During the recent election campaign in Canada, many ugly things we heard and said, but this one tops it all: “Those who deny women's right to choice (kill their children in their wombs) are intolerant and right-wing extremists.” What was even more surprising — and scandalizing — is that these statements came from leaders who claim to be practicing Catholics, but their statements are in blatant opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. In the coming American presidential election, one has the same situation: John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, who claims to be a practicing Catholic, said that he is “personally” against abortion, but that he will do everything to protect women's right to get an abortion on demand.
Catholic voters may be confused in front of such statements; however, the teaching of the Church is very clear: no Catholic can support pro-abortion politicians. Even if one may disagree on the various policies of political parties, the first thing to take into account for any Catholic voter is to verify if these politicians are in favor of the protection of human life, from conception to natural death. If not, they do not deserve our vote — it is even a mortal sin to vote for them, a U.S. Bishop even said.
On May 14, 2004, Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs said that “any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation, and that any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance.” The Bishop noted that while there may be many issues to consider when voting, the right to life trumps all other issues. The same warning was repeated in a pastoral letter by St. Louis Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, who said that he merely reiterated what the Pope teaches.
On June 13, 2004, Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, Canada, called liberal leader Paul Martin's political stand on abortion and same-sex marriage as morally incoherent and a “source of scandal in the Catholic community. In an open letter to his city's parishes, Bishop Fred Henry states that under God, “There is no right to have an abortion... Nor is there a right of couples in same sex unions to marry. One cannot invent a meaning of sexuality to suit one's own wishes or tastes.”
Archbishop Anthony Meagher of Kingston, Ontario, wrote in his column for the June-July issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, Journey: “Truly Christian leaders will serve unselfishly all of their people, and that certainly includes those without voice or power. It is true that government is the art of the possible, and not all things are possible in this culture at this time. Catholic leaders, and, indeed, most Christian leaders, oppose abortion, but they may not be able to change things as they would like. However, this much I am positive they can and must do, if they claim any right to be called Catholic: they must unequivocally and publicly state their opposition to abortion, and be willing to do what can be done to protect the dignity of all human life. They must also ask themselves honestly if it is reasonable to equate the value to society of a same-sex union with the union of a man and a woman who will give life to and nourish a family. Similarly, in order to be faithful to Christ, they must never fail to protect those nearing the end of their lives.
“It is never appropriate for Catholic leaders to claim that acceptance of such denial of human dignity – for example, abortion on demand – is a sign of Canada's tolerance and goodness. It is not; it is simply cowardice. To which leaders am I referring? Actually, I am being no more specific than saying that, "if the shoe fits, wear it".
On April 19, 2004, the Social Affairs Commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document entitled Election 2004: Responsibility and Discernment, encouraging Canadian Catholics, with a federal election on the horizon, to weigh the issues carefully, and be inspired by the Church's moral and social teachings. The bishops say this discernment “would seem to involve at least three elements: a basic knowledge and acceptance of the principles of Catholic teaching; sufficient familiarity with the platforms of the candidates; and careful consideration of how the candidates will best reflect one's most deeply held principles.” Four major themes were highlighted in the document: respect for the life and dignity of the human person; support for marriage and the family; the preferential option for the poor; and the common good.
On June 4, 2004, John Paul II said to a group of U.S. Bishops: “Detached from this vision of the fundamental unity and purpose of the whole human family (that all men and women receive their essential and common dignity from God), rights are at times reduced to self-centred demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women's rights, the approval of same sex unions in the name of homosexual rights. In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking you must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their `special responsibility' for `evangelizing culture... and promoting Christian values in society and public life'."
On June 18, 2004, receiving Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See, John Paul II said: "To protect human life is the duty of all, as the question of life and of its promotion is not only the prerogative of Christians, but belongs to every human conscience that aspires to truth and is concerned about humanity's destiny. Public authorities, as guarantors of the rights of all, have the obligation to defend life, particularly that of the weakest and defenseless. The real 'social conquests' are the ones that promote and protect, at the same time, the life of each individual and the common good of society.
"In this realm there are some mistakenly called 'social conquests,' which, in reality, are so only for some at the cost of the sacrifice of others, and that public authorities, guarantors and not the originators of rights that are innate to all, should regard, rather, with concern and alarm," the Holy Father noted.
Let us be consequent with our Faith, and support only candidates and policies that are in agreement with the teaching of the Church.