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Catholics and Political Responsibility

On Catholic Politicians, PBA ban and pro-abortion activities -- and the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat

Posted April 18, 2004 on About Medicine & Morality - News

By Helen Hull Hitchcock

The USCCB Pro-Life Committee, to its everlasting credit, is posting transcripts of the chilling testimony of physicians who commit Partial-birth Abortions (Excerpt and link provided in their Memorandum below). Committee spokesman, Cathy Cleaver Ruse comments that the issue is "not for some abstract notion of 'choice', but, as the testimony shows, it is for a very real, very cruel, and very painful way of killing nearly viable and even post-viable unborn children.".

But there is evidently a radical disconnect within the conference of bishops -- and it centers on a pro-abortion Catholic presidential contender.

Senator John Kerry, the Democratic front-runner for the presidential nomination and a Catholic, openly, steadfastly and unrepentantly supports partial-birth abortion as a "right" for women. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, DC, who had a "private" meeting with Senator Kerry last week, is also the head of the US Bishops "task force" to implement the Holy See's 2002 "Doctrinal Note" on Catholic politicians. The cardinal has stated that the Eucharist should not be used as a "sanction" against Catholic politicians in open dissent from Church teachings, but, instead, such politicians might not be permitted to speak in Catholic schools or hospitals.

Cardinal McCarrick's spokesman, Susan Gibbs, suggested in an interview that the Committee would not be able to reach any decision until "after the election".

Chicago Cardinal Francis George told a reporter, concerning Catholic politicians who actively vote for policies that directly conflict with Catholic teaching, that people cannot be "excommunicated for the way they vote", and says he will await the Comittee's decision before taking any position on the matter himself.

Senator Kerry, received Communion at Easter services last week in the Paulist Church in Boston, with the permission of the Archdiocese of Boston, confirmed by the archdiocesan spokesman, Father Christopher Coyne. Earlier, Archbishop Sean O'Malley had stated that Catholic politicians who support actions that conflict with Church teaching should "not dare" to present themselves for Holy Communion. The Sunday before, as was widely publicized, Senator Kerry received Communion in an African Methodist Church -- in clear violation of Canon law (Canons 844 and 1365).

How can anyone make sense of this?

Meanwhile, "Catholics for a Free Choice" plans a march in DC on April 24-25. Their "Action Alert" promo features a pair of big red lips bearing the motto"YOUR VOICE IS FUNDAMENTAL AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM". It is Catholic "Fundamentalism" that bothers them the most: so the CFFC gals are marching on the Vatican Embassy on April 24. President Bush's "fundamentalism" also gets targeted April 25 with a march down Constitution Avenue.

The CFFC Action Alert invites protesters:
"Speak out against the Vatican and Bush administration's worldwide efforts to limit access to family planing, safe abortion, condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV, sexuality education, and emergency contraception. Join Catholics for a Free Choice at the Vatican Protest and the March for Women's Lives in Washington DC."

The bishops' stalwart Pro-Life Committee's Press Memorandum obviously makes the connection: Partial-birth abortion and CFFC's brand of "Catholicism" are inimical to the Catholic faith. Presenting the actual testimony of the PBA physicians is a great service (if very grim reading).

Now, if only the Bishops' Pro-life Committee could persuade the bishops to read these transcripts, the bishops might find it easier do what they have to do. Difficult though it may be to confront "pro-choice", anti-Catholic, "Catholic" politicians, as bishops they simply have no other choice.

As Archbishop Charles Chaput observed in his April 14 column, How to tell a duck from a fox - Thinking with the Church as we look toward November (on Denver archdiocesan web site), "We've come a long way from John F. Kennedy, who merely locked his faith in the closet. Now we have Catholic senators who take pride in arguing for legislation that threatens and destroys life -- and who then also take Communion. The kindest explanation for this sort of behavior is that a lot of Catholic candidates don't know their own faith".


SEE ALSO CATHOLICS AND POLITICAL RESPONSIBILITY section for Church and USCCB documents and continual updates on bishops statements.

TO: Columnists, Editorial Writers, Journalists
FROM: Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq.
RE: Partial Birth Abortion Doctors on the Witness Stand and Pro-Abortion March, 4/25/04

DATE: 4/16/04

Following are excerpts taken from recent action in the New York Partial Birth Abortion trial. For extended excerpts from all trials, as well as full transcripts, visit:

Testimony from abortion doctors on the witness stand is chock full of admissions about the brutality of this abortion method. This unadorned, graphic testimony confirms why the vast majority of Americans sought to ban this procedure.

The testimony provides a telling backdrop for the abortion activist rally scheduled for April 25th in Washington, D.C. Organizers say the federal ban on partial-birth abortion is a central reason for the demonstration. Thus, their demonstration is not for some abstract notion of "choice," but, as the testimony shows, it is for a very real, very cruel, and very painful way of killing nearly viable and even post-viable unborn children.


National Abortion Federation, et. al. v. Ashcroft

U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
The Honorable Richard Conway Casey, Judge
Friday, April 2, 2004

Testimony of Dr. Carolyn Westhoff:

THE COURT: I want to know whether that woman knows that you are going to take a pair of scissors and insert them into the base of the skull of her baby, of her fetus. Do you tell her?

THE WITNESS: I do not usually tell patients specific details of the operative approach. I'm completely --

THE COURT: Do you tell her that you are going to then, ultimately, suck the brain out of the skull?

THE WITNESS: In all of our D&Es the head is collapsed or crushed and the brains are definitely out of the skull but those are --

THE COURT: Do you tell them that?

THE WITNESS: Those are details that would be distressing to my patients and would not -- information about that is not directly relevant to their safety.

THE COURT: Don't -- whether it's relative to their safety or not don't you think it's since they're giving authorization to you to do this act that they should know precisely what you're going to do?

THE WITNESS: That's actually not the practice I have of discussing surgical cases with patients.

THE COURT: I didn't ask you that. I said don't you think they ought to know?

THE WITNESS: No, sir, I don't.


Q. Do you tell a woman who is considering a D&E that the fetal arms, legs, extremities may be dismembered is in the course of a dismemberment variation D&E, Dr. Westhoff?

A. I tell patients that we will remove all of the fetus and the uterus and membrane, the placenta and membranes from the uterus as safely as possible and that that proceeds somewhat differently for all patients.


Q. How often will it be necessary to collapse the fetal skull during D&E whether the D&E proceeds by a dismemberment or more relatively intact, Doctor?

A. For the vast majority of D&Es [it will] be necessary it either crush or collapse the fetal skull.

THE COURT: Do you tell the woman that? Do you use the word crush?

THE WITNESS: Your Honor, I do not.

THE COURT: I didn't think so.


Q. Is there a difference, Dr. Westhoff, between the way a head, fetal head may be collapsed in a D&E by dismemberment and the way it may be collapsed during a D&E performed by the intact [method]?

A. Yes. The approaches are different. In the dismemberment D&E the fetal head will be up inside the uterus. It is necessary to insert our forceps, open them as wide as possible to try to capture the head within the opening of the forceps and then crush the head using external force applied against the head. With an intact D&E, when we have put a hole into the base of the skull we can generally do that under direct visualization because the base of the skull is, thanks to traction, held right in the cervical opening and so it is, in my experience and my opinion, less risky to put a hole in the base of the skull. Because the contents of the skull are liquid the skull contents may often drain out spontaneously as soon as there is a hole in the skull. In some cases it is necessary to use [suctioning].

USCCB Pro-life Secretariat

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