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By Bishop Joseph Strickland, Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Bishop Joseph E. Strickland was named the fourth bishop of Tyler in September of 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to being named bishop, he served a number of roles in the diocese, including vicar general, judicial vicar, and pastor of the Cathedral parish. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985.
The Pre-eminent Moral Mandate: The Right to Life
The most important foundational teaching and principle of Catholic Social Teaching is that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death, because every man and woman is created in the Image of God. Further, there is a fundamental Right to Life, which is confirmed in the Natural Moral Law, the Sacred Scripture, and the unbroken Tradition of the Catholic Church. Every Civil Law must respect that fundamental Human Right to Life, or such a law is an unjust law.
Every human person is created in the Image of God. Because of that, they have an inherent dignity – at every age and stage of their lives. This truth is what informs our respect for every human life whether that life is found in the first home of the womb, a wheelchair, a jail cell, a hospital room, a hospice, a senior center, a soup kitchen or on a refugee boat. And, in future installments, we will touch on many of these matters.
However, the Right to Life position is, in one sense, not about an “issue” at all. Nor are those who hold it “single issue voters”. It is the Preeminent moral mandate. The Pro-Life position is also worldview, a lens through which we should view every political, cultural, social, and economic issue. It should inform every aspect of our participation in society, especially the exercise of our citizenship.
As we approach this election season, it therefore must inform the way we vote. The Right to Life is the foundation for every human right. The language often used in the political discussion surrounding legal abortion reveals an Orwellian newspeak which is polluting our public discourse. We should never use phrases such as “Abortion rights”. Abortions do not have rights; only human persons have rights. The first Right is the Right to Life.
Every procured abortion is the taking of innocent human life and is always and everywhere intrinsically immoral. Without the Right to Life there are no other rights and the infrastructure of rights is thrown into jeopardy. Human rights are goods of human persons. When there is no human person to exercise them, all the rhetoric extolling them is nothing but empty air and sloganeering.
Every procured abortion is intrinsically immoral – always and everywhere wrong. Thus, our absolute opposition to legalized abortion must be the first of the pre-eminent issues we consider in voting. Any candidate or political party which promotes abortion is precluded from any further consideration for a Catholic voter.
That individual or party may embrace other policies that seem supportive of other related issues arising out of our respect for the sanctity of life, but if their stance is that abortion is ever acceptable and should be promoted, any other positive life values become moot. If one promotes the idea that an unborn person has no Right to Life, then what other right is of any consequence? That person’s life has been terminated.
I urge the faithful in this diocese to realize that anyone who directly promotes abortion is not acceptable for leadership in our society. I realize that eliminates a vast number of potential leaders from our consideration as faithful Catholics, but we must hold firm and do all we can to only support political leaders who respect and protect the fundamental Right to life of the unborn. And, they must listen to our voice.