Instructing Those in Error
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by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
(Author's Note: The following article appeared in Catholic Twin Circle on October 13, 1996 on page eighteen and has been slightly edited. It seems relevant to current events.)
In the spring of 1988, I was at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, preparing to be ordained to the transitional Diaconate, the last major step before ordination to the Holy Priesthood. I was also working on the thesis required for the Masters of Arts degree in Sacred Theology.
The title of my thesis was "The Responsibility of a Catholic Legislator Regarding Abortion." I contacted my home state's junior senator, Thomas A. Daschle, a Catholic and a Democrat, and arranged for an interview.
Eight years later, I vividly recall our conversation. Daschle, South Dakota's most well-known public figure since Sen. George McGovern, has since risen to national prominence as the Senate's minority leader. The senator assured me then--as he is wont to do today--that he is absolutely "pro-life" and personally abhors abortion. Yet, he cannot in conscience promote any legislation that would restrict a woman's "right" to choose.
Imagine, then, my lack of surprise but profound sadness when I learned that Daschle sided with forty other senators in refusing to override President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. The vote came late last month after an intense period of prayer, fasting and letter writing by millions of Americans opposed to this gruesome procedure.
I actually held out some hope that Daschle would vote to override the presidential veto.
"South Dakota is a pro-life state," I reasoned, "and the senator could demonstrate that he is willing to heed the voices of those who wrote and telephoned him, pleading that he stand up this time for the dignity and beauty of preborn human life."
But it was not to be. In what has become--regrettably--truly consistent form, Daschle has remained unmoved by the monolithic, constant teaching of his Church, which esteems the value of preborn human life and forbids any direct attack against it.
After the disappointing Senate vote, Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, issued an important statement:
"I am saddened and disturbed, as all the Catholic bishops in the United States are, by the Senate's refusal to override President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. At the same time, I am heartened that fifty-seven senators, a majority, voted to overturn the veto and stop this inhumane procedure. Pro-life people throughout the country have our heartfelt gratitude for their untiring efforts to put an end to partial-birth abortions, despite the terrible odds and the curtain of silence maintained by many media outlets."
Two of the more "liberal" senators who claim to be Catholic and "pro-choice" (a more distasteful oxymoron does not exist) did vote to override Clinton's veto. They were Patrick Moynihan of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. These two men concluded, as have tens of millions of Americans, that partial-birth abortions are "four-fifths infanticide."
What is the "Catholic response" to Tom Daschle and others like him?
First, Christ-like charity is demanded. It's the critical underpinning for all pro-life initiatives.
Second, prayer and penance are necessary since they are the logical outgrowth of charity.
When Our Lord asserted that certain demons could be driven out only by prayer and fasting, he must have been thinking of the unspeakable evil of abortion and that anti-life, pro-contraception mentality so related to it. Daschle and those raised Catholic who incessantly allow for legalized abortion desperately need our sincere prayers and acts of mortification.
Third, we need to continue to inform him and his kind of authentic Church doctrine.
One of Daschle's remarks I remember well from my visit of nearly a decade ago was his statement that the Catholic Church's position on abortion is not uniform. He noted that some priests and Religious support a "right" to abortion, thus meaning that there are multiple, acceptable Catholic stances.
While it is difficult to imagine how someone like Daschle, who was blessed to attend Catholic school and who has heard the true Catholic teaching repeatedly from devout Catholics and members of the hierarchy, could believe in this hideous error, the task is clear--the senator needs to be educated.
Finally, Catholics do these politicians no service by voting for them. Such support tends to solidify a mistaken viewpoint, and their conversion is usually harder to come by.
Jesus Christ has assuredly shed his Precious Blood for Tom Daschle and others who share his unwillingness to defend human life in the womb. We pray that these elected officials might yield to the love and mercy of God and permit generations of Americans yet to be born the opportunity to know, love and serve the Lord here on earth.
Mary, Mother of God and Most Holy Mother of Life, pray for us!
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