By Jonquil Frankham

PHILADELPHIA October 24, 2008 ( – In a pastoral letter released yesterday, Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, calls abortion the “transcending issue of our day.” The release of the pastoral letter comes only days after Cardinal Rigali released a statement in his capacity as Chair of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in which he observed that Catholics are “morally obliged” to oppose Roe v. Wade (See

In his most recent letter Cardinal Rigali drives home the point that the grave immorality of abortion is not a revealed truth known only to Christians, but rather a truth that is universally accessible to all, regardless of religious background. Because the dignity of human life is written on the human heart, he says, “no one … most especially, no Catholic, can ever say: ‘I did not know [abortion is evil]’.”

But despite this fact, he laments, America nevertheless supports abortion in its “most extreme and horrific forms.”

For this reason Cardinal Rigali warns that while a Catholic “owes loyalty to the communities of which he is a part,” this loyalty must be subject to a higher law – the natural and revealed laws of moral conduct. Throughout history governments have sanctioned grave evils, such as the Holocaust, slavery, and racial segregation, a fact that proves that governments cannot necessarily be depended upon to protect the dignity of the human person.

Like these intrinsic evils, the bishop states unequivocally, abortion cannot ever be condoned, even in circumstances where it has been made acceptable or “legal.”

Cardinal Rigali writes: “The transcending issue of our day is the intentional destruction of innocent human life, as in abortion. We wish with all our hearts that no candidate and no party were advocating this heinous act against the human person. However, since it is a transcending issue, and even supported in its most extreme and horrific forms, we must proclaim time and time again that no intrinsic evil can ever be supported in any way, most especially when it concerns the gravest of all intrinsic evils: the taking of an innocent life.”

If the right to life is not defended as paramount, the Cardinal says, the cry for all other “rights” crumbles, rendered “illusory”: “Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”

Like those Catholics who risked their lives to end the atrocities of slavery, racial segregation, and the holocaust, today’s Catholics, he adjures, must be willing to respond “with the same generosity of body and heart, and the same courage.”

“When by the most barbaric means, unworthy of any civilized people, the brain of a child is sucked out of his or her head by a vacuum, God thunders: ‘This is a child!’”

“When a baby is left to die of exposure on a shelf because of a failed abortion, and this is considered a ‘right’ by any leader, God, the Source of all law and authority, thunders: ‘This is a child!’”

Cardinal Rigali’s pastoral letter can be found here:


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