5 Outspoken U.S. Bishops on the Pro-Life Fight

Bishop Andrew Cozzens (arrested seven times for pro-life work), Archbishop Samuel Aquila (who saw the effects of abortion while working in an emergency room) and three other bishops call Catholics to unwavering pro-life witness.

Top (l to r): Bishop Robert McManus, Bishop Andrew Cozzens and Archbishop Joseph Naumann. Bottom: Bishop Thomas Paprocki and Archbishop Samuel Aquila.
Top (l to r): Bishop Robert McManus, Bishop Andrew Cozzens and Archbishop Joseph Naumann. Bottom: Bishop Thomas Paprocki and Archbishop Samuel Aquila. (photo: Register Composite)

Faithful Catholics nationwide celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Court decision striking down the nation’s anti-abortion laws. Many U.S. bishops have been especially active in opposing abortion, including the following who spoke with this writer.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, was active in the pro-life organization Operation Rescue before he became a priest, and was arrested seven times and jailed for two weeks for physically blocking access to abortion clinics. His interest in the issue, he noted, related back to the time when he was still a developing baby in his mother’s womb. He said:

When my mother was 20 weeks pregnant with me, her water broke. Her doctor wanted to induce labor and abort me, saying that tests showed I would be a severely deformed child — a ‘freak’ was the word he used.
Thank goodness my parents were devout Catholics and asked for a new doctor. The second doctor told my mother that if she spent the next 20 weeks in bed there was a good chance I’d come out healthy, and that is what happened. I was born with severe allergies, which I still have, but otherwise I have no health defects. 
My parents’ insurance didn’t cover the cost of the treatment, but a funny thing happened. My mother’s second doctor made a bet with the first doctor that I would come out healthy. The loser would cover the cost of the medical treatment. So, as it turned out, the first doctor ended up paying the costs related to my birth. …
My parents would talk to me about their pro-life convictions by reminding me, ‘The doctor told us to abort you!’ They’d also say that God spared my life because he had plans for it, so I grew up with a strong sense of vocation.
It was while I was attending Benedictine College that I had a good friend who was a freshman who had been involved in Operation Rescue and had convinced me to participate. I was arrested seven times, and when you get arrested that much, you end up in jail. Twice I did a week in jail. In fact, my senior year of college, I had to finish my finals early so I could do my time in jail.


Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, told a Worcester Catholic Women’s conference in 2021 that there were powerful forces in society that have an agenda to curtail the Catholic Church’s efforts on behalf of the unborn and related social issues, and that ‘We are the last institution in American society that will not bend the knee.’ He explained:

Many of the social and political phenomena we see today are bad for the Church and bad for the society. These include the acceptance, promotion and celebration of transgenderism, the attack on religious liberty, abortion on demand and euthanasia and assisted suicide. Here in Worcester we had a major battle with a public school committee over the implementation of a sex education program for grades pre-K through 12th grade that was pornographic. It is scandalous that there were Catholics on the school committee who would promote such a curriculum.
Our culture is in a moral decline, and our Church and its authentic Catholic teaching offer the antidotes to these evils.


Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver worked as an emergency room orderly while attending college. In the 1970s, he was on duty when a woman had an “incomplete abortion.” (He was part of the cleaning staff, and had nothing to do with the abortion itself, but came in afterward.) He recalled:

It was there I first saw the remains of an unborn child, about three and a half months along. It really impacted me. It was impressed in my mind and my heart and that this was a human life. It had now been forever destroyed. Ever since then I’ve been outspoken on human-life issues, and tried to help people to understand the dignity of human life.
As a priest and a bishop, I’ve spoken with women who have had abortions but later have a deep regret when they realize what they have done. There are tremendous lies out there in society, saying that the unborn child is not a unique human life, forever destroyed. The media has been deceptive about the issue, and many politicians have bought into idea that abortion is a right, which it isn’t. No one has the right to take innocent human life.


Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, likes to speak about the importance of the issue of abortion by comparing it to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, a series of debates focused on the expansion of slavery. He calls it “the defining issue of the time.” He said:

When I talk about the Right to Life, I say that abortion is the defining issue of our time. Will we be a culture of life, or, as Pope St. John Paul II said, a ‘culture of death?’ Unfortunately, I don’t see many of our politicians talking about it. We can’t ignore the defining issue of our time; this issue must be front and center when we choose candidates for public office.


Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, has served as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and has long been an outspoken advocate of the pro-life cause. He addressed the issue of prominent Catholic politicians, such as President Joe Biden, who identify themselves as observant Catholics yet advocate pro-abortion views. He said:

The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic, and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching. It would be a more honest approach from him to say he disagreed with his Church on this important issue and that he was acting contrary to Church teaching.
When he says he is a devout Catholic, we bishops have the responsibility to correct him. Although people have given this president power and authority, he cannot define what it is to be a Catholic and what Catholic moral teaching is.
What he is doing now is usurping the role of the bishops and confusing people. He’s declaring that he’s Catholic, and is going to force people to support abortion through their tax dollars. The bishops need to correct him, as the president is acting contrary to the Catholic faith.