". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


U.S. Catholic Bishops Call on Americans to Vote Pro-Life

November 18, 2023

The Catholic bishops of the U.S. are urging Americans to vote pro-life, reaffirming that abortion is the “preeminent” issue facing the nation. At their annual meeting in Baltimore on Wednesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted to strengthen pro-life language in its voting guide for Catholics, typically issued ahead of every presidential election.

According to Catholic news outlet The Pillar, the previous language identified abortion as an evil but did not declare it the most crucial issue, while the new language reads, “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks our most vulnerable and voiceless brothers and sisters and destroys more than a million lives per year in our country alone.”

At a press conference, USCCB Vice President Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told reporters, “I think that the protection of the unborn remains a preeminent priority, because unborn children who are affected by this are utterly vulnerable, utterly voiceless, and there are so many of them who have died.”

Since 2007, the USCCB has published “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a guide for Catholics to use to vote in accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, which include opposing abortion, transgenderism, homosexuality, pornography, and divorce, among other things. The guide is usually updated ahead of presidential elections to address new or newly prominent social and political issues and amend previous terminology. Although the Catholic Church has always opposed abortion as evil, the topic has become a subject of debate amongst the bishops in recent years, with a minority of liberal prelates arguing that issues such as poverty, climate change, gun control, and nuclear disarmament are equally pressing issues.

One such bishop, Robert McElroy of San Diego, objected at the USCCB meeting in 2019 to use of the line “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.” McElroy claimed that the line was “at least discordant” with the instruction and example of Pope Francis, despite the fact that the pope has compared abortion to assassination and abortionists to “hitmen.” The California-based bishop said, “It is not Catholic that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not.” He was vocally opposed by his brother bishops, notably Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and the recently-sidelined Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

Catholic Joe Biden’s ascendancy to the presidency has also been the cause of debate among Catholic bishops on the subject of abortion. In 2021, the USCCB drafted a document to formally and publicly rebuke Biden for his pro-abortion policies, including forbidding him from presenting himself to receive Holy Communion. Catholic teaching holds that pro-abortion politicians calling themselves Catholic “excommunicate” themselves — that is, remove themselves from the Catholic Church — by promoting the slaughter of the unborn and cannot be permitted to receive Holy Communion until they attend confession and publicly repent of their abortion advocacy. After months of internal debate, the USCCB eventually approved a revised edition of the document, which did not explicitly bar Biden from receiving Holy Communion but focused instead on explaining Catholic teaching on both Holy Communion and abortion.

Since Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese (in charge of Catholic U.S. military chaplains) was elected president of the USCCB last year, the body of bishops has been more vocal in opposing Biden’s abortion messaging and policies. Earlier this year, for example, Broglio took Biden to task for claiming that Catholic teaching doesn’t forbid taxpayer funding for abortions. Broglio responded that such policies “force people of good conscience to participate in this grave evil against their will” and “would contradict our right to live in accord with the tenets of our faith.” He added:

“The Catholic bishops of the United States are united in our commitment to life, and will continue to work as one body in Christ to make abortion unthinkable. … I pray that we will protect every child no matter his or her age and open our hearts to respond to mothers in need with love and support rather than the violence of abortion.”

Broglio also expressed that he was interested in meeting with Biden to discuss Catholic teaching on policy issues like abortion. He said, “I don’t see my role as political, but if there is any way to insert the Gospel into all aspects of life in our country, I certainly will not miss any occasion to do that.” Thus far, Biden has not taken Broglio up on his offer to meet.

On abortion, the Catechism of the Catholic Church declares, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” Over 100 years before the U.S. Supreme Court opened up abortion of a national scale with Roe v. Wade, the Catholic Church in the U.S. was abortion’s most vocal opponent. In 1870, the Michigan Medical Society wrote:

“In America the Roman Catholic Church have taken the lead of all others in this reform. Its ministers preach from the altar the true doctrine, that the ‘destruction of the embryo at any period from the first instant of conception is a crime equal in guilt to that of murder;’ ‘that to admit its practice [the practice of abortion] is to open the way for the most unbridled licentiousness, and to take away the responsibility of maternity is to destroy one of the strongest bulwarks of female virtue.’”

Shortly before the Roe decision was handed down in 1973, the USCCB peremptorily founded the National Right to Life Committee and, after the ruling, launched an initiative to convince Congress to invalidate Roe and amend the U.S. Constitution to ensure neither Congress nor state legislatures could legalize abortion. Connie Paige, author of “The Right to Lifers,” said that “[t]he Roman Catholic Church created the right-to-life movement. Without the Church, the movement would not exist as such today.”

The USCCB’s decision Wednesday to bolster pro-life language continues the Catholic Church’s long legacy of staunchly opposing abortion.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.