WASHINGTON (November 14, 2001) -- In a plan called A Campaign in Support of Life, the nation's Catholic bishops
said that the pervasive threat to human life arising from public policies that encourage abortion undermines respect for life in all other contexts.
Because all issues involving life are interdependent, the protection in law and practice of unborn human life will benefit all life, not only the lives of the unborn, they stated.
"Some behaviors are...always incompatible with our love for God and the dignity of the human person," the bishops declared. "Abortion, the direct taking of innocent human life prior to birth, is always morally wrong. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are not acts of mercy but acts that are never morally acceptable. Direct attacks on innocent civilians during war and terrorist acts targeting noncombatants must always be condemned."
A Campaign in Support of Life, approved by the bishops (Nov. 14) at their semi-annual meeting here, is the latest revision of the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities which the Bishops adopted in 1975 and revised in 1985. The revision was made to take account of Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), the 1995 encyclical by Pope John Paul II, and Living the Gospel of Life, a statement adopted by the bishops in 1998 to apply the teaching to the particular situation in the United States.
In the campaign the bishops renew their call for individual Catholics and the many institutions and organizations of the Church to unite in an effort to restore respect and legal protection for every human life.
The bishops say dialogue among religious groups is essential to the plan's success. It calls for a twofold education effort, one directed specifically to the Catholic community, the other directed to the general public.
The revised pastoral plan reaffirms the three core areas of the previous plans: an educational campaign, a public policy effort, and pastoral services. In addition, the role of prayer, undergirding all activities in support of life, is highlighted as a separate, fourth category.
Noting the prevalence of violence in society, the bishops state: "Our goal is to eliminate violence against unborn children, their mothers, and those who are dying. We unalterably oppose the use of violence in any form to achieve this objective, and we condemn the actions of those few who advocate otherwise."
The Bishops cite compelling reasons for opposing capital punishment-- its sheer inhumanity and its absolute finality, as well as concern about its inequitable use and an imperfect legal system that has condemned innocent people.
Calling on the Catholic community to provide pastoral care and pastoral services for pregnant women who need it, the bishops say such a plan might include nutritional, prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care for the mother; nutritional and pediatric care for the child; adoption and foster care services; counseling and spiritual assistance; opportunities for teenage parents to continue their education during pregnancy and after childbirth; support for victims of rape and other forms of abuse and violence; expansion of natural family planning programs for married couples; and post-abortion healing and reconciliation for women and men.
The Bishops noted that much has been accomplished in the nearly three decades since the U.S. Supreme Court issued Roe v. Wade: the rate of abortion declined steadily in the 1990s, more Americans identified themselves as pro-life while the number of those who say they are "pro-choice" declined, and most state legislatures enacted measures to restrict abortion.
"Yet the federal law on abortion has changed very little. Roe v. Wade continues to make impossible any meaningful protection for the lives of human beings from the time they are conceived until after they are fully born.
"The abortion decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court must be reversed," the Bishops declared. "For it is impossible, as our Holy Father reminds us, to further the common good 'without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.' "