A debate over abortion has split the US bishops’ conference, with Church leaders disagreeing over its relative importance compared to other issues.
At the bishops’ plenary meeting in Baltimore, bishops debated whether to include a long quotation from Pope Francis to their letter to Catholic voters. The paragraph criticises those who focus too much on single issues, saying that while unborn children must be defended, “equally sacred” are the lives of the poor and vulnerable.
What the bishops said
The bishops voted not to include the whole paragraph, by a margin of 143 to 69. But that result is not easy to interpret, as so many issues were raised in the debate. The bishop proposing the paragraph be included, Cardinal Blase Cupich, said that the Pope’s words contained “all of the elements in the call to holiness that we are to exercise as faithful citizens”.
The drafting committee said it would include a short quotation summarising the sense of the paragraph, but that including the whole thing would make it too long. However, Cardinal Cupich was then supported by Bishop Robert McElroy, who added that he objected to the letter calling abortion the “preeminent” political issue of our time. This sparked a dispute not directly related to the words in the Pope’s paragraph.
What commentators said
The debate about the word “preeminent”, although not related to the vote, attracted most attention – and even some bishops thought it was the subject of the vote. Bishop Joseph Strickland said the bishops had “voted to uphold the preeminence of the sanctity of the life of the unborn”. The author and podcaster Taylor Marshall tweeted that it showed the 69 bishops who voted for the paragraph were “not Catholic”. But JD Flynn of the Catholic News Agency said such remarks were based on a misconception. “The vote was over whether bishops should quote a long paragraph, or summarise it.”
At Catholic Culture, Phil Lawler said the vote nevertheless showed the disagreement “between those bishops who saw abortion as their top public policy challenge” and those who draw “with a broader brush”.
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