In a statement on the inauguration of Joe Biden, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the nation’s second Catholic chief executive as “a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions”; and whose “piety and personal story,” as well as “his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor,” are “hopeful and inspiring.”
“At the same time,” Archbishop Gomez lamented, “I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity.”
Advance moral evils and threaten human life. Can there be a more harsh indictment of the agenda of a Catholic public official?
Yet there is no getting around it. Archbishop Gomez lists Mr. Biden’s policy positions on “abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender” as the most serious of these evils and threats, along with “deep concern” for “the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.” On every one of these concerns, Joe Biden has gone to the farthest extremes in embracing policies opposed by the Church.
He would force Catholic entities, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, to provide coverage not only for contraceptives, but for abortion-inducing drugs. He not only embraces same-sex “marriage,” he mocked the teaching of his own Church by proudly officiating, as Vice President, at a “wedding” of two men. He embraces gender ideology, which Pope Francis has termed “dangerous,” “evil,” and “demonic.” And, after decades of at least favoring some limits to legal abortion, he now wants none; pledges to codify Roe v. Wade, which allows abortion up to birth; and wants to force his fellow Catholics to be complicit in the killing of the unborn through our taxes.
Archbishop Gomez, issuing his statement two days before the anniversary of Roe, reiterated that “For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the ‘preeminent priority.’
“‘Preeminent,’” he stressed, “does not mean ‘only.’ We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.”
Moreover, he added, abortion “is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.”
This is critically important. Some Catholics insist on reducing the mass destruction of pre-born children to a “single issue,” just one of many “boxes” to check on their social justice agenda—if they include it at all.
But as Archbishop Gomez points out, the use of abortion to target the poor, the disabled, and other vulnerable populations undermines the entire social justice agenda. Twenty-three years ago, the late Bishop John McGann of our Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island, emphasized this in a Newsday op ed piece on the eve of the 25th anniversary of Roe.
Deploring promotion of abortion as a “solution” to poverty, disability, child abuse, and other issues of human suffering, Bishop McGann described how “this destroy-the-victim approach, combined with the ‘freedom of choice’ promoted by the abortion mentality, seems to have engendered a selfish individualism through which we dehumanize any whose lives inconvenience us: the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the elderly, the terminally ill, the immigrant, the prisoner, the unwed mother and her child.”
He detailed how “the resulting breakdown in respect for life” had brought us “to the brink of infanticide,” “increased the clamor for euthanasia and assisted suicide,” contributed to “a resurgence in support for the death penalty,” and left “countless numbers of women throughout our land” bearing “deep and lasting spiritual and emotional scars from the tragedy of an abortion.
“It is time to acknowledge,” Bishop McGann declared—in a plea that rings ever more urgent today—that “our experience with legalized abortion has been a national tragedy. And it is time to try instead a truly pro-life response to issues of human suffering.”
He called for re-doubling efforts to support women in crisis, develop life-affirming alternatives to abortion, and provide healing for women, and men, struggling with the pain and anguish of an abortion experience.
He urged “loving and compassionate care to the elderly and the terminally ill”; acceptance of “our responsibility, individually and collectively, for the ‘least among us’—the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the sick”; efforts to “build and sustain strong families, which can best welcome and nurture God’s gift of life.”
“Finally,” Bishop McGann concluded, “we must all work fervently to restore legal protection for all human life, born and unborn. For, as Mother Teresa taught us, all our charitable works, and all our efforts toward social justice, will go for naught unless they are founded in an abiding reverence for the sacredness of each and every human life.”
That is why abortion is more than a “single issue”; why it must be, as the U.S. Bishops have long maintained, “the preeminent priority”: because as long as unborn children are denied the protection of our laws; as long as they continue to be legally killed, by the millions, there is no reverence for the sacredness of life. And there can be no true social justice.
And until President Biden’s “priority for the poor” is joined to a reverence for all human life, it is not a “commitment to the Gospel.” And it cannot be called “justice.”