In response to Gerald Fishers online letter (Church leaders silent on many life issues, March 15) I would like to stand with my Catholic bishops on this one. I believe they have been consistent in their stance on all life issues mentioned in his letter.
I, too, often argue that many in the pro-life movement are really anti-abortion because it seems they are only concerned about the unborn (often only the unborn in America) and once these gifts from God come into the world, they are largely forgotten. It is as though there is no concern about where they get their next meal, whether health care will be available, do they have a place to live, etc. But I have never made these arguments relative to our bishops. They, along with most priests and definitely the Holy Father, have consistently defended the born and unborn alike.
Fisher mentions the Iraq war as a life issue, and I agree – but maybe he wasnt paying any attention in the months leading up to that ill-advised debacle. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued four major letters/statements prior to the war questioning the moral legitimacy of any pre-emptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq, as such actions would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents.
The conference expressed grave moral concerns about military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasion and occupation. With the Holy See, the conference maintained that resorting to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force.
They not only wrote these letters, but they lobbied Congress, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials to prevent this action. The Holy Father, John Paul II, burned up the phone lines between Rome and Washington, D.C., until the first bomb was dropped. Since that time the conference worked consistently to find a way to extricate the U.S. from Iraq. Was Fisher expecting a pulpit announcement of the churchs opposition to this war? Or was there some other course of action he thought the bishops should have taken?
Our conferences moral concerns and questions, as well as the call of the Holy Father to find alternatives to war, are well known and reflect our prudential judgments about the application of traditional Catholic teaching on the use of force in this case. We have been particularly concerned about the precedents that could be set and the possible consequences of a major war of this type in perhaps the most volatile region of the world. Echoing the Holy Fathers admonition that war is always a defeat for humanity, we have prayed and urged that peaceful means be pursued to disarm Iraq under UN auspices.
Fisher and anyone else interested should go to this link old.usccb.org/sdwp/projects/socialteaching/excerpt.shtml and read their statements on many of the issues he lists. He should also look up various papal encyclicals regarding the issues he enumerated in his letter. He may be pleasantly surprised in what he finds. These are teachings that are available to anyone who wants to take the time to read them.
This from their recent letter regarding economic justice and the upcoming budget debate: In the past year, Congress and the administration have taken significant action to reduce the federal deficit, while attempting to protect programs that serve poor and vulnerable people. Congress will continue to face difficult choices about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs. We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase. As Catholic bishops, we have tried to remind Congress that these choices are economic, political, and moral.
As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines, the bishops wrote. The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.
In addition, the issue that has been making the headlines lately is not about sex – it is about religious liberty. Here you can read the letter Archbishop Timothy Dolan sent to his fellow bishops outlining the challenges ahead for all Americans in regards to this vital issue: usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Dolan-to-all-bishops-HHS.pdf
An excerpt: As pastors and shepherds, each of us would prefer to spend our energy engaged in and
promoting the works of mercy to which the Church is dedicated: healing the sick, teaching our youth, and helping the poor. Yet, precisely because we are pastors and shepherds, we recognize that each of the ministries entrusted to us by Jesus is now in jeopardy due to this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church.
Fisher probably doesnt notice what the bishops are overseeing because it doesnt make headlines – it just happens on an everyday basis. This religious-liberty issue is making headlines because the current administration is being challenged on it.
Since a big part of our ministries are self-insured, we still ask how this protects us. Well still have to pay and, in addition to that, well still have to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate. And what about forcing individual believers to pay for what violates their religious freedom and conscience? We cant abandon the hard working person of faith who has a right to religious freedom.
And it is about remedies to the assault on religious freedom. Period. (By the way, the church hardly needs to be lectured about health care for women. Thanks mostly to our sisters, the church is the largest private provider of health care for women and their babies in the country.)
But the real concern is what happens to all this pastoral work if religious liberty is undermined.
Bishop Robert Lynch wisely noted, I wonder whether we might have to engage in civil disobedience and risk steep fines; some worry that well have to face a decision between two ethically repugnant choices: subsidizing immoral services or no longer offering insurance coverage, a road none of us wants to travel.
Again, I believe our Catholic bishops are doing a fantastic job of defending our Catholic faith even when faced with criticism and pressure for all sides. The truth doesnt change.