By Kathleen Gilbert

SAGINAW, Michigan, November 3, 2008 ( – Bishop Robert J. Carlson of Saginaw issued a pastoral letter in the eve of the U.S. campaign season, urging Catholics to heed the “special burden on the conscience” imposed by the destruction of innocent life, particularly through abortion.

In the first section of his letter, Bishop Carlson poses the question: “Isn’t abortion just one issue among others in this election?”   He answers, “No.  Any serious Catholic voter must recognize abortion as the premier threat to human rights and dignity in our day.”

Because abortion consists in the murder of about one million unborn children every year, says the bishop, “A Catholic can, in good conscience, vote for a pro-choice candidate only if other issues outweigh this one in number and in kind.” 

For example, the abortion issue outweighs the death penalty because abortion ends a far greater number of human lives than the handful killed by the death penalty; furthermore, abortion is a graver evil since it targets only the most innocent lives, rather than those found guilty of capital crimes in a court of law.

Bishop Carlson notes that there are other serious issues voters must weigh in the presidential election; however, “a Catholic needs to recognize that all issues do not have the same weight. 

“Can any other issue, or combination of issues, attain sufficient gravity to outweigh  the directly willed destruction of 1 million children every year?”

Turning his attention to Proposal 2, the state ballot initiative to allow the destruction of embryos in embryonic stem cell (ESC) research, the bishop affirms that Catholics have a clear duty to reject the proposal.

The bishop condemns Proposal 2 first of all for being “scientifically unnecessary,” constrasting the proven track record of adult stem cell research in medicine against the minimal promise of ESC research.  He also criticizes the legislation for “going too far” by prohibiting any restraint on such research. 

But most importantly, he says, Proposal 2 is based on “morally reprehensible” principles.  He quotes one commentator who summed up the danger to human dignity in ESC research: “If a principle is established by which some indisputably human lives do not warrant the protections traditionally associated with the dignity of the human person – because of their size, location, dependency, level of development, burdensomeness to others – it would seem that there are numerous other candidates for the application of the principle,” including the handicapped and elderly.

“Finding cures for diseases is surely a great good,” writes Bishop Carlson.  “But … there are some things we must never do, like sacrificing our children’s lives to extend our own health and well-being.”

Last week, Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm came under fire from a local bishop when she claimed, as a Catholic, that supporting ESC research is “pro-life.”

To read Bishop Carlson’s pastoral letter in full, go to:


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