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Catholics and Political Responsibility

1) Catholic Members of Congress Express Concern Over Church Sanctions, May 10, 2007 & 2) Bishops’ Conference Responds To 18 Democrats Critical Of Pope, May 18, 2007

Pope Warns Catholic Politicians who back abortion

While aboard the papal plane May 9, for his first papal visit to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI commented to reporters that Mexican officials were correct in threatening excommunication to Catholic legislators who support pro-abortion legislation. "They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)".

The Pope said parliamentarians who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future". Link to Reuters May 9, 2007 story

On May 10, 2007 a group of 18 House Democrats issued the following statement stating restricting Communion from pro-abortin politicians “offend[s] the very nature of the Amercan experiment”.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Adriana Surfas 202-225-3661

Catholic Members of Congress Express Concern Over Church Sanctions

Washington, D.C. – Catholic members of the U.S. House of Representative, including  Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), Joe Baca (CA-43), Tim Bishop (NY-1), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Anna Eshoo (CA-14), Maurice Hinchey, (NY-22), Patrick Kennedy (RI-1), James Langevin (RI-2), John Larson (CT-1), Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4), Betty McCollum (MN-4), Jim Moran (VA-8), Bill Pascrell (NJ-8), Tim Ryan (OH-17), Linda Sanchez (CA-39), José Serrano (NY -16), Hilda Solis (CA-32), and Mike Thompson (CA-1) issued the following statement in response to Pope Benedict’s warning that Catholic elected officials risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion for their pro-choice views.  The majority of these Members also supported the Statement of Principles issued on February 28, 2006, that expresses the signers’ commitment to the dignity of life and their belief that government has moral purpose. 

“We are concerned with the Pope's statement warning Catholic elected officials that they risk excommunication and would not receive communion for their pro-choice views. 

“Advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our church has taught us, our own life’s mission.  As we said in our Statement of Principles, ‘We envision a world in which every child belongs to a loving family and agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion – we do not celebrate its practice.  Each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term.’  That is precisely what some of us are doing with our initiative ‘The Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act’ – which includes policies that promote alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, improve access to children’s healthcare and child care, as well as encourage paternal and maternal responsibility.  

“The fact is that religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America – it also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.  Such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment and do a great disservice to the centuries of good work the church has done.”

For more information contact:
Adriana Surfas (DeLauro) 202-225-3661

Michael Levin (Joe Baca), 202-225-6161

Will Jenkins (Tim Bishop), 202-225-3826

Brian Farber (Joe Courtney), 202-225-2105

Jeff Miller (Anna Eshoo), 202-225-8104

Jeff Lieberson (Maurice Hinchey) 202-225-1265

Robin Costello (Patrick Kennedy), 401-729-5600

Joy Fox (James Langevin), 401-732-9400 x. 18

Stephanie Valencia (John Larson), 202-225-2265

George Burke (Carolyn McCarthy), 202-225-5516

Bryan Collinsworth (Betty McCollum), 202-225-6631

Austin Durrer ( Jim Moran), 202-225-4376

Caley Gray (Bill Pascrell), 973-523-5152

Brad Bauman (Tim Ryan), 202-225-5261

James Dau (Linda Sanchez), 202-225-6676

Philip Schmidt (José Serrano), 202- 225-4361

Sonia Melendez (Hilda Solis), 202-225-4573

Anne Warden (Mike Thompson), 202-225-3311

On May 18, the USCCB Office of Media Relations published a response:

Bishops’ Conference Responds To 18 Democrats Critical Of Pope

USCCB Office of Media Relations

WASHINGTON (May 18, 2007)—The 18 Democrats who recently criticized Pope Benedict XVI when he answered questions about Mexico’s legalizing abortion both misrepresented the Pope’s remarks and defied freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The position was noted by Sister Mary Ann Walsh, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Director of Media Relations in a May 18 statement, which follows.

Response to 18 Democrats
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM
Director of Media Relations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

In an unfortunate May 10 statement, 18 of the 88 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks concerning Mexican lawmakers legalizing abortion. The Representatives’ statement misrepresents the Holy Father’s remarks and implies that the Church does not have a right to voice its teaching in the public square.

The Holy See has made clear that neither the Mexican bishops nor the Holy Father have excommunicated any legislator. Rather, the Holy See reiterated longstanding Church teaching that anyone who freely and knowingly commits a serious wrong, that is, a mortal sin, should not approach the Eucharist until going to confession.

“The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision of society.” (United States Catechism for Adults, p. 442) Consequently, every Catholic is obliged to respect human life, from conception until natural death.

To suggest that the Church should not clearly voice its teaching and apply it in a pluralistic society is to attack freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The Catholic Church always will and must speak out against the destruction of innocent unborn children. The right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution that all legislators are elected to uphold. Speaking and acting against abortion is not a matter of partisan politics. It is a matter of life and death.

The bishops urge all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the Church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity.

For media inquiries, e-mail us at [email protected]
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