If Catholic Politicians Were Faithful

COMMENTARY: Pope Francis has said, ‘Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred.’

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“All the evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics,” said Pope St. Pius V. While the events of the past several weeks demonstrate the truth of this statement, it may be more accurate to say they are due to Catholics who abandon, reject or stray from the tenets of their faith.

With actions in several states to legalize late-term abortion, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress. The bill would not restrict a woman’s ability to have an abortion nor affect any health care she may require. Rather, it states that if a child is born alive following an abortion — and is now an independent human being outside of its mother’s womb — that it be given the same degree of medical care to preserve its life and health as would be given to any other newborn.

The bill faced severe opposition. First, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., blocked a vote. Then, under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a vote on the measure was blocked seven times in the House of Representatives. Both Murray and Pelosi are Catholic.

When a vote finally was taken in the Senate Feb. 25 to break a filibuster, it was defeated 53-44, with 10 Catholics voting against the bill. One of those Catholics was Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was quickly criticized by Virginia Bishops Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond and Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington. They said that the outcome was “appalling and beyond comprehension,” and that they were “outraged” that the state’s two senators “voted against this critical lifesaving legislation.”

These are not the only high-profile political office holders who profess to be Catholic while opposing the Church’s teachings. They are only the latest ones who have taken prominent action.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a professed Catholic, signed the Reproductive Health Act into law; this law allows abortions to be performed throughout a woman’s entire pregnancy, permits non-physicians to perform them, and removes all criminal penalties for the procedure.

In a display of arrogance, Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the act Jan. 22, the anniversary of the enactment of Roe v. Wade, and celebrated by having the World Trade Center bathed in pink lights.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, also a Democrat who identifies as Catholic, is supporting an abortion bill similar to that of New York, which was introduced Jan. 16 into the state’s House of Delegates.

In Maryland, where abortion is already legal throughout a woman’s pregnancy, the speaker of the state’s House of Delegates, Michael Busch, introduced a bill this legislative session to enshrine abortion as a woman’s right in the state constitution, which would preclude any laws to restrict abortion from being passed in the future. Busch is a Democrat and a cradle Catholic who left the faith a few years ago. With strong public opposition, Busch withdrew the bill Feb. 23, but said he would reintroduce it next year when the reaction to the New York law diminishes.

In Virginia, Delegate Kathy Tran-D, a proclaimed Catholic, introduced a bill to allow abortion even, she said, when a woman is in labor and about to give birth. The embattled state governor, Ralph Northam, a non-Catholic Democrat and pediatric neurologist, commenting on the bill, said that if a “severely deformed or otherwise nonviable” child was delivered “a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother” to consider possible termination options. Hence, even infanticide would be allowed as a medical option under a bill proposed by a Catholic.

But the Virginia measure is no less draconian than a child who survives a failed abortion, is not given medical care and allowed to die. Abortion is a violent and brutal act, conducted by people who are willing to kill children, not only in the womb, but, increasingly, after being delivered alive.

Pope Francis recently said, “Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves.”

How has humanity become so degraded that children in the womb are routinely killed and treated as disposable? How can physicians who have taken the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm ignore the cries of a newborn infant who needs their attention? How have mothers gotten to the point where the quality of their lives is more important than life itself for their children?

Pelosi’s words reflect the attitude of too many Catholic politicians. In an interview a few years ago, she stated: “I grant the Church where they are on abortion. That’s where they are; that’s where they have to be. But my faith isn’t about what their position is.”

Kaine, a former vice-presidential candidate, expressed a similar view, stating: “I’ve taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions.” This attitude of misguided toleration that too many Catholic politicians express is embraced because it imposes no obligation on them to publicly live the faith and does not interfere with their drive for political success.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson recently wrote, “I do not see how it is possible to build a culture of life in America as long as our elected officials harden their hearts to the cries of unborn children.”

The way forward is clear.

Pope Francis, in his exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, stated, “Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred.”

Responding to that call, Carl Anderson declared: “You will not see a reed bending here. … On this issue [of life] we will not yield. We will never give in. The Knights of Columbus will never abandon the field.”

Neither should any faithful Catholic.

Lawrence Grayson is a visiting scholar at the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.