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Faithful U.S. bishop: Catholic politicians must be held accountable for pro-abortion views

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, June 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishops have an obligation, for the good of the individual, to hold Catholics in public life who support abortion accountable, Bishop Joseph Strickland said.

Abortion takes precedence over other issues, the bishop said, because the right to life is fundamental.

“Yes, it has a priority,” Strickland told LifeSiteNews. “Because, unless you can manage to be born, you really don’t have any life issues. So certainly that’s foundational.”

“I would very clearly say, absolutely, at conception is where the precious gift of life is given,” stated Strickland, “and that’s where the most important emphasis needs to be, because it’s the most vulnerable.”

The bishop from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas spoke to LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview at the recent United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring General Assembly in Baltimore.

During a Q&A session concerning the bishops’ voting guide for Catholics and also migration issues, Strickland had noted to his fellow bishops that many Catholic politicians do not lead with faithful citizenship while identifying as Catholic, drawing from the title of the bishops’ voting guide. While making his argument, Strickland listed immigration, abortion and sexuality among sanctity of life issues.

LifeSiteNews asked the bishop later about the primacy of abortion and the right to life over other issues, and about the need for bishops to call Catholic politicians into account when they are in conflict with Church teaching, something Strickland had voiced from the floor of the Assembly as well.

The east Texas bishop denounced the recent radical state-level abortion laws in his responses, calling them atrocious and horrifying. He affirmed Church teaching on the sanctity of life, stating clearly that those who supported the laws were not being Catholic when they did so, and also said the remedy of Canon law in these situations is medicinal, to help the errant Catholic return to the fold.

Strickland said that what he calls the “atrocious laws,” such as the abortion expansion earlier this year in New York and more recently in Illinois, which “just totally deny the value of human life,” have actually helped to raise awareness of the diabolical nature of abortion through the backlash they’ve created.

“Thankfully, that has been more people waking up and seeing the reality that terminating a life in the womb is the most diabolical,” Strickland said, “because it literally eliminates any other possibilities, before this child has a chance to breathe air in this world.”

“They’re alive in the womb, from conception, and that’s very clear scientifically now,” the bishop stressed. “So I would say, yes, there is an absolute priority there.”

“Like probably a lot of us, I get upset at a Catholic saying, ‘I’m a Catholic and I think abortion is perfectly moral, it’s a right,’” Strickland told LifeSiteNews. “In Illinois, I’m sure you’re aware,  (they) just decreed that you have a fundamental right to abortion, and that is just horrifying.”

“And for Catholic politicians then to sign on and to vote for that sort of thing,” he continued, “they’re not being Catholic. They’re not embracing the truth that we treasure as revealed by God, through His Son, then in His Body, the Church.”

Strickland said he is saddened that even within the Church people “choose their issues” by focusing on one thing as more important than another.

“I don’t think we have that luxury,” he said.

Challenges to human life can occur in other circumstances where adults are vulnerable, including immigration, he said, and the dignity of human life is to be consistently upheld throughout life. However, he said, life is never more vulnerable than when it is in the womb.

“It is overwhelming to be concerned about,” Strickland said, “the end-of-life issues, during-life issues, from conception issues, and the early life issues, like abortion, or contraception. I think all of those issues are, what we’re challenged by our belief in Jesus Christ (is) to tackle all of them.”

“Certainly, because conception is where it begins,” he continued. “And I think even scientifically we can say that that newly-conceived child is about as vulnerable as a human being ever can be.”

“And isn’t it tragic that that vulnerability remains in the womb even after a child is really developed,” he said, “and even can be viable outside the womb, they remain vulnerable in today’s society, and even immediately after birth in some places.”

Regarding the application of Canon law in cases where Catholics in public life are flouting Church teaching, Strickland said the Church uses a basic approach that focuses on concern for the value of the human person.

“And our destiny to dwell in eternity with God, body, mind and spirit, the mystery of the human person, embraced by eternal life with God,” he explained.

“Because of that reality, every person needs to be held sacred and cherished,” the bishop said. “So if you look at it, even as we talk about remedies for bishops that may be reported and have misconduct issues, always, if you look at Canon law, it’s medicinal, it’s helping the person.”

Canonical sanctions and even instances of excommunication serve as a means of bringing an individual back to the faith, he said.

“You can do that, it’s not like it’s a death sentence spiritually. It’s a medicinal process,” said Strickland. “I mean, that’s the way it should always be approached, is bringing that person back into the light of truth.”

Strickland told LifeSiteNews that bishops, as shepherds, should exhibit care for these Catholics by being concerned about their salvation.

“We should care for that person,” he said. “Care for a presidential candidate who claims to be Catholic but isn’t upholding the basic Deposit of Faith, that we promised to guard as bishops, to guard the deposit of faith, entire and incorrupt.”

“So part of the deposit of faith is - abortion is immoral,” he said.

Acknowledging that Catholic politicians face daunting issues, Strickland recalled how he recently encouraged Catholic public servants on Twitter to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, because the Catechism would only serve to help them in navigating these issues.

“It isn’t just sort of a boutique faith that we have,” Strickland said, “we believe it is reality, it is the truth that God has revealed to us.”

The bishops must act to bring wandering Catholics back, he said.

“And so as bishops I think it’s our obligation to lovingly challenge people who are wandering from the fold and bring them back,” stated Strickland. “And if they refuse, then there does come a point where you say, “You’re out of Communion.”

The bishop told LifeSiteNews it’s an obligation for bishops to challenge Catholics in these cases. And even though the bishops don’t get a lot of support for saying something like that, the obligation remains.

“But, you know, I don’t need support,” Strickland said. “But I do need to feel at peace myself with saying, I took on some heavy obligations when I was ordained a bishop, much more so than I probably even realized on that day.”

“But I’m obligated to live that truth as fully as I can, hopefully always with joy, always with hope, always with mercy,” he said. “But also with the strength and the fire that the Holy Spirit brings.”     

Learn more about Bishop Strickland’s views and past actions by visiting FaithfulShepherds.com. Click here.

Read the entire interview with Bishop Strickland below:

During a discussion at the U.S. Bishops’ spring General Assembly on the Bishops’ Faithful Citizenship voting guide for Catholics and also the issue of migration, Strickland had spoken from the assembly floor saying that many Catholic politicians do not lead with faithful citizenship, specifically while identifying as Catholic. In making the point, he listed immigration, abortion and sexuality among sanctity of life issues.

Asked whether abortion takes priority over immigration and other issues, Strickland said:

“My response has always been, I would say yes, it has a priority, because, unless you can manage to be born you really don’t have any life issues. So certainly that’s foundational.”

And I believe with what I would call atrocious laws, like in New York, of just totally denying the value of human life, I think the backlash of that, thankfully has been more people waking up and seeing the reality of (that) terminating a life in the womb is the most diabolical, because it literally eliminates any other possibilities, before this child has a chance to breathe air in this world, they’re alive in the womb, from conception and that’s very clear scientifically now. So I would say, yes, there is an absolute priority there.

The challenge we face in today’s world is (ongoing), for the two-year-old there are challenges, for the five-year-old, through life and to a hundred and beyond, conception to natural death.

And that’s why I thought it was important to bring in the immigration issues. Because, absolutely, children or vulnerable adults that are, for whatever reasons, because of politics so often, are left harmed or vulnerable to harm, we have to be concerned about them as well.

And I’m saddened even within the Church too often and among the hierarchy it’s, well, you kind of choose your issues. I don’t think we have that luxury.

It is overwhelming, to be concerned about the end-of-life issues, during-life issues, from conception issues, and the early life issues, like abortion, or contraception. I think all of those issues are … we’re challenged by our belief in Jesus Christ to tackle all of them.

Certainly, because conception is where it begins, and I think even scientifically we can say that that newly conceived child is about as vulnerable as a human being ever can be. And isn’t it tragic that that vulnerability remains in the womb, even after a child is really developed, and even can be viable outside the womb, they remain vulnerable in today’s society, and even immediately after birth in some places.

I would very clearly say, absolutely, at conception is where the precious gift of life is given, and that’s where the most important emphasis needs to be, because it’s the most vulnerable. And then as that vulnerability diminishes, still, the value of the person is there. For (example), the 25-year-old, strong, man, is in a different circumstance than a newly conceived child or an unborn child in the womb.

Bishop Strickland had also called on his fellow bishops to hold Catholic politicians accountable when they are in opposition to Church teaching. Asked to elaborate and what this means and how this may involve either Canon 915 or Canon 916, Strickland, who has studied Canon law, said:

A basic approach that the Church uses, since … as Canon law (was) developed is - because we’re concerned about the value of the human person, and our destiny to dwell in eternity with God, body, mind and spirit, the mystery of the human person, embraced by eternal life with God, because of that reality — every person needs to be held sacred and cherished, so if you look at it, even as we talk about remedies for bishops that may be reported and have misconduct issues, always, if you look at Canon law, it’s medicinal, it’s helping the person.

And I think that’s what we as bishops, rather than, I mean we should attack no one, we’re not attackers, we’re shepherds, but we should care for that person. Care for a presidential candidate who claims to be Catholic but isn’t upholding the basic Deposit of Faith — that we promised to guard as bishops, to guard the deposit of faith, whole and incorrupt, entire and incorrupt I think are the exact words. So part of the deposit of faith is - abortion is wrong immoral.

I’ve actually tweeted out, I asked politicians who embrace the Catholic faith, which, thankfully, we have many, but I want them to truly embrace it, I asked them in a tweet to read the Catechism. With all the different issues they face, I mean, they face daunting issues, even just in the state of Texas. Once every two years, they have a legislative session, and the bishops there and we have an advocacy day. It is overwhelming; I’m exhausted after one day, so I know that it’s daunting, what they’re trying to do. But we need, more than anything, we need truly Catholic politicians, that are slogging it out with these issues, holding the person sacred and doing their best to bring the light of the Gospel, to bring the good news into the lives of people who, (maybe even) don’t claim to be Catholic, maybe don’t believe in God.

It isn’t just sort of a boutique faith that we have, we believe it is reality; it is the truth that God has revealed to us. And so as bishops I think it’s our obligation to lovingly challenge people who are wandering from the fold and bring them back.

And if they refuse, then there does come a point where you say, “You’re out of Communion.”

I’m no expert in excommunication, but as I understand a basic aspect of that, is, like in many things with Canon law, when a bishop says something, some sort of decree, it’s very often, not always the case, sometimes it’s an action, but a lot of times it’s making public or stating clearly what a bishop has come to see as a reality, that same basic philosophy.

What I tell a lot of people, I worked in our tribunal for 16 years, with the annulment process, it really is more properly called a decree of nullity, because what the tribunal is saying with that analogously, is there was never a marriage, and the decree of nullity is stating that truth.

The same kind of approach, I believe is at least part of the excommunication (process). It’s not so much the bishop’s action, but he’s decreeing: this is the reality by your choices. There’s a process, if you’ve been formally excommunicated, for coming back into communion.

But you can do that, it’s not like it’s a death sentence spiritually. It’s a medicinal process. I mean that’s the way it should always be approached, is bringing that person back into the light of truth.

And that I think is an obligation that we have for that individual. I mean, honestly, I yell at the television. Like probably a lot of us, I get upset at a Catholic saying, “I’m a Catholic and I think abortion is perfectly moral, it’s a right.” In Illinois, I’m sure you’re aware,  (they) just decreed that you have a fundamental right to abortion, and that is just horrifying.

And for Catholic politicians then to sign on and to vote for that sort of thing – they’re not being Catholic. They’re not embracing the truth that we treasure as revealed by God, through His Son, then in His Body, the Church.

I think we have an obligation, and you know, it is challenging when you don’t get a lot of support for saying something like that.

But, you know, I don’t need support. But I do need to be feel at peace myself with saying I took on some heavy obligations when I was ordained a bishop, much more so than I probably even realized on that day. But I’m obligated to live that truth as fully as I can, hopefully always with joy, always with hope, always with mercy. But also with the strength and the fire that the Holy Spirit brings.     

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