We cannot ignore the life issues.
Column published in the San Antonio Express News-Oct. 29, 2008
With the economic crisis darkening the political horizon, the past month has left little room for other issues to penetrate the minds of Americans as we prepare to vote in the upcoming election. Certainly the economy deserves our serious consideration, along with such important issues as war, healthcare and immigration.
It is troubling, though, that there has also been a critical absence of issues central to the preservation of life and the family from the public arena. It would seem to infer that these issues have no impact on voter’s selection process or that they are simply not important. Regardless which side of these issues a person falls, these are defining principles for any society.
Recently, the Express-News published its voter’s guide. It was a comprehensive listing of races and candidates running for office in November. I’m sure it was a helpful tool for many. I recognize it is challenging to make any voter’s guide comprehensive on the issues. However, the inclusion of the fundamental life issues for pursuit of the common good would have made the publication more complete, accurate and a useful tool at this critical time.
People need to know the positions of the candidates on the key issues that protect the right to life such as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and capital punishment. Voters also would have been better served if they had been provided information about the candidates’ positions on the definition of marriage, the basic cell of society as a union between a man and a woman.
The “culture of life” issues, and I include in that the preservation of the very foundational definition of the human family, often are dismissed as purely religious issues. This characterization is inaccurate. These issues deal with the most fundamental concerns of human civilization. The strong moral teaching at the foundation of these issues does not disqualify them from deserving serious public discussion, nor deny the impact they have on the common good.
I find it unfortunate that often, when an individual raises abortion as a critical issue, there is a fear that they will be quickly labeled a “one issue” voter. While this characterization might protect one from confronting the moral gravity of taking an innocent, defenseless, human life, it also avoids the reality that abortion is an issue that affects all segments of our society. It represents the primary right guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence—the right to life. Unless we protect this fundamental right of each human person, at all stages of life, no other issue or liberty matters.
Surely, many form their conclusions on these and other issues through a process guided by faith. However, society should not insist that people of faith be silent in the face of grave evil. We live in a society that would like to privatize religion, to take it out of the public square. Privatizing religion would be for all people of faith, an unholy compromise. We who profess to believe in God cannot allow him to be banished from the public square.
It is never my purpose, nor the proper role of the Church, to tell people how or for whom to vote. However, we have a responsibility to be a voice for the innocent, the helpless, for life itself at this time of political clutter. We cannot ignore these issues, many of which we believe are “non-negotiable.” If our nation loses respect for life and true “family values” it will have lost its moral authority to lead the world.
America is founded upon a belief in the existence of truth; in the dignity of the human person; in justice; and in the common good that flows from loving our neighbor and ourselves. All Catholics and people of faith will be praying for God’s guidance and wisdom as we celebrate our democracy.
+ Archbishop José H. Gomez, S.T.D.