Abortion is 'pre-eminent moral issue,' KCK prelate tells Missouri Catholics
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
JEFFERSON CITY - Abortion is the "pre-eminent moral issue for our nation" in the upcoming election, and Catholics risk grave sin if they vote for a candidate who favors keeping abortion legal, Kansas City, Kan., Coadjutor Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann told Missouri Catholics Oct. 2.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Kansas City, Kan., Coadjutor Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann delivers the keynote address at the annual Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly Oct. 2 in Jefferson City.
Delivering the keynote address at the annual Missouri Catholic Conference Assembly at the state capitol, Archbishop Naumann echoed the words of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith saying that it would be permissible for a Catholic to vote for a "pro-choice" candidate if the voter had a "proportionate reason" for doing so.
"Personally," he said, "I cannot conceive in our present circumstances what would qualify as a proportionate reason."
Acknowledging that there are "many, many issues" involved in protecting life and human dignity, Archbishop Naumann, a former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, nevertheless said that abortion "and related attacks on human life" outweighs them all.
"Candidates on many of these issues will share our goals, but may have very different strategies to achieve them," he said. "There can be legitimate disagreement on how best to assist the poor or how best to make health care available to all. . . If there were no other issue of greater moral importance, we might base our vote on which candidate supports the strategy we believe to be the most effective."
But even with the war in Iraq, which Pope John Paul II and the U.S. bishops have condemned, Archbishop Naumann said there is room for legitimate disagreement.
"There are sincere Catholics who believe the war in Iraq to be wrong and a great mistake because of the innocent individuals killed in the war, because of what they perceive to be a needless loss of life of the military combatants on both sides (and) because they believe it has destabilized the world and made the world less safe," he said.
"There are also sincere Catholics who support the war despite their genuine regret and sadness over the loss of each and every human life that is a casualty of this war," he said. "They are convinced that the loss of human lives under the former (Saddam Hussein) regime was much, much greater than the deaths resulting from this war. They believe the former regime's failure for more than a decade to honor the previous peace agreement and the corresponding threat of an Iraq led by Saddam Hussein posed to our world did and does justify military intervention," Archbishop Naumann said.
"War is always a great human tragedy. It is not, however, an intrinsic evil," he said.
Even though the death penalty has also been condemned by the pope and by the U.S. bishops as an attack against the dignity of life, Archbishop Naumann said the church's position is the result of "significant recent theological developments" that require careful teaching.
"It would be unreasonable and arrogant to expect the entire world within months or even years to embrace our current, nuanced understanding of the morality of this issue," Archbishop Naumann said.
But concerning abortion, the Kansas City, Kan., archbishop said "there is no moral uncertainty and there is no possibility of legitimate debate."
Though not naming any of them, Archbishop Naumann criticized "Catholic United States senators" for blocking appointments to the federal judiciary of candidates who would overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton Supreme Court decisions that made abortion legal throughout the United States.
"It is troubling that those claiming to be Catholic would lead such an effort," Archbishop Naumann said. "It is even more troubling that Catholics who make up the largest religious minority in this country have tolerated now for more than 30 years a public policy that is so antithetical to our moral convictions.
"There is no moral argument to justify abortion," he said. "Reasons can be and are offered why one might be motivated to choose an abortion. These are not moral arguments, but rationalizations for what is indefensible."
Archbishop Naumann said that bishops "have an obligation to make certain that a Catholic voter knows that to vote for a pro-abortion/pro-choice politician in order to support their efforts to keep abortion legal is a serious sin. It is formal cooperation in an act that is intrinsically evil."
"Moreover, Catholic voters must realize that even to vote for a pro-abortion/pro-choice politician, not because of their pro-abortion position but in spite of it, one must have 'proportionate' reasons. Thus, they must answer the question what could be proportionate to the deaths of 40 million innocent children and 40-plus million adults scarred by their involvement in abortion?"
Archbishop Naumann said that if the Catholic community in the United States is to have any impact on any public policy, it "must find its voice" on the abortion issue.
"Our ultimate goal cannot be to capture just one political party and keep them in power," he said. "Our goal must be to build such a broad consensus that just as neither Democrats nor Republicans would tolerate a racist or an anti-Semite representing their party, so some day they will refuse to allow those who advocate for abortion to represent their party.
"If the Catholic community is impotent to influence public policy on such a fundamental moral issue, we need not worry about impacting our nation's policies in areas of less moral clarity," Archbishop Naumann said.
To those Catholics who believe that the abortion question is "hopeless," Archbishop Naumann borrowed a story from Jean Garton, a Lutheran theologian, concerning David and Goliath.
"When the adult soldiers of Israel looked at Goliath, they were terrified because of his size," Archbishop Naumann said. "The boy David, armed only with his slingshot, looked at the huge Goliath and said, 'How can I miss?'
"As Christians, we know that the victory of life has already been won," he said. "May we take heart and hope in the inevitable truth that life will be victorious."