DENVER, Colorado, SEPT. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org) the second statement in two weeks responding to comments made by Catholic politicians on the Sunday morning program, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver are telling politicians "who describe themselves as Catholic," to begin to "act accordingly."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared first on the program in late August. When asked to comment on when life begins, she said that as a Catholic she had studied the issue for "a long time" and that "the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition."
Senator Joseph Biden, Senator Barack Obama's running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket, appeared on the same program last Sunday. The senator "compounded the problem" with his explanation of when life begins, according to the bishops.
The senator said that although he knows "when [life] begins for me," he claimed it to be fundamentally a "personal and private issue."
And, even though as a Catholic he is "prepared to accept the teachings of my Church," the senator said that in a pluralistic society it would be "inappropriate" to "impose that judgment on everyone else."
In the wake of Pelosi's appearance on "Meet the Press," Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops'Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, responded that her answer "misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion."
The prelates noted that since the first century the Church has "affirmed the moral evil of every abortion."
A series of statements were released by other bishops across the United States, including Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.; Archbishop Charles Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley of Denver; Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York; Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis; Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota; Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago; and Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco.
Responding to the comments of Biden, the bishops of Denver refuted the claim that the moment when life begins is "a personal and private issue."
"Modern biology knows exactly when human life begins," they explained, "at the moment of conception."
"Religion has nothing to do with it," the prelates continued. "People might argue when human'personhood'begins – though that leads public policy in very dangerous directions – but no one can any longer claim that the beginning of life is a matter of religious opinion."
The statement also said that the senator also "confused the nature of pluralism."
The bishops of Denver continued: "Real pluralism thrives on healthy, nonviolent disagreement; it requires an environment where people of conviction will struggle respectfully but vigorously to advance their beliefs.
"In his interview, the senator observed that other people with strong religious views disagree with the Catholic approach to abortion. It's certainly true that we need to acknowledge the views of other people and compromise whenever possible – but not at the expense of a developing child's right to life.
"Abortion is a foundational issue; it is not an issue like housing policy or the price of foreign oil. It always involves the intentional killing of an innocent life, and it is always, grievously wrong."
Acknowledging that the senator successfully backed a ban on partial-birth abortions, the bishops also stated that "his strong support for the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, and the false'right'to abortion it enshrines, can't be excused by any serious Catholic."
"Roe is bad law," they said. "As long as it stands, it prevents returning the abortion issue to the states where it belongs, so that the American people can decide its future through fair debate and legislation."
Regarding Biden's weariness to "impose" his beliefs on others, the bishops of Denver affirmed that "resistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion."
"American Catholics have allowed themselves to be bullied into accepting the destruction of more than a million developing unborn children a year." Continued the statement. "Other people have imposed their'pro-choice'beliefs on American society without any remorse for decades."
The statement continues: "If we claim to be Catholic, then American Catholics, including public officials who describe themselves as Catholic, need to act accordingly.
"We need to put an end to Roe and the industry of permissive abortion it enables. Otherwise all of us – from senators and members of Congress, to Catholic laypeople in the pews – fail not only as believers and disciples, but also as citizens."