Life and Justice

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.”  

Published by Rick Hinshaw

I have spent the last three decades in primarily Catholic communications work: as a reporter, news editor, columnist, and for eight years editor of The Long Island Catholic; several years as co-host and co-producer of The Catholic Forum program on the diocesan Telecare channel; two stints as Director of Communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; and a year as Associate Director for Communications at the New York State Catholic Conference. I also served for three years as Public Information Officer for the late Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon, a staunchly Catholic and active pro-life leader. Over that more than 30-year career, I have gained an ever deeper understanding of and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of our Church. In my various roles I have lent my voice to articulating those teachings and their applicability to the critical issues of our time. That is what I intend to do with this blog. Moreover, at a time when our political and social disagreements seem to have degenerated into constant vitriol, vilification, verbal abuse and intolerance of those who hold differing opinions, I hope that this blog can contribute, in some small way, to a restoration of respectful debate and discussion, where we can defend our beliefs forcefully without demonizing any who disagree with us. As a Catholic commentator, that is what I have always striven to do--remembering that even as we are called to stand firmly in defense of our Church, her teachings, and our right to be heard in the public square, we are also called always to be the face of Christ to the world--most especially to those with whom we disagree.

22 thoughts on “Life and Justice

  1. Comments or a reply are indicated as welcome. I don’t have a solution.
    The need for civilized social discourse has been lsuggested.
    Unfortunately, it appears that, despite so much verbiage, the genocide continues.
    Abortion is murder. The current pandemic has precipitated a call by many to look to science and scientists for rational consideration of what is factual.
    How about prominent scientists simply labeling abortion for what is – MURDER of the unborn.
    All the other diatribe ignores that fact.

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    1. Just so, John, it would be laughable if it were not so tragic that those who constantly lecture us about “following the science” when it comes to COVID-19 or climate change–where the science is still developing, and hardly settled–either deny or completely ignore the clearly settled science regarding the living humanity of the pre-born child, who is KILLED by abortion.

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  2. Biden was a candidate for many months before the election. Immediately after the inauguration, he did exactly what he said he would do as a candidate. There was ample time for the USCCB to make the same forceful statement about Candidate Biden during 2020 that was made about President Biden in 2021.. Had they done so, there may not have been a President Biden. They didn’t. Why wait? Another missed opportunity by our timid shepherds.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Larry. I understand your frustration, but I really think we’re fooling ourselves if we think statements from our bishops have the power to turn elections. Maybe 50 years ago, when abortion was first being legalized, although I am skeptical even about that. But not today. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate strong, forceful and timely statements by our bishops–such as when, in October of 2016, Bishop Murphy reminded us that “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.” I was most grateful for Bishop Murphy’s courage in issuing that statement, knowing the anger and vilification that would be spewed back at him for making it. (Contrary to accusations, it was a general statement of principle, NOT an endorsement of Donald Trump). But the responsibility of electing public officials who will protect human life is properly and most effectively exercised by the laity. And in any event, I just don’t see how an earlier statement from the USCCB would have magically prevented a President Biden.

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      1. I know that the bishops’ moral suasion has been reduced or evaporated over the last couple of generations, Rick. And I know that a Gomez or USCCB statement pre-election would have no impact on the generally uncatechized Catholic Church in the United States. I was just putting the Gomez statement in perspective. It was neither timely nor courageous.

        Kudos to Bishop Murphy in 2016, but, even so, it was particularly stunning at the time because it seem to come out of nowhere after little comment in the prior fifteen years of his episcopy.

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  3. I agree with Lawrence’s skepticism about why Archbishop Gomez waited until Inauguration Day to make his views about Biden known. But I think the reason for the delay is the issue raised by Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, who rebuked Archbishop Gomez that same day for not consulting with the other bishops before releasing a statement that supposedly was from the whole group.

    “Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration,” Cardinal Cupich said in one of two statements he released on Inauguration Day. “Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released.”

    Rick, while you mention Pope Francis in the blog, you neglect to mention that Pope Francis met with Cardinal Cupich in a private audience on Jan. 30, not with Archbishop Gomez. According to America magazine, “Pope Francis received Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a private audience at the Vatican’s apostolic palace this Saturday morning, Jan. 30. He is the first U.S.-based American bishop to meet the pope since the assault on the Capitol, the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden and the publication of the statement by the president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the day of the inauguration, which did not go down well in the Vatican.”

    It looks like Archbishop Gomez was not speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, which as far as I know is the church that President Biden is deeply devoted to, unlike some bishops who care more about politics than about the welfare of their flock.

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    1. Rick – I just realized that your original blog post was done before the meeting of Pope Francis with Cardinal Cupich, so obviously there’s no way you could have mentioned it.

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  4. I submitted the following comment to Bishop McElroy of San Diego today for his statement yesterday that abortion is not the preeminent moral issue for the Church and that Catholic politicians pro-abortion positions are private matters between them and their bishops:

    Dear Bishop McElroy,
    I read with sadness your position on abortion and Catholic politicians. You claim abortion is not the preeminent issue and Catholics such as Pres. Biden’s position is a private matter between him and his bishop. It’s no wonder so many other bishops disagree with you. How can it be private while influencing the entire U. S. population? The 62 million abortion deaths have been abetted by such politicians and their Catholic supporters. What could be more grievous?

    Further, I wholeheartedly agree that we knew exactly what Pres. Biden intended to do re abortion before the election and bishops soft-peddled it then. Now some of those are wringing their hands!

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    1. Thanks, Walter, and thank you for addressing Bishop McElroy directly about his comments. When I wrote my blog post several months ago on what I feel is the mistaken characterization of abortion as a “single issue,” I sent it to many of the U.S. Bishops or their spokespersons–specifically inviting those I knew to disagree, including Bishop McElroy, to offer a response. None of them did (one strongly pro-life bishop replied to me himself), but in many cases I at least got an acknowledgement from the person to whom I directed my email. In the case of Bishop McElroy and the Diocese of San Diego, I received no response, not even an acknowledgement of receipt.

      In response to his latest complaint that some bishops are making abortion a “litmus test,” and thereby reducing the common good to a “single issue,” I cite this quote from him on climate change:

      “If we don’t get this issue right, in the end none of the other issues are going to matter.”

      So you see, Bishop McElroy is not opposed to “single issue litmus tests,” as long as it’s the issue HE determines to be preeminent.

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      1. Thanks Rick for your response and especially for reaching out to bishops who miss-characterize this great moral tragedy of our time.

        I go to the individual bishop’s contact page on their websites to message them but I doubt they actually see my message because I rarely get a response. I tried to contact Chicago Bishop Cupich about a week ago but his website no longer accepted messages so I called and left my message.

        I think it’s necessary to politely contact them so they may reconsider their position.

        I’m sorry to say again that the division among bishops on the importance of life issues is in itself a great scandal.

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      2. “If we don’t get this issue right, in the end none of the other issues are going to matter.” So quoth Bishop McElroy. Besides his being hypocritical, he needs lessons in grammar. “. . .in the end, none . . IS going to matter”

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  5. I am dumbfounded that anyone who lives in the United States of America would say he has “deep concern” about “the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.” This is especially troubling coming from Archbishop Gomez, who has benefited so much from the country that he emigrated to and became a citizen of in 1995. Did Archbishop Gomez study the Constitution when he became a citizen — did he read the part about separation of church and state?

    His statements seem to suggest that he thinks that because President Biden is a Roman Catholic, he should disregard the Constitution. I thought this issue was settled when JFK ran for president and said that his actions as President would not be dictated by Rome!!!!!

    There are so many other important things that Archbishop Gomez should be spending time on,including the collapse of the Roman Catholic church in the U.S. with multiple bankruptcies of dioceses. I’m glad to see that other bishops are pushing back against him and I sincerely hope that he will spend more of his valuable time on tending to the spiritual needs of U.S. Catholics.

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    1. I don’t believe the Bishop or anyone else is suggesting that the President should disregard the Constitution. As we know the President does not create legislation. He or she can only sign, veto or ignore that which is brought to the Oval Office. Actions like executive orders, whether or not they are legal, are the creation of the person in office at that time. Just because a person gets elected with a particular party endorsement doesn’t mean that person owes their soul to them. Our President campaigned and won by catering to a variety of elements. Once in office, he has no legal obligation to comply with policies that are contrary to his personal beliefs. I am sure that there was a host of items that several of his supporters disagreed upon. The Bishop may not have highlighted the difference between constitutional law and individual obligations but, I am sure that our President knows what is being addressed. President Biden wants us to agree with him and to forsake what we AND HE know is morally correct. No Catholic or anyone of good conscience can mentally justify the wanton murder of the pre born.

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      1. “Once in office, he has no legal obligation to comply with policies that are contrary to his personal beliefs.”

        John – this is a strange and I believe incorrect way to describe the responsbilities of the President, who swears an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” I believe this oath means that the President will follow the Constitution, NOT his personal beliefs.

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      2. Bernie, I am not saying or suggesting that the the President ignore the Constitution or violate his oath of office. Neither of these mandates that he agree with, condone or encourage the wanton murder of unborn children. Elements of his party’s platform that aren’t legal or constitutional issues are his to endorse or reject. A candidate in a past election campaign advocated “A chicken in every pot!” but he didn’t cause that to happen. If something that is a Constitutional or legal issue that he morally shouldn’t or wouldn’t condone, he or she shouldn’t run for office without proposing to reverse them if and when elected. Prohibition was the law of the land under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution but was repealed by another Amendment proposed and passed and signed by the sitting President and office holders, some elected before, during and after the passing of the 18th Amendment.

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      3. John – I’m pretty sure that advocating “a chicken in every pot” does not involve forcing personal beliefs on anyone, unless you are trying to force vegetarians to eat chicken!

        As for going against his party’s platform because of his own personal beliefs, I think that President Biden would probably follow the same reasoning that John F. Kennedy expressed as a candidate on Sept. 12, 1960 — “For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

        Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”

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    2. Hi Bernie,

      I’m sure you know the Constitution does not specifically mention “separation between church and state”. Here’s the First Amendment:

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      I think we can agree the First Amendment as written is truly masterful and succinct. The phrase “no law respecting an establishment of religion” certainly means there can be no government sponsored state religion and “prohibiting the free exercise” clearly means the government cannot tell religious people what they can and cannot believe or prevent them from proclaiming their beliefs.

      You probably are aware that the phrase “wall of separation of church and state” is taken from a letter Jefferson wrote to a Connecticut congregation. There’s plenty on the internet explaining what Jefferson meant and it does not contradict the Constitution.

      You say there is no issue in our nation about restrictions on religious freedom. I would have to strenuously disagree. I cite the Democrats actions against the Little Sisters of the Poor who have twice won Supreme Court cases and several other state supreme court cases yet Biden has promised to continue to persecute them.

      Then there are the countless of episodes of school authorities telling students they cannot mention God in their school work, wear religious jewelry, wear T-shirts with religious wording, read the Bible during free-time reading, etc. All of those are perfectly legal if a school allows similar secular things. These cases have been upheld in courts. Still, socialists and atheists supported by Democrats continue to hammer away at religious freedom every day.

      The Diocese of Rockville Centre has supported the group “Catholics for Freedom of Religion”, to which I belong, for about 8 years now. We have a 9 minute video briefly covering the history of religious freedom and explaining student rights. Maybe you’d want to take a look:

      Warm regards,
      Walter Ruzek

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      1. Thank you Walter for the insight into the Constitution. The original Constitution does not include the word God and the only mention of religion is in Article Six, which provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”. But as you pointed out, the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees that Congress will not make any laws to “establish” religion. This is commonly understood to mean that Congress should not encourage or promote religion in ANY way, not just in reference to having a government-sponsored religion. This is why the Establishment Clause was referred to by Jefferson as putting in place “a wall of separation of church and state.”

        Our first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, also believed this, and I think his speech on Sept. 12, 1960 where he expressed his thoughts is truly masterful and succint. A link to the full transcript is here https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16920600

        Two key excerpts follows, and these ideas are as relevant for President Biden in 2021 as they were in 1960. I am saddened that in 70 years there has been so little progress among the Catholic bishops in recognizing that they are privileged to be able to practice their religion under the freedom enshined in the Bill of Rights.

        “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

        also “I believe in an America… where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

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  6. Perhaps, what Bernie stated, JFK said: “Whatever issue may ome before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.” is applicable to Joe Biden. Then he could decide that his conscience told him that abortion, particularly late term abortion was not in the national interest. No consideration of religion or diety – just simple logic.

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