By Hilary White, Rome correspondent

ROME, March 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Vatican must remove key members of the US Catholic episcopate and replace them with men who will speak and act courageously and with urgency to stop abortion, a prominent American pro-life advocate has told Catholic leadership at the Vatican. Randall Terry, a former leader of Operation Rescue, came to Rome last week with a delegation of US pro-life advocates to ask prominent Vatican prelates to end the "scandal" of some American Catholic bishops refusing to act on behalf of unborn children by replacing them.

Terry told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview that he and his colleagues had come to Rome, "to help connect some dots for certain prelates who perhaps have not had them connected before. … Namely that the greatest single reason that child-killing continues in America is the fear or the outright treachery of US bishops."

Terry was received into the Catholic Church in 2005, and has turned his attention to what he sees as a deficit of orthodoxy and commitment to defending life in the US episcopate. He told LSN that he was committed to founding a new "confederacy" of pro-life groups and individuals who would focus on imploring the leadership of the Catholic Church to "to lay the axe to the poisonous root" of the current episcopate in the US.

Meeting with LSN within sight of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Terry told LSN that the US Catholic bishops’ actions and inaction have led directly to the election of Barack Obama, who has been called by pro-life advocates the "most pro-abortion president in US history." After the election, many Catholics, including Vatican prelates, expressed their dismay that 55 percent of the US Catholic electorate had voted for Obama.

Terry said that he learned while in Rome that much of the higher level leadership of the Catholic Church are not aware of the extent of the problem of the US Catholic leadership. "The responses of those we met with ranged from surprise and shock, to sympathy and heartfelt agreement."

Armed with a package of information on the doings of the US episcopate in the lead-up to the election of President Obama, Terry and his colleagues met with Archbishop Rino Fisichella of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, prefect of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and representatives of the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Councils for the Laity, the Family and for Justice and Peace.

"One of the reasons we are here is to specifically request the transfer of Bishop Loverde of Arlington and Archbishop Wuerl of Washington DC," he said.

Archbishop Wuerl has gone on record saying that he will not refuse Holy Communion to the large number of pro-abortion Catholic politicians living in Washington. Terry said that his group had chosen to highlight the two DC-area bishops because of their importance politically, but he admitted that the problem is endemic in the US episcopate.

"The majority of the federal politicians who promote and defend child-killing are receiving Communion in Washington and northern Virginia. And both these men have made it crystal clear that they are not going to withhold Communion. They won’t uphold the teaching of the Church."

While there are a "handful of bishops speaking courageously," most of the US bishops, he claimed, are "culturally Democrats" who actively supported Obama "for money reasons."

"Obama, as a left-winger on social spending, would certainly offer more money for certain Catholic social works. The US bishops have been in tight with the Democrat party for a hundred years. Culturally they’re Democrats," he said. 

Terry also brought to the attention of the Vatican officials the influence of the USCCB document, "Faithful Citizenship," which, he said, "paved the way" for the election of Obama. The document said that although abortion is one of the most important electoral issues, that Catholics could in conscience vote for a pro-abortion politician for "proportional reasons."

"So, when person after person stood up after the election and said, ‘Well the Catholic bishops told us this is OK,’ the bishops did not correct them. So their silence had as a direct fruit the election of Obama."

Terry said that his delegation showed the Vatican officials "well-documented proof," that many of the US bishops, "perhaps the majority of them," are ignoring the teachings of the Church on the requirement to defend unborn children from abortion, and to refuse Holy Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

The new pro-life initiative, to be called the Vanguard of St. Catherine, is named after the 14th century nun and reformer Catherine of Sienna, whose years of letters and lobbying brought the papacy back to Rome after the so-called "Avignon exile." It will consist of pro-life Catholics and organisations who will petition Rome to address the "ongoing scandal" of bishops who refuse to act to defend human life.

Terry has been arrested more than forty times during his years in Operation Rescue. Founded by John Cavanaugh O’Keefe on the same principles of non-violent civil disobedience as the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, Operation Rescue grew to become one of the best known pro-life organisations in the world. Terry told LSN that since becoming a Catholic, he has seen that one of the most serious obstacles to the ending of abortion in the US is the inaction of the Catholic Church.

Diocesan pro-life groups are paralysed by fear, he said. "The road to ending child-killing," he said, "goes through the diocesan offices. And the greatest road blocks to child-killing are in those diocesan offices. Sadly, it’s true that very often the biggest problems we face are the people working in diocesan pro-life offices."

Quoting the book of Proverbs, he said, "The fear of man brings a snare, and many diocesan pro-life workers are just shackled by fear. They fear losing their job. They fear displeasing the bishop. They fear looking radical. They fear bad press or that they won’t get funding. And it mutes their words and shackles their actions so that they say little and do even less." 

"You cannot have a polite conversation with people who are committed to slaughtering babies. And that is one of the greatest crises we’re facing in the pro-life diocesan works."

He has excoriated the US Catholic leadership for what he sees as an excessive fear of jeopardising their tax-exempt status. He said that the history of the Church, in which people have faced down torture and death for the truth, "stands as a double accusation against the bishops."

"Bishops in other centuries faced death. We face bad press. Whining letters from parishioners. Perhaps losing our tax exempt status. I turned to a group of bishops after one election and asked them, ‘Why were you silent?’ I said, ‘Your tax-exempt status be damned if it keeps you from saying the words of God’."

Terry said that this is only his first of many planned trips to Rome to plead with the Vatican to address the situation.

"The greatest joy I had after I came into the Church was really studying Evangelium Vitae, and I was never so proud to be a Catholic and I was never so embarrassed. Because I realised that if we would simply follow these marching orders we would win. And the fact that the bishops refuse to obey, is why we have child-killing in America." 

To read more about the Vanguard of St. Catherine project: www.humbleplea.com

** For a different analysis and approach to the problems of US Catholic Church leadership see the LifeSiteNews series of articles "US Election Message to Catholic Bishops: The Broken Window Strategy."

Part I, with links to succeeding parts:
U.S. Election Message to Catholic Bishops: Time to Clean House
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/nov/08111012.html