As they have for many years, the U.S. bishops voted on the text of their preelection document intended to help guide Catholics in the formation of their consciences on moral issues. The document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which follows the principles laid out in Catholic social teaching, has always placed abortion among non-negotiable moral evils and given the campaign against it a primary focus.
Yet, in recent months, in the name of allegedly advancing Pope Francis’ priorities, there has been an attempt by some on the Catholic left to reduce the urgency and gravity of the fight against abortion and to place other important concerns such as the welfare of immigrants or the environment on equal moral footing. This attempt is not only wrong, but inconsistent with Pope Francis’ own words about the evil of abortion.
During the bishops’ meeting, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego flatly stated that calling abortion “preeminent” is “discordant with the Pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent.”
Yet an overwhelming majority of the bishops disagreed. To the applause of his brother bishops, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia refuted the false narrative that the U.S. bishops’ stance on abortion contradicts Pope Francis. “That isn’t true,” he said. “That sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father, which isn’t true. I think it’s been a very clearly articulated opinion of the bishops’ conference for many years that pro-life is still the preeminent issue. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t equal in dignity.” I could not agree more strongly.
The bishops voted to maintain the wording on abortion, and the unity between the U.S. Church and Pope Francis was reaffirmed in the news conference later that day by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Archbishops José Gomez of Los Angeles and Leonard Blair of Hartford, Connecticut.
This month and for the next several weeks, the U.S. bishops will travel by region to the Vatican for their ad limina visits, made every five years, to update the Holy Father on the status of their dioceses.
With the firmness in faith and closeness to the Pope expressed in Baltimore, I pray that our bishops will find renewed courage and continue to serve the Church in the important work that needs to be done.
God bless you!