Are ‘both abortion and the environment’ really ‘core life issues in Catholic teaching’?
Abortion presents a problem for the Catholic left since it does not fit into its social justice agenda. It certainly involves social justice in the highest degree since it is a great injustice to deprive an innocent person of life. However, the left, by its nature, always seeks to change “oppressive” social structures that they deem unjust. Abortion does not fit squarely into this category. Indeed, some Catholic leftists will use the oppressive structures of poverty or patriarchy as a reason to justify abortion.
While the Catholic left prefers other issues like climate change, social revolution, and illegal immigration, it is hard to argue against the missing 60 million Americans. These issues pale in comparison to the magnitude of death caused by the sin of abortion. Thus, abortion has long occupied the preeminent place on the American Catholic political scene.
A bishop speaks out
However, a key Catholic figure is directly disputing abortion’s preeminent place as a non-negotiable issue for faithful Catholic voters.
Speaking at the University of San Diego on February 6, Most Rev. Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, cast doubt on abortion’s preeminent position, especially in light of the upcoming elections. He did not directly discourage opposition to abortion but put climate change on equal footing, declaring that “both abortion and the environment are core life issues in Catholic teaching.”
The two issues pose unequal threats, however. For the outspoken liberal bishop, “the long-term death toll from unchecked climate change is larger [than that from abortion] and threatens the very future of humanity.”
Three questions about Bishop McElroy’s controversial statements need to be answered.
To Bishop McElroy, the politician
The first is addressed directly to Bishop McElroy, the politician: “Your Excellency, why are you raising this issue now?”
Bishops need to be involved in political battles, but that is not their chief function. They must uphold Church teaching even when it is not politically correct or opportune.
Thus, American Catholics must question why the bishop is raising this issue now. Pro-life Catholics have reached the height of their political power mobilizing millions nationwide. They have turned the tide to the point where nearly half of all Americans identify as pro-life. No one, not even the president, can ignore the influence of the pro-life movement.
This influence is starting to bear fruit in the appointment of pro-life judges. Some are even saying that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is possible. By denying abortion’s preeminence, the bishop is undermining decades of work in the trenches by countless Catholics and other Americans to end the intrinsically evil sin of procured abortion in America and the world.
In making this statement during an election year, Bishop McElroy intentionally muddles the issues in the hope of encouraging Catholics to vote for radical pro-abortion candidates who are eco- or illegal immigration-friendly.
To Bishop McElroy, the scientist
The second question involves Bishop McElroy, the scientist: “Your Excellency, why are you speaking as a scientist?”
Bishop McElroy is not a scientist and thus speaks outside his competence when painting a picture based on alarmist scientific speculation devoid of solid facts. He cites “existing trajectories of pollutants” that are “unchecked.” Like so many before him, he makes catastrophic predictions of rising temperatures, famines, and even “perilous viruses.”
He is quick to blame a “trajectory of danger unleashed by fossil fuels” that makes action over the next 10 years imperative. His speech reads like a blessing of the Green New Deal. He even claims that “it is a far greater moral evil for our country to abandon the Paris Climate Accord than to provide contraceptives to federal health centers.”
Just as abortion is not settled law, catastrophic climate change is far from being settled science. Abortion kills tens of millions every year around the world. There are no recorded deaths specifically due to climate change. In striving to diminish the world’s population, those promoting the intrinsic evils of abortion and contraception work hand-in-hand with climate change activists.
To Bishop McElroy, the bishop
The third question is the most tragic and important one: “Your Excellency, why aren’t you speaking as a bishop, which is your area of competence?”
Bishops speak about matters touching on God and His relationship with humanity. But Bishop McElroy’s speech projects a purely naturalistic worldview, a perspective from which God and the supernatural are absent.
Sin and vice distance humanity from God. They turn the world into a hell of disorder and conflict. The denouncing and condemning of sin, the defense of God, His Divine Law, and the Catholic faith – such are the bailiwick of a bishop. So also is the extolling of the practice of the virtue of purity as the true solution to contraception and abortion. Such are the messages the world expects from a bishop. But this is especially true for Catholics since he is their shepherd. How sad that today, instead of the bread they ask for, the Catholic faithful so often receive stones (see Luke 11:11).
To claim that climate change is deadlier than abortion is to deny the truth anyone can see. Moreover, when sin expands its dominion unchecked, the world it creates is necessarily an ecologically hostile one—as evidenced by China’s environmentally disastrous, pro-abortion regime.
People must work toward preserving the environment, a gift of God. However, their first duty will ever be to obey God and His Divine Law.
Unless America can get it right with God—putting an end to the nation’s sin in Roe v. Wade, which legalized the mass slaughter of innocent pre-born Americans—then all that can be expected are His chastisements.
And in chastising, as the Church teaches, God frequently uses secondary causes, and the forces of nature, which He created, are among them.