Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Bishops must act on—not just talk about—Biden’s abortion advocacy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 25, 2021

Spare me, please, from the excited praise of “courageous” American bishops who have issued statements saying that abortion advocacy by President Biden (and other Catholic politicians) is incompatible with the Catholic faith.

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Of course it’s incompatible with our faith. Everyone knows that. Is it really “courageous” to affirm what everyone already knows? Perhaps it would make more sense—and more difference—to bemoan the cowardice of bishops who fail to reaffirm the obvious.

For more than forty years now, American bishops have been issuing statements saying roughly the same thing. (Some statements have been more forceful than others, and I’ll grant that some prelates deserve credit for their eloquence.) For more than forty years, Catholic politicians have been ignoring them.

The question for American bishops is not whether Biden et al can reconcile their actions with Catholic moral principles. We know the answer to that question: they cannot. The question, your eminences and excellencies, is: What are you going to do about it?

Imagine yourself as the father of a family. Your teenage son takes the car out for a night with his friends, and when he comes home his speech is slurred and his breath smells of beer. Do you issue a statement about temperance? No! If you love your son, first you sit him down for a very serious talk. Then you take away the car keys. You won’t be very popular with him (or with his friends) for a while, but you might save his life, or the lives of others.

If our bishops take disciplinary action against politicians who flout Church moral teachings, they will undoubtedly be unpopular. There will be outraged editorials, angry demonstrations outside the chancery, maybe even large contributions withdrawn. But truly courageous bishops—shepherds who cared about the souls of their wayward sheep—would accept those costs. Many lay Catholics who are active in the pro-life movement have already paid the price for their public witness: ridicule, social ostracism, lost career opportunities, even lawsuits and imprisonment.

A few bishops have expressed fears that if they disciplined Catholic politicians for promoting the culture of death, the angry public backlash might cause a net setback for the pro-life movement. Well, how has their soft-sell strategy been working all these years? The duty of Catholic bishops is not to make political calculations. Their duty is to protect the souls of the faithful and the integrity of the faith. Do that, and let the faithful lay Catholics who are active in political life cope with the consequences.

The Catholic Church is not a debating society. And after decades of public debate about abortion, it is extremely unlikely that one more episcopal statement will suddenly turn the political tide. We all know, at this point, what our bishops say about Catholic politicians who promote abortion. What we want to know now is what—if anything—they will do.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jan. 31, 2021 3:40 PM ET USA

    As for action, I suggest that each bishop announce that any Catholic of his diocese who works for an abortion provider must leave that job within 30 days, including Planned Parenthood by name. Further, they should preemptively deny the excuse “but they do other things that aren’t evil”. Then, at the end of the 30 days, publicly confirm the latae sententiae excommunication of any who obstinately disobey, and the terrible peril in which their souls stand.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jan. 31, 2021 3:23 PM ET USA

    Biden, Harris, and their party were perfectly clear about their outrageous position on abortion. When a statement might have prevented the triumph of that position, the bishops were silent, or fell back into ambivalent mumblings about voting one’s “conscience.” When the election had passed, and it was too late to affect anything, the USCCB finally spoke up—faintly. Thus we get another 4-year round of legalized child murder; thanks, bishops!

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Jan. 28, 2021 10:41 PM ET USA

    I have long pondered the divisiveness in the church especially re this topic. Is it possible that some, including Pope Francis, hew to this - "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And in Confession (Reconciliation if you like), you accuse yourself. Space limits more than this on the concern but if it is even .0001% legit, then cowardice lies in not explicating Church teaching continuously, always, and persistently. It's also possible I don't understand John 8,7.

  • Posted by: steve.grist2587 - Jan. 28, 2021 5:54 AM ET USA

    By now, it is clear to all the passive disapproval policy has failed miserably as more and more prominent "Catholic" politicians openly promote evil. Furthermore, the policy has left the Church vulnerable as we now see the left openly attacking the Church. The faithful desperately ask the bishops to act with courageous deeds, not words, to combat this growing evil. Pathetically, the bishops remain cheering from the sidelines. May God help them.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Jan. 27, 2021 6:58 PM ET USA

    Perhaps bishops should have reason to fear the loss of contributions from us, the truly faithful, to a greater extent than the heterodox. Unfortunately the good will suffer with the bad, but as a group they have brought this predicament on themselves over a lifetime. Phil's book "Smoke of Satan" is just one that discusses the problem. I recommend "American Priest" by Wilson Miscamble, the life of the venerable former president of Notre Dame, Theodore Hesburgh, for a cleric's passage to distopia.

  • Posted by: doughlousek7433 - Jan. 27, 2021 12:41 PM ET USA

    Our "shepherds" continue to watch the fox attack the sheep, fearing that doing something will upset the sheep! It's time for action, not only on abortion, but to defend all Church teachings. S people will leave, and income will fall! But what is more important; full coffers, or saved souls?

  • Posted by: tywilliams151670 - Jan. 27, 2021 1:52 AM ET USA

    You are correct. However, there is a drawback here—if actual disciplinary action is taken, the current Vatican may well reverse it. It would be perverse. But, alas, it is possible. As such they the bishops should proceed cautiously and only up the ante when they can get a clear read on Rome.

  • Posted by: bamajohn - Jan. 26, 2021 9:08 PM ET USA

    It is clear that the only reason we have politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and many others who claim to be Catholic is that our bishops fail to act. Our bishops have been given the gift of an opportunity to act as true shepherds and lead the faithful and correct the unfaithful. I pray that they will do so.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jan. 26, 2021 3:07 PM ET USA

    If many of our bishops only issue statements condemning abortion, it is because talk is cheap. Paying lip service to the value of unborn life is easy. Denying powerful "devout" Catholic politicians that support abortion communion, however, takes conviction and courage.

  • Posted by: jbwb125912 - Jan. 25, 2021 9:15 PM ET USA

    Thank you Phil Lawler! It is time, passed time, for our bishops to act. The bishops are to be the shepherds of our souls. That includes the souls of the unborn. It is time for them to defend their lives, and their dignity as children of God. It is time for them to publicly excommunicate liberal politicians who publicly claim to be Catholic and are pro-death.

  • Posted by: St. George - Jan. 25, 2021 6:44 PM ET USA

    THANK YOU, Mr. Lawler! Your analogy about the drunk son is perfect. God help us all. What in the world did our bishops think was going to happen if Biden were elected?! I feel betrayed by our prelates. Are they now pretending to be disturbed by Biden's policies? Is this all for appearance? Is the Church to be mocked?