Thursday September 16, 2010

New Archbishop of Seattle: “To be Catholic Means to be Pro-Life”

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, DC, September 16, 2010 ( – This morning Pope Benedict XVI announced the appointment of Bishop James Peter Sartain of Joliet in Illinois, as metropolitan archbishop of Seattle Washington, where nearly one-fifth of the over five million residents are Catholic. In January, Bishop Sartain was one of the 45 U.S. Bishops in attendance at the March for Life Vigil Mass in Washington, DC.

Bishop Sartain told LSN at the time that he was proud that over 225 youth from his diocese had come to the D.C. March for Life.

Asked about the example Nancy Pelosi gives of being in favor of abortion while calling herself Catholic, Bishop Sartain replied, “Any Catholic who is going to understand our faith and live by the faith seriously must be pro-life.”

The Joliet Bishop explained, “It’s at the very core of our understanding of living a moral life because all life comes from God. It’s a message that we have a responsibility to continue to get out.”

He concluded, “To be Catholic means to be pro-life.”

Born in Memphis Tennessee in 1952 and ordained to the priesthood in 1978, he became a bishop at the age of 47, shepherding the Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Joliet Illinois prior to being called to Seattle.

Bishop Sartain inspired admiration in his diocese by taking decisive action in the face of scandal. When the pastor of the second largest parish in the diocese of Joliet was found to have engaged in homosexual acts, Bishop Sartain removed him from priestly duties.

Commenting on the action at the time, Catholic World News editor Phil Lawler told LSN that, based on his reporting on the scandal of homosexual priests in Catholic dioceses, he believed the action taken by Bishop Sartain was unique and “a hopeful sign.”

“It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of this before,” said Lawler. “There’ve been an awful lot of cases in which we’ve been told that a priest has engaged in consensual sexual activity with another male, and isn’t a problem. But it is a problem, and it is good that it is being taken seriously.”

Catholic News Service notes that archbishop-elect Sartain’s appointment marks the first in a string of pending U.S. episcopal appointments under the new leadership of Canada’s Marc Ouellet, who was recently appointed as head of the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops. Ten U.S. bishops are currently serving past retirement age of 75 and another five dioceses are currently without a bishop.

Bishop Sartain’s pro-life stance was backed by action. In addition to attending the March for Life, the bishop has led his flock in challenging abortion in the diocese of Joliet. In 2007, when a Planned Parenthood abortion mill was to open locally he responded with a request for the faithful to join him in fasting and prayer. He encouraged peaceful, prayerful demonstration, outreach and political lobbying.

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