Of note among the brief RNS statements by religious leaders who wanted to see deer those emphasizing the responsibility to provide support and assistance to women and children have been rejected. Bishops can do no less, but the conference as a whole has a solid foundation in Catholic social teaching to do much more.
In a column for Religion News Service, Jacob Lupfer noted that reduced access to abortion means “we will need strong child-friendly policies and greater government support for children and families. Republicans and the pro-life movement should lead the charge for these public investments, and perhaps faith leaders like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops can provide moral leadership in holding them accountable.
It does not follow that the bishops must offer a comprehensive policy agenda in response to any Supreme Court decision. It would be impossible, even inappropriate. I argued in common good that the bishops embark on a full-scale pastoral letter on abortion in all its complexities and ambiguities. But now is not the time for that. Bishops can recognize that ensuring a full range of public and private measures to protect women and children is a difficult task, for which they have no clear plan. But the episcopal response must be unambiguous about the direction and urgency of change, the need for personal and collective sacrifice, and the immorality of demanding sacrifice only from those who are already burdened.
There is a strong precedent in the statement made last March by Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the conference, and eight bishops who lead committees dealing with women’s and children’s issues. “We urge our nation to prioritize the well-being of women, children and families with both material resources and personal accompaniment,” the bishops said, “so that no woman ever feels obligated to choose between his future and the life of his child”. .” They called on the Church not only to welcome and support women facing pregnancies or difficulties in caring for children after birth, but also to “redouble our advocacy for laws that guarantee the right to life”. unborn children and that no mother or family lacks the right to life”. basic resources needed to care for their children, regardless of race, age, immigration status or any other factor.
No one knows exactly when the Court will issue its decision, or how closely the final ruling will look like Alito’s draft opinion. It could happen before the bishops disappear into contemplative silence behind closed doors. It can happen during or after. But a short, resounding statement must be ready, and it must come from a source representing the episcopal conference – the USCCB pro-life committee, the conference president, the board of directors. Whatever the precise nature of the Court’s decision, bishops must take the opportunity to emphasize that the protection of unborn life and the care of mothers and families entail obligations for all, especially for those of us who hold anti-abortion beliefs.
Timing might not always be everything, but in this case, it’s about ninety percent. If the bishops say nothing or imagine that their long-standing opposition to abortion says all it needs to say, then their voices – and the voice of the Church – will be swallowed up by the harshest and most the most partisan on either side of the debate, including some who falsely pretend to represent the Church. If the bishops allow this to happen, then harmful public perceptions about Church views will be set in the many uphill battles to come on abortion.