Catholics Should Vote Pro-Life First, Despite Dissident Opinions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholics Should Vote Pro-Life First, Despite Dissident Opinions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 6, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A leading Catholic bishop has sparked controversy by suggesting that abortion is just one of many issues Catholic voters should consider when making a decision for whom to vote. Those comments stand in opposition to the overwhelming number of Catholic leaders who say other issues are important but that the pro-life perspective is paramount.

Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick raised eyebrows in an interview with the Catholic Standard newspaper.

McCarrick, who is heading up a task force for the nation’s Catholic bishops about whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be denied communion, said abortion “may be primary,” but added that “people who are with us on one issue” may be “against us on many other issues.”

“All these things will have to be weighed very carefully," McCarrick said.

But nationally syndicated columnist Bob Novak says that stance empowers abortion advocates looking to get pro-life Catholics to support likely Democratic nominee John Kerry.

"Intentionally or not, [McCarrick] was following the lead of liberal, pro-choice Democrats and providing cover for Kerry with traditional Catholics," Novak writes in a recent column.

Deal Hudson, the editor of Crisis magazine, agrees.

Without mentioning McCarrick by name, Hudson told Novak, "Anytime our leaders allow the life issue to be made one of many issues provides cover for Kerry’s effort to attract Catholic votes.”

According to Catholic teaching, abortion isn’t just a "primary issue" as McCarrick asserts, there is no other issue described in Catholic doctrine as allowing a denial of the sacrament of communion.

"The writings of our Holy Father and the American bishops point to the right to life as paramount," Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life tells

Pavone refers to the Christifideles Laici and says Pope John Paul II "expresses common sense" when he says "the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination."

"Or, as I put it, if a politician can’t respect the life of a little baby, how is he supposed to respect yours," Pavone added.

The US bishops declare abortion the preeminent issue in their document on voting (Faithful Citizenship – 2003), in their Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities (2001), and in their document "Living the Gospel of Life" (1998).

"No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life," the nation’s Catholic bishops said in the 1998 document.

Numerous Catholic bishops and leaders across the country have stressed the importance of voting with the pro-life perspective in mind.

In October 2000, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago said, "[Abortion is] a defining issue not only personally but also socially. Poverty can be addressed incrementally, but the death of a child is quite final."

Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss, Archbishop of Omaha, Nebraska, added: "The thousands of innocent pre-born babies killed every year by abortion constitute a greater evil than the execution of a few convicted felons by the state not only because of sheer number of deaths, but because of the gravity of the act itself. Therefore opposition to abortion must be a priority for Catholics who support the Church’s teaching about the sacredness of all human life."

Bishop James C. Timlin, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, makes the issue crystal clear.

"Abortion is the issue this year and every year in every campaign," Timlin explains. "The taking of innocent human life is so heinous, so horribly evil, and so absolutely opposite to the law of Almighty God that abortion must take precedence over every other issue. I repeat. It is the single most important issue confronting not only Catholics, but also the entire electorate.

Related web sites:
Priests for Life –