The United States bishops have adopted strong language to underscore the evil of abortion in an updated voter guide, calling the procedure the “preeminent” political issue of our time.
The bishops approved a short letter and five short video scripts to supplement their text Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a teaching document outlining the political responsibility of Catholics.
In the full text of their guide, the bishops put forward abortion as a “prime example” of an “intrinsically evil” actions, the sort of things “we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor.”
In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others,” the document states.
“A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed,” it adds.
The short letter accompanying the guide was approved 207-24 with 5 abstentions, but a couple progressive bishops raised objections to the language of the letter, insisting that abortion should not be placed on a higher level than other social justice issues.
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who has argued in the past for the moral equivalency of abortion with other social ills such as joblessness, racism, and a “broken immigration system,” suggested inserting a long citation from Pope Francis to help contextualize the Church’s position on life issues.
In 2015, Cupich said that abortion is appalling but we should be “no less appalled” by other social ills, such as a lack of decent medical care, lack of gun control, and capital punishment.
The pro-LGBT bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, backed up Cupich, saying he disagreed with language singling out abortion as the “preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself,” saying it was contrary to the teaching of Pope Francis.
Bishop McElroy said the text was “discordant with the Pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent” despite the pope’s frequent condemnations of abortion.
“It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not,” McElroy declared.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput replied to Bishop McElroy, insisting that calling abortion the “preeminent priority” was not just correct but necessary, adding that this position represented no breach with Pope Francis.
“I am against anyone saying that our stating that [abortion] is preeminent is contrary to the teaching of the Pope, because that isn’t true,” he said. “It sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father, which isn’t true.”
“I don’t like the argument Bishop McElroy used, because it isn’t true,” he added, eliciting a round of applause from the bishops in the hall.
In their document on faithful citizenship, the bishops note that abortion in the U.S. means the “ongoing destruction of over one million innocent human lives each year by abortion.”
Pope John Paul II encouraged world leaders to recognize the unique evil of abortion, devoting an entire 1995 encyclical letter called Evangelium Vitae to the defense of human life.
“How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted?” John Paul wrote in 1995 in reference to legalized abortion. “In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practised: some individuals are held to be deserving of defence and others are denied that dignity?”