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.