WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Both opposing evil and doing good are moral requirements in the abortion issue, and the "Catholic approach" does not allow for choosing just one or the other, clarified two U.S. bishops' officials.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, respectively the chair of the episcopal conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, clarified Church teaching on fighting abortion in a Tuesday statement.

"Unfortunately, there seem to be efforts and voter education materials designed to persuade Catholics that they need only choose one approach: either opposing evil or doing good. This is not an authentically Catholic approach," the prelates affirmed.

They clarified: "Some argue that we should not focus on policies that provide help for pregnant women, but just focus on the essential task of establishing legal protections for children in the womb. Others argue that providing life affirming support for pregnant women should be our only focus and this should take the place of efforts to establish legal protections for unborn children. We want to be clear that neither argument is consistent with Catholic teaching. Our faith requires us to oppose abortion on demand and to provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies."

Fighting Roe vs. Wade

Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy noted that some have recently encouraged the Church to abandon efforts to overturn the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

"They say we should accept Roe as a permanent fixture of constitutional law, stop trying to restore recognition for the unborn child’s human rights, and confine our public advocacy to efforts to 'reduce abortions' through improved economic and social support for women and families," the bishops recounted.

And though the Catholic community is "second to no one in providing and advocating for support for women and families facing problems during pregnancy," these efforts "are not an adequate or complete response to the injustice of Roe v. Wade for several important reasons," Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy wrote.

They explained: "First, the Court’s decision in Roe denied an entire class of innocent human beings the most fundamental human right, the right to life. In fact, the act of killing these fellow human beings was transformed from a crime into a 'right,' turning the structure of human rights on its head. […]

"Second, the many challenges to the Court’s error since 1973 have borne fruit, leading to significant modifications of Roe. […]

"Third, Roe itself enormously increased the annual number of abortions in our society. The law is a teacher, and Roe taught many women, physicians and others that abortion is an acceptable answer to a wide range of problems. By the same token, even the limited pro-life laws allowed by the Court since Roe have been shown to reduce abortions substantially, leading to a steady decline in the abortion rate since 1980."

The bishops again reiterated that passage of a current proposal in Congress, the "Freedom of Choice Act" could cause the loss of all this progress.

Double approach

"Providing support for pregnant women so they choose to have their babies is a necessary but not sufficient response to abortion," the prelates repeated. "Similarly, reversal of Roe is a necessary but not sufficient condition for restoring an order of justice in our society’s treatment of defenseless human life. This act by itself would not automatically grant legal protection to the unborn.

"It would remove an enormous obstacle to such protection, so the people of the United States and their elected representatives in every state could engage in a genuine discussion of how to save unborn children and their mothers from the tragedy of abortion.

"Both approaches to opposing abortion are essential. By protecting the child’s life to the maximum degree possible, improving life-affirming support for pregnant women, and changing the attitudes and prejudices imposed on many women to make them see abortion as an acceptable or necessary solution, we will truly help build a culture of life."

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On the Net:

Full statement: www.usccb.org/prolife/Rigali-Murphy-Joint-Statement.pdf