Q: U.S. Catholic bishops are defending their direct involvement in congressional deliberations over health-care reform, saying that church leaders have a duty to raise moral concerns on any issue, including abortion rights and health care for the poor. Do you agree? What role should religious leaders have — or not have — in government policymaking?
Of course the Catholic bishops have both a right and a duty to raise moral concerns, on any issue in their sphere. They have a right because they are citizens. They have a duty because they are stewards of a great moral tradition in our country. We should always be grateful that morality matters, even though it is not usually comfortable when it is raised, because without moral constraints, the freedoms we enjoy would more quickly degenerate into social chaos. It is to our mutual discredit that we’re now on that downward path, as we ask ourselves more often “what is my right?” instead of “what is my responsibility?”
Religious precepts have long penetrated and shaped our culture. “Thou shalt not steal” is a highly religious concept, but it makes a very useful rule for community living, even if one doesn’t believe in the origin of that rule. “Thou shalt not kill” comes from that same famous list of 10, and thus the bishops, as do all citizens who honor traditional morality, have a duty to protect innocent life.
Four years ago no one seemed to mind when a Catholic agency plunged into the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina victims, nor did anyone raise any objection when the Catholics were joined by the Adventists, the Southern Baptists, the Lutherans, The Salvation Army, and the myriads of individual churches that sent relief and rebuilding teams to Louisiana and Mississippi. All of this activity was performed in the name of protecting innocent people from disaster.
Today, there is no greater disaster than the number of abortions performed–46 million since Roe v. Wade — and all of them are perpetrated against innocent victims. We salute the Catholic bishops, and we stand with them.