Support for legal abortion “is inconsistent with the duty of all public officials,” said the Minnesota Catholic Conference ahead of a Wednesday morning “pro-choice Catholicism” event.
As the featured speaker for the Catholics for Choice webinar, state Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, plans to discuss the “tenets of the Catholic faith that support a pro-choice position” and explain why “the Hyde Amendment and the global gag rule violate Catholic teachings.”
The latter refers to a policy prohibiting foreign non-governmental organizations that receive American aid from providing abortion services or advocating for abortion. President Donald Trump reinstated the policy during his first month in office.
The controversial Hyde Amendment prevents the use of federal funds in procuring an abortion, except in cases of rape and incest or when the mother’s life is at risk. Prior to its passage in 1976, federal programs like Medicaid covered the cost of abortions.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a Catholic, caused an uproar among pro-life Catholics in 2019 when he announced his support for repealing the provision, reigniting the perennial debate surrounding Catholic politicians who advocate for expanding abortion access.
“There is no such thing as ‘pro-choice Catholicism.’ Support for legal abortion is inconsistent with the duty of all public officials, Catholics in particular, to protect the life and dignity of the human person from conception to natural death,” Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), told Alpha News.
“To be sure, simply opposing legal abortion is not the sum-total of an authentic pro-life witness. We must also provide support for women considering abortion and work to make the choice unthinkable. But support for such programs in no way excuses the failure to work for the legal abolition of abortion,” he said.
Lesch responded by claiming that the Minnesota Catholic Conference “does not represent most Catholics.”
“Ninety-nine percent of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control, only 10% of Catholics agree with the criminalization of abortion, 95% of Catholics support sexual education in schools, and 77% of Catholics believe that clinics and hospitals that take taxpayer money should not be permitted to deny legal procedures or medication,” Lesch claimed in a statement provided to Alpha News.
“Likewise, when making health care decisions for their families, Catholic women trust the opinions of their doctors, not a political lobbying group such as the Minnesota Catholic Conference.”
The MCC is the “public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota” and its membership consists of the “bishops themselves,” according to its website, meaning its positions represent those of Church leadership, not just “a political lobbying group.”
“Anyone in America is free to believe that personhood begins at conception, but that belief is rooted in a personal faith, not in the Catholic faith, because nothing in the Gospels or Catholic dogma supports such a position. Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that ‘[a person] must not be prevented from acting according to his conscience,’” Lesch said.
What he didn’t say is that the next sentence in the Catechism reads: “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened.”
The section of the Catechism on moral conscience contains another sentence frequently quoted by pro-choice Catholics, namely that “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.”
Again, this statement is followed by a warning that “conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments,” and “such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt.”
Lesch went on to accuse the MCC of participating in “moral error” because of its position on abortion.
“The precise moment in the onset of human personhood is not Catholic dogma, but the primacy of conscience is,” he argued. “So, as long as the Minnesota Catholic Conference seeks to prevent women from accessing safe, legal health care according to the dictates of their conscience, they participate in moral error.”
The lawmaker’s comments stand in stark contrast to the position of the state’s Catholic bishops, who call abortion “the human rights tragedy of our age” on the MCC website and declare that the practice is “unequivocally condemned by the Catholic Church.”
“After COVID-19, it’s clear that the slogan ‘my body, my choice’ is empty,” Adkins commented.
“Some of the most emphatic proponents of legal abortion have advocated significant legal restrictions on one’s bodily choices and movement to protect vulnerable populations from COVID. The same principle applies with regard to abortion. Choice is not an end in itself. It sometimes must be limited to protect others, in this case the most vulnerable members of our society — the child in the womb,” he continued.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer and former prefect of the Catholic Church’s highest court, said in a recent interview that “a Catholic may not support abortion in any shape or form because it is one of the most grievous sins against human life.”
But even Pope Francis, an ideological opponent of Burke, has repeatedly condemned the “tragedy of abortion” and once compared the act to Spartans who would throw their deformed children off of cliffs.
“Abortion is not a religious problem in the sense that just because I am Catholic I must not seek an abortion,” Francis said in a 2019 interview. “It is a human problem. It is a problem of eliminating a human life. Period.”