Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Bishop Bernard Schmitt - Diocese of Wheeling, West Virginia

As a bishop, I have a duty both to my God and to my nation to give witness to the truth. An essential truth that has been marginalized in our political dialogue is the God-given sanctity of human life.

The absolute inviolability of all innocent human life is not a matter of mere personal opinion or private belief. Indeed, this principle -- enshrined in the Ten Commandments and in the Declaration of Independence -- is the cornerstone of civilization itself.

The Catholic Church, as a faithful witness to God's plan of creation and salvation, has a supreme obligation to call Catholics and all people of good will to the defense of innocent human life, from conception to natural death.

I join with Pope John Paul II, who has reiterated the constant teaching of the church that all legislators have a "grave and clear obligation to oppose" any law that attacks human life.

It is morally inconsistent for them, as for any Catholic, to promote such laws or to vote for them; it is a grave, objective evil for them to vote against laws that would restrict abortion and other attacks on innocent human life.

The Holy Father has taught that "an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality."

At the same time, a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit a legislator to vote for an individual law that attacks innocent human life or to vote against a law aimed at protecting innocent human life.

It is morally inconsistent to claim to be personally opposed to abortion but to take no concrete legislative step to protect the sanctity of human life.

Some say that decisions should not be made at the ballot box on a single issue. I respond to that with the absolute statement that the Gospel of Life is not a "single issue," it is the single most important issue.

Source: Commentary Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt to the Charleston Daily Mail
August 11, 2004.

[The bishop was writing his commentary in response to an incident in which a priest of the diocese gave the invocation at Kerry-Edwards event and some commentators took that to mean an endorsement by Bishop Schmitt. But the bishop says the priest spoke without his prior knowledge and permission and would not have given it had he known. - Thanks Domenico Bettenelli, Jr.]