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Abortion is one of those subjects which generates ferocious argument, whether for or against. As a Catholic – but more than anything, as a human being – I neither support nor condone abortion, regardless of the reason given; my personal view is that even in cases of rape or some other terrible factor, it is not and cannot be justified to destroy a human life. And the unborn child is indeed a human life – we don’t ask an expectant mother “when is the foetus (or clump of cells) due?”. No. We ask very explicitly – “when is the baby due?”. There is a good reason why we do that – it is a baby, a living human life.

And in line with this view, I note with some interest the statement of the Catholic Bishops of America

“The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

The issue I have is that they, themselves, seem to be ignoring the second part of this statement, so that their focus is exclusively on the initial part and to any real purpose, it goes no further than this.

It all comes down to the use of that word ‘pre-eminent’. It seems to me that ‘pre-eminent’ could effectively be replaced with the word ‘only’. Despite all the very clear issues America has at the social level – and more than anything, it’s long-standing issues around race and equality – I haven’t heard very much from the American Bishops in relation to this, with one or two exceptions. But when it comes to abortion, it’s a different matter. The Bishop of San Diego made a similar point, fearing this would lead to Catholics considering abortion more important than any other social issue. I think his fear was justified.

Earlier, I read this on Twitter –

“When you vote, remember how soon you will die and stand before the judgement seat of God. 61,628,584 babies killed since 1973 – will you be responsible for more?”

This was posted by a Catholic Priest. Catholics listen to Priests, who are perceived as having a certain moral authority simply by virtue of being ordained. Of course, the reality is that Priests are human and what they post as individuals is often coloured – as it is for every one of us, including me – by personal values, beliefs and experience. I found this particular tweet to be unduly judgemental and emotive. Even to the mother who aborts her baby, there is always the option of mercy and forgiveness and reconciliation. The Catholic Faith is all about redemption, after all.

It is only one small example of what I read often on Twitter. The trouble is, I don’t see too much from these people about the other social ills which so affect America, only that one issue of abortion. It is as though all those other issues don’t exist.

And yet, all those other issues do exist and they are very real for so many people, day after day after day. Where is the relentless castigation of those issues from the Amercican heiracrchy and from Catholic Twitter? Even the descriptor ‘pro-life’ generally means – as far as I can see – ‘anti-abortion’.

But, to be truly ‘pro-life’ is far, far more than just this. It includes and encompasses it, certainly – but also extends way beyond it. It extends out to the marginalised, the poor, the migrant, the homeless, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly, amongst others.

Speaking in June 2013, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, said –

“We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”

Yes, it is indeed good – and just – for Catholics to engage in politics; but let’s ‘offer the best of ourselves’ as the Holy Father suggests, doing so fully and in a way that does not limit us; when we limit ourselves to one single argument – no matter how important that issue might be – then we limit the power of our broader moral argument.

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