A ‘Catholic’ Hijacking

A series of ads, placed in newspapers across the country in mid-September by an organization called “Catholics for Choice” (CFC), has spread the egregious falsehood that Catholicism and abortion can be in harmony with one another. “Public funding for abortion is a Catholic social justice value,” according to the CFC website. “Equal access to comprehensive health care, including reproductive health services, is a moral imperative.”

This statement, of course, is categorically false, and several bishops have spoken out against such messaging, including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“CFC’s extreme ads promote abortion as if it were a social good,” Cardinal Dolan said. “But abortion kills the most defenseless among us, harms women, and tears at the heart of families. Pushing for public funding would force all taxpaying Americans to be complicit in the violence of abortion and an industry that puts profit above the well-being of women and children.”

For the first time in decades, following a pledge by the Democratic Party platform to repeal the Hyde Amendment, the issue of taxpayer funding of abortion has, disturbingly, become a factor in a presidential election. But while advocating such a position would have been troubling enough, “Catholics for Choice,” which has been condemned repeatedly by the U.S. bishops over the years as a fraudulent organization and front for the abortion lobby, invokes duplicity by its very name alone.

“The use of the name ‘Catholic’ as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Several other bishops, including those of Texas, have issued statements underscoring the fact that “Catholics for Choice” has no affiliation with the Church. “Instead, it is financed by grants from a few secular organizations pushing a pro-abortion agenda,” the Texas bishops said. “It is not clear why ‘Catholics for Choice’ chose a handful of individuals identifying themselves as Catholics as ambassadors for the false premise that refusal to pay for someone’s abortion is an assault on anyone’s God-given dignity. The only assault on dignity in this discussion is the abortion, which ends one life and irrevocably diminishes countless other lives.”

The issue at hand is a critical one with extraordinarily high stakes, particularly during an election year. The Church therefore must be quick to respond to groups and prominent individuals that seek to misrepresent Catholic teaching in order to advance an alternative agenda. Such a hijacking of the Catholic name and teaching both misinforms and confuses.

Unfortunately, the Church is vulnerable to attempted hijackings from groups and individuals who believe that they, more than Church leaders and the magisterium, are the authority on the teachings of the Church and of Jesus. In addition to misrepresentations from the left, such as those by CFC, there are also times that those on the right attempt to “out-Catholic” our bishops, to dismiss or even disparage them. Such division is harmful, as any misrepresentation of the Faith leads people away from the truth.

Every Catholic is called to sow seeds of unity and truth — and to be ready to identify and illuminate misrepresentations. We also are called to express gratitude for the magisterium as a reference point for the sacred beliefs of the Catholic Faith.

— OSVNewsweekly Editorial Board, October 2, 2016