Pro-Life Leaders Tell Catholic Bishops No Pro-Abortion Appointments

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 10, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Leaders Tell Catholic Bishops No Pro-Abortion Appointments

by Valerie Thompson Staff Writer
September 10, 2003

Washington, DC ( — The appointment of pro-abortion Catholic politicians to positions of influence within the church is undermining the denomination’s pro-life efforts and confusing its members, a group of Catholic lay people told top American bishops in an unusual meeting.

A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said Tuesday the bishops do not plan to issue any statement about the daylong meeting, which was attended by Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the American bishops’ conference, and other prominent clerics.

"We wanted to say that it was important that "pro-choice" Catholics who are public figures should not be appointed to positions of responsibility in the church because it confuses Catholic faithful and contradicts church teaching," said Deal Hudson, publisher of Crisis Magazine, and an organizer. The number of pro-abortion declared Catholic politicians is "an embarrassment," Hudson said.

Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan advisor Peggy Noonan and Princeton University professor of politics Robert George were among the group of prominent businesspeople and professionals who met with the bishops Monday.

"We were very clear that we thought any public figure who is pro-abortion should not be honored at any Catholic dinner, put on any board," Hudson said Tuesday.

The group criticized the appointment of former Clinton advisor Leon Panetta to the National Review Board, a high-profile commission monitoring the bishops’ response to the sexual abuse scandal. Hudson said he would not comment on the bishops’ response due to ground rules of the meeting.

Panetta was a leading figure in the Clinton Administration’s fight against a ban on partial birth abortion. Panetta did not respond to a request for comment by Tuesday.

Many Catholic politicians unabashedly draw upon their religion as a public identity while strongly advocating pro-abortion legislation and views even though a motif of Pope John Paul II’s papacy has been the "Culture of Life."

Most go unchallenged.

However, in recent months, the bishop of Sacramento, CA, chastised California Gov. Gray Davis for his strongly pro-abortion views, and the bishops of South Dakota called upon Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle to repudiate his pro-abortion stances, including rigorous efforts to halt a ban on partial birth abortion.

Hudson said he believes the Catholic hierarchy has held back from criticizing prominent pro-abortion Catholic politicians, fearing criticism would backfire.

"There is a shift; more and more bishops are speaking out against pro-abortion elected officials," he said. At the meeting, "We told the bishops we were there to support them in the defense of the church."

In addition to life issues, topics covered included sexuality and gender issues and effective ways to deal with dissent.

Among others attending the meeting were Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, D. C.; Bishop William Friend, archbishop of Shreveport, LA; Bishop William Skylstad, archbishop of Spokane, WA; Bishop Robert Lynch, archbishop of St. Petersburg, FL. Also attending were Frank Hanna III, CEO of HBR Capital, Ltd., Patrick Madrid, publisher of Envoy Magazine; Fr. David O’Connell, president of Catholic University; Bernard Dobranski, dean and president of Ave Maria School of Law; William Donohue, president of Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life; and U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J.