Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

weigel new“It’s the economy, stupid!” – James Carville’s memorable note-to-self during the 1992 presidential race – will be the determining factor in the 2012 campaign, according to the common wisdom. That may be true. But as Catholics consider their responsibilities between now and November 6, it would be good to remember that the future of the pro-life cause in America is also at stake.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are 76. Justice Stephen Breyer is 74. The president elected in November will likely appoint two Supreme Court justices, and may appoint as many as four, over the next quadrennium.

If that next president replaces Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kennedy with nominees who think that Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) were wrongly decided, there could conceivably be a 7-2 court majority to overturn (or, in effect, gut) those dreadful decisions and return the abortion debate (and related life-issues questions like euthanasia) to the states. There, the pro-life cause would win some states (likely the majority) and lose some others. With national opinion polls showing a pro-life majority for the first time in a long time, however, the conditions would be right for legally advancing the cause in a dramatic way.

If, conversely, Justice Scalia (and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, and possibly Kennedy) were to be replaced in the next presidential term by nominees favorable to the court’s judgment in Roe and Casey, the radical abortion license created by those two decisions might well be set in federal legal concrete for the next 30 years. The pro-life cause would go on, but it would continue under severe federal legal restraints.

That this choice should present itself in partisan terms is a national tragedy. In the aftermath of the 1992 election, several of us gathered around Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania to plan a Democratic nomination challenge to President Clinton in 1996. Governor Casey had been blocked by the Clintons from speaking at the 1992 Democratic convention; he combined a strong pro-life record with an appeal to the important voting bloc of “Reagan Democrats”; he had twice been elected governor of a crucial swing state; and whether or not he could wrest the Democratic nomination away from President Clinton, a strong Casey campaign in 1996 would have established two crucial points – the pro-life issue is a bipartisan one, and there is ample room in the Democratic Party for gung-ho pro-lifers.

It would have been great fun; it might have been historic; but it was not to be. Governor Casey’s health went south, the challenge to President Clinton never materialized and the throw-weight of pro-lifers within the Democratic Party was further reduced. Where all of that eventually led was demonstrated in early 2010, when pro-life Democrats in the House of Representatives provided the slim margin of victory for President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act – the implementers of which are now whittling away religious freedom and asking dental insurers whether they provide abortion coverage in their plans, all in the name of a virtually unlimited and government-funded right to abortion-on-demand.

As the natural successor to the classic civil rights movement, the pro-life cause ought to have been a bipartisan cause; it should certainly have been the cause of Catholic progressives. Yet, as early as 1967, Richard John Neuhaus, then a Lutheran pastor and a civil rights veteran, warned his fellow-liberals in a Commonweal article that they were betraying the civil rights cause by flirting with “liberalized” abortion laws. Neuhaus’s article won a prize from the Catholic Press Association; but that was then, and this is now. And as the Democratic Party has become ever more intransigent on the abortion question – with rare exceptions like Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois), a true pro-life hero – the pro-life cause has been abandoned by the old pro-civil-rights coalition, even as African-American communities are decimated by the abortion license.

In any case, the pro-life stakes in 2012 could not be greater. Men and women of conscience will form their judgments accordingly.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.