church to Trump and the GOP,” the paper moaned that “the cardinal archbishop of New York has inextricably linked the Catholic Church in the United States to the Republican Party and, particularly, President Donald Trump.”
The paper recognized that for the U.S. bishops, “the all-consuming issue is abortion,” which basically disqualifies the Democrat ticket.
In the lead-up to the 2016 elections, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila insisted that life issues — and especially opposition to abortion — must take absolute precedence in deciding for whom to vote.
“Catholics in good conscience cannot support candidates who will advance abortion,” he wrote in the diocesan newspaper, the Denver Catholic.
The Democrats’ platform is “aggressively pro-abortion, not only in funding matters, but in the appointment of only those judges who will support abortion,” Aquila wrote.
Other bishops singled out the Catholic former vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine, for special reproach because of his public support for abortion, a phenomenon likely to repeat itself this fall.
In October 2016, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas called Kaine a “cafeteria Catholic” and questioned how he could claim to be “personally pro-life” while affirming his support of Roe v. Wade and consistently voting to keep abortion-on-demand legal.
Later that same month, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre on Long Island, told Catholics that support for abortion “should disqualify any and every such candidate from receiving our vote.”
“Support of abortion by a candidate for public office, some of whom are Catholics, even if they use the fallacious and deeply offensive ‘personally opposed but . . .’ line, is reason sufficient unto itself to disqualify any and every such candidate from receiving our vote,” he said in a letter that was read from the pulpit at every Sunday Mass in the diocese.
“Many issues are very important in our society today,” the bishop said. “But none of them can eclipse the centrality of human life, especially innocent human life in the womb or at the end of life.”
“Above all and over all, the number one issue more fundamental and crucial than any other is abortion – that is the direct taking of innocent life,” he stated.