Boston Cardinal Rebukes Democrats on Abortion

Deal W. Hudson
November 15, 2007

The Archdiocese of Boston has produced some of the most influential pro-abortion politicians in history – among them, the late Rev. Robert Drinan, S. J. (D-MA), formerly a four-term Congressman, and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Yesterday, Boston’s Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said that support of pro-abortion candidates from Catholic voters “borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”

In a remarkable interview with Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe, Cardinal O’Malley sounded like a man who had simply had enough.

O’Malley, who has been in Boston four years, said, “I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the Church’s position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues.”

Other Catholic bishops have admonished Democrats, but O’Malley’s words are the most direct challenge to Catholic Democrats yet. O’Malley said they were fooling themselves by saying they are not supporting abortion: “I think there’s a need for people to very actively dissociate themselves from those unacceptable positions, and I think if they did that, then the party would have to change.”

He deplored the lack of pro-life candidates in the Democratic Party and urged them to “make space for pro-life politicians.” O’Malley also acknowledged that support for pro-abortion Catholic Democrats is a “very serious problem” in his own state, Massachusetts.

A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee told Paulson that Democrats are “a big tent party.” The spokesman explained that out of the 104 Catholic Democrats currently serving in Congress, two oppose abortion rights – Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). Of course, it hardly needs mentioning that 2 out of 104 doesn’t constitute a big tent.

Mark Stricherz, a leading pro-life Democrat and author of Why the Democrats Are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People’s Party, applauds O’Malley. He comments:

If Church leaders speak out forcefully and frequently about this issue, more Catholics will vote for pro-life candidates. For many years Catholics in western Pennsylvania had voted for Democratic presidential nominees but switched to the Republicans largely because of the area’s bishops’ and priests’ outspoken opposition to abortion.

O’Malley may have been emboldened by the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” passed by the U.S. bishops at their biannual meeting in Baltimore this week.

The common trick of pro-abortion Catholics to avoid Church censure on abortion is to invoke a twisted interpretation of “conscience”; Father Drinan was part of a group of Catholic theologians who created this conscience loophole in the late 1960s. (More about Father Drinan and his role here will be covered in my new book, Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, to be released by Simon and Schuster in March 2008.)

Catholic News Agency reports that “Faithful Citizenship” is intended to address this problem directly. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who led the presentation of the document, said, “This document is not about bishops and politicians, it’s about helping Catholics form their consciences.”

The language of the document makes it clear: “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many.”

This is the message Cardinal O’Malley is delivering to Catholic Democrats. He applauds the new document, saying, “In the past, there was always the fear that we were considering sort of the smorgasbord of issues, but without any prioritizing, or giving the impression that all issues are of equal value… .”

The assertion of moral equivalence between abortion and, say, global warming or children’s health insurance (SCHIP) is precisely what some liberal Catholic groups, like “Catholics United,” are arguing at the present moment. Catholic members of Congress, Republican, and Democrat, are being accused of not being pro-life because of their vote on SCHIP.

“Forming Citizens for Faithful Citizenship” should put an end to this type of political abuse of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Of course, no document, especially one created by a committee, can be perfect, and this one retains vestiges of the old “conscience” language that enables the Catholic pro-aborts in Congress to justify their votes:

In the end, this is a decision to be made by each individual Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.

Those Catholic politicians and voters who want to continue with business, as usual, will take comfort in this single line from the bishops’ document – for example, Rudy Giuliani, who resorts to talking about conscience when asked about the protection of human life.

Taken as a whole, the bishops’ new document calls abortion an “intrinsic evil,” which a “properly formed conscience” will avoid:

Conscience is not something that allows us to do whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should do or not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil.

Cardinal O’Malley may have given the Democrats something to think about, but “Forming Citizens for Faithful Citizenship” should also give Catholic Republicans pause as the primary season approaches.

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