Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Archbishop John J. Myers - Newark, NJ

In his pastoral letter "A Time for Honesty", the Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, delivers a stirring message on the public responsibility of the Catholic politician:
"There is no right more fundamental than the right to be born and reared with all the dignity the human person deserves. On this grave issue, public officials cannot hold themselves excused from their duties, especially if they claim to be Catholic. Every faithful Catholic must be not only "personally opposed" to abortion, but also must live that opposition in his or her actions. In Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, St. Thomas More remarks, "I believe, when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties . . . they lead their country by a short route to chaos." Sadly, too few follow the example of St. Thomas More. As voters, Catholics are under an obligation to avoid implicating themselves in abortion, which is one of the gravest of injustices. Certainly, there are other injustices, which must be addressed, but the unjust killing of the innocent is foremost among them."

Justice and human dignity. It applies to all persons. Some justify their actions by saying that they must respect the consciences of others. But this "respect" for another's conscience should never require abandoning one’s own properly formed conscience. Conscientious opposition to abortion, rooted in an understanding of the sanctity of human life, may not be sacrificed simply because others, whose consciences are gravely mistaken, would unjustly take the life of an unborn baby.

UPDATE - STATUS INCONCLUSIVE This report has been challenged by recent readers in light of the following update from the New York Times (5/22/04):

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said on Friday that he was "deeply disappointed" that his recent criticism of Roman Catholic elected officials who supported abortion rights had been interpreted by some New Jerseyans as a political slap at Gov. James E. McGreevey.

In an interview, Archbishop Myers said Mr. McGreevey was not the target of statements he had made in a pastoral letter saying that Catholic officeholders who did not share the Vatican's opposition to abortion should not seek communion. He said he had apologized to the governor for any misperception by the public.

"I didn't name him specifically in the letter,'' Archbishop Myers said. "We have an understanding that I won't personally criticize him. And we are working together on a lot of issues, like providing social services for the poor and helping people with H.I.V. So I think we reached an understanding. I actually like him, and I think we have a cordial relationship."

Likewise, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, Bishop Myers took pains to identify himself as a "moderate," saying that communion should not be denied to publicly pro-choice Catholic politicians if they request it.

As a pro-choice Catholic akin to Senator Kerry, one might assume that the bishop's criticism in his letter would apply to Gov. McGreevey. The bishop's assertion that he has a "understanding" with the governor rendering him immune from any criticism of his pro-choice position certainly casts doubt on this blog's previous sighting of spinal evolution.

We refer our readers to the Catholic Kerry Watch for further commentary.