TYLER, Texas (ChurchMilitant.com) - "The most important foundational teaching and principle of Catholic Social Teaching is that every human life is sacred from conception to natural death," says Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler TX, in a blog posting last week on "The Pre-eminent Moral Mandate: The Right to Life."
"[That is] because," Strickland continues, "every man and woman is created in the Image of God."
This is where human dignity begins. Being God's image gives one dignity, says Strickland, not simply value or worth like other creatures possess to different degrees.
He alludes that persons are made for relationship, with God and other created persons; relationships that transcend the temporal order unto life eternal.
"Because of that," Strickland says, "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," the bishop teaches.
In his posting, Strickland provides an answer to those who consider abortion simply one issue among many in the world of politics. "The Right to Life position is, in one sense, not about an 'issue' at all," he says.
"The Pro-Life position is also a worldview, a lens through which we should view every political, cultural, social, and economic issue," he continues, touching on the supernatural virtue of faith. "It should inform every aspect of our participation in society, especially the exercise of our citizenship."
That exercise of citizenship includes voting. Strickland recognizes that voting is a moral act, one that is not exempt from moral judgment.
Since "the Right to Life is the foundation for every human right," he says, "it is impossible to enjoy any right without life." The bishop's words match the logic of the Declaration of Independence and the three inalienable rights mentioned therein — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: One cannot pursue happiness without liberty, and one cannot enjoy liberty without life. Strickland stresses that of the hierarchy of human goods, life is at the top.
"Every procured abortion is the taking of innocent human life and is always and everywhere intrinsically immoral," Strickland continues. As a moral absolute, he notes, there are no possible intentions or circumstances that could ever make the act of abortion good or morally acceptable.
"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." That is, when a human being is aborted prenatally, all the rights spoken of and fought for are stolen. Without life they become meaningless. One cannot rationally fight for rights while simultaneously supporting the one right on which all others rest. "Our absolute opposition to legalized abortion must be the first of the pre-eminent issues we consider in voting," the bishop says.
He continues his moral exhortation with a statement challenging the Left, inside and outside the Church: "Any candidate or political party which promotes abortion is precluded from any further consideration for a Catholic voter."
Staving off the ambiguous "seamless garment" theory made popular by the late Cdl. Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, Strickland continues, "If their stance is that abortion is ever acceptable and should be promoted, any other positive life values become moot."
In other words, even if a voter likes a candidate's views on health care, immigration, education, taxes and the economy, etc., if the candidate supports abortion they are disqualified. "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," the bishop proclaims.
Strickland underscores the truth that people with good will and a well formed conscience could not possibly vote for someone who supports killing the innocent — at any stage of life. Hence, he notes, it is unacceptable for a Catholic to vote for someone who supports abortion.
"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," concludes Strickland. "And, they must listen to our voice."