Cardinal Timothy Dolan has written a searing response to Jesuit Father Thomas Reese for his bizarre proposal that the pro-life movement abandon its efforts to outlaw or restrict abortion to focus exclusively on assisting women in need.
Father Reese’s strategy, Dolan wrote Friday, constitutes “a capitulation to the abortion culture, and a grave weakening of the powerful pro-life witness.”
In his May 27 article in Religion News Service (RNS), Father Reese contended that defunding Planned Parenthood would be “irresponsible” while suggesting that a vote for pro-choice Democrats would somehow save more babies than electing pro-life Republicans.
Reese, the former editor-in-chief of America magazine, said that “pro-lifers must consider voting for candidates, even pro-choice Democrats, who will reduce the number of abortions by supporting programs that help mothers and their children.”
In his heavily political piece, Reese wrote that “pro-life voters must choose between Republican rhetoric and Democratic results” because abortion will always be legal.
Cardinal Dolan, who is chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said such a strategy would be misguided and counterproductive.
“His main assertion — that we give up all efforts to legally protect unborn human life, and work only to reduce the number of abortions — is an unnecessary dichotomy,” Cardinal Dolan responded.
“Catholic tradition and basic human rights teach us that every human being has an inalienable right to life that must be recognized and protected in law,” he wrote. “While the law is not the only means of protecting life, it plays a key and decisive role in affecting both human behavior and thinking. We cannot give up!”
Dolan went on to compare Reese’s strategy to similar arguments employed against abolitionists in the mid-19th century.
“The ameliorists argued that, sure, slavery was awful, but, really it was here to stay,” Dolan noted. “So, we should acknowledge that it is constitutionally protected, and simply work to lessen the number of slaves.”
“Thank God, those who believed that slavery was a moral horror, a cancer on our country, and contrary to the higher values of a lawful republic, could never accept this capitulation,” he added.
The pro-life movement has a long history of dedication to the needs of women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy through the “formation, funding and staffing of thousands of pregnancy resource centers,” the cardinal said.
“The movement has advocated for public policies that seek to ensure that pregnant mothers are never abandoned to the violence of abortion and that mothers and babies receive the support and protection society can offer,” he said.
The cardinal said that one of Reese’s “most troubling assertions” is that contraception should be employed to reduce abortions.
“In addition to rejecting the church’s teaching that contraception is itself morally flawed, and the fact that it can be medically harmful to women, his reasoning is questionable,” he wrote.
The fact is that more than half of women seeking abortions were already using contraception during the month they became pregnant, he added, while studies have shown that broad availability of contraception does not lessen abortion rates.
The cardinal also notes that many contraceptives are themselves abortifacients, meaning that they act by killing a newly conceived infant by preventing her from implanting in the womb.
Abortion is a grave injustice and must be fought, Dolan concluded.
“May we never give in to the culture of death or lose faith in our efforts to build a culture of life in our world,” he said.
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