The Catholic bishops could do more to promote the common good of the people of the United States. This is especially important as Catholics begin their annual pilgrimage to Washington for the March for Life, which this year is tomorrow. For years, the bishops have emphasized that abortion is the number one life issue. This emphasis by the bishops has divided the church and placed other life issues such as poverty, health care, environmental destruction, militarism and war in a second-class position. I believe that the bishops should state clearly that all life issues are of equal importance. The death of a child because of poverty, lack of health care, environmental destruction, militarism or war is just as tragic as the death of a child through abortion.
To be clear, I am not stating that abortion is not an important life issue. It is. Abortion as an easy solution to a problem pregnancy should be strongly discouraged. However, I believe that the bishops would make more progress in reducing abortions by emphasizing that all human life is sacred and by economically supporting women who plan to go through with an unwanted pregnancy. Also, the bishops should allow women to make this choice in consultation with their family, spiritual advisor and doctor. Reducing abortions through legislation will never be that effective. And if the bishops are really concerned about abortions, they should also support effective birth control measures that cut down on unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
But we can't lay all the blame at the foot of our bishops.
Let's be honest. Many Catholics who are very conservative and economically prosperous are very happy that the Catholic bishops give priority to the life issues of abortion and euthanasia. This allows them in good conscience to vote for conservative politicians who claim that these issues are a priority for them. The problem with this, however, is that these conservative politicians are not that interested in promoting the common good. They are not that concerned with economic inequalities and that millions of Americans, including children, live in dire poverty with no health insurance. They are not that concerned with protecting the environment and with militarism and wars that suck up billions of dollars which could be used to promote the common good.
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[David Atwood is a Catholic peace and justice activist living in Houston, Texas.]