Bishop Baker reflects on Communion, politicians following bishops’ meeting

CHARLESTON — The June meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops in Denver this year was supposed to be a time of prayer and reflection centered on topics related to Pope John Paul’s document “Pastores Gregis,” on the role of the bishop in the church. The meeting turned out to be what it was intended to be and much more.
Inserted into the agenda were items as complex as any facing the bishops since the Conference began as the National Catholic War Council back in 1917 (the predecessor to the United States Catholic Welfare Conference and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops): What to do about the audits of dioceses this year by the Office of Child and Youth Protection regarding the handling of clergy sex abuse matters, and where to go with Catholic politicians who support legislation that legalizes abortion.
The audits and other matters surrounding the clergy crisis had already involved a lot of time, energy, and money, but the bishops decided to move ahead with an even greater commitment to assure that our children are protected from harm.
The question of how to deal with Catholics in government positions that affect legislation regarding life issues has been a growing concern, especially since the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation put Catholic politicians on notice that they as Catholics must oppose legislation that allows abortion and euthanasia.
The bishops in their June meeting in Denver reiterated the church’s teaching, “founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified.” Those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the act of an abortion are “guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace” when they are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do.
Those who formulate law are also held morally culpable if they “make such intrinsically evil actions legal.” By failing to protect the lives of those “who have no protection except the law,” the legal system is guilty on three counts, according to the bishops’ statement. First, public officials are said to be guilty of “cooperating in evil” (the implication is of cooperation in grave moral evil). Second, the bishops said that “failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice” (the suggestion is that the rights of the innocent unborn have not been given a just hearing in the U.S. courts of law). Third, by failing to correct morally defective laws, government officials have sinned against the “common good” (presumably the bishops are referring here to government leaders at the level of the presidency, the U .S. Congress, the federal judiciary, and some people in high positions of state government who are elected or appointed precisely to maintain the common good of all human beings in society).
Justice is undermined; the common good is not fostered; and the legal system is morally corrupted.
I suggest that a sincere and open dialogue needs to take place on the part of all people of good will, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, on these moral principles brought to light by this important statement of our U.S. Catholic bishops. These flaws in the American system of justice need to be addressed now by everyone in our society. Because if they are true, they are an indictment of the American legal system, a blight on the conscience of America, and a clarion call for change in how the people of this great nation, dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, protect the most defenseless in our midst.
The Catholic teaching on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death needs to be clear. It needs to be disseminated in all our parishes, educational, health care, and human service ministries. This teaching needs to be communicated to all public officials, especially Catholic public officials.
And Catholics need to translate these principles and policies into public life.
Over 40 million innocent unborn lives have been lost through abortion since the enactment of Roe v. Wade in 1973. That is over 1 million a year, the equivalent of obliterating nearly the whole population of the greater Jacksonville, Fla., area every year for 30 years, the equivalent of about 3,000 abortions a day.
Is it not time for all people who are committed to justice and equal rights for all under the law to speak loudly and clearly for those who have no voice under the law, but should have a voice — the unborn?
I think so.
Please join me in communicating this message to all in our Catholic community and all people of good will in the state of South Carolina. It may not be too late to save some of the 1 million unborn who would otherwise not see the light of day this year in our great homeland of the United States of America.