by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This is the sixth of a series on issues pertaining to the upcoming elections.
As we head into the final weeks of the presidential campaign, I cannot help but be preoccupied by the tone of the debate surrounding what is being referred to as “women’s issues.” This language seems to be code for abortion rights and now a mandate upon employers to offer contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients to employees.
You would not be wrong for expecting the central issue of this campaign to be employment and the economy, as this is certainly a woman’s issue. Consider that 26 percent of households are now headed by women. Let us also keep in mind the many other households where the women are important contributors to the financial stability of their families.
Perhaps also our primary consideration should be about terrorism and a war that has claimed several tens of thousands of lives and seems endless. For the wives and mothers of our soldiers, as well as the civilian losses, war is a women’s issue. For others, a central issue might be immigration and the plight of the 11 million undocumented people living in our country. These all seem like critically important women’s issues to me.
Why then do the President and Vice President continually speak about women’s rights in the context of abortion and contraception as well as misrepresent the impact on religious institutions? I cannot help but think it is an effort to secure only the most fanatical “pro-choice” voters at the expense of those who are people of faith.
The reality is that we as a Church have failed to teach the truths of the faith in a clear and convincing manner to the Catholic faithful. However, the issue is not what we as a Church believe but whether or not we ought to be obligated to act in a manner contrary to our own belief.
In fairness, the administration has carved out a narrow religious exemption, but our position is that it is not for the executive branch, legislature or even the courts to decide which of our employees ought to be considered as essential or not essential to our religious mission.
Furthermore, moral opposition to all artificial contraception and sterilization is a minority and unpopular belief, and its virtually exclusive association with the Catholic Church is no secret. Thus, although the mandate does not expressly target Catholicism, it does so implicitly by imposing burdens on conscience that are well known to fall almost entirely on observant Catholics – whether employees, employers, or insurers. As a result, the President has senselessly made religious liberty a central issue in this campaign.
It is inconceivable to me how Catholics could support such policies. Indeed, Roman Catholics who support abortion rights and vote for a candidate because of those policies, place him/herself outside of the life of the Church. In so doing, they also place themselves in moral danger.
Is it possible to vote for somebody despite their support for these policies? To my mind, it stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option. The dignity and sanctity of human life are the foundational values upon which all other policies are built. Concern for the poor, the stranger in our midst, they are all predicated upon our belief in the dignity and sanctity of human life.
My hope is that our elected leadership could recognize that no child is unwanted, and each makes a profound impact upon our world. Each child, despite their socioeconomic condition, their health, their race or family circumstances, enriches the world. We must always remember that for every mother or father who is incapable of extending love, we all must step into the breach because these children are not just the children of a mother and a father but are brothers and sisters.
We as Roman Catholics need to put out into the deep. We love the child in the womb. We love the child who is poor, and we love the child who is sick, because of her great dignity and sanctity. After all, what Christ calls us to build is a civilization of love in the support of his or her life.