By Jonquil Frankham

October 15, 2008 ( – Bishops Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas and Keven W. Vann of Fort Worth issued a joint letter on October 8 to the members of their dioceses in which they write that abortion is the “defining issue” of the upcoming election.

They observe that all other rights are predicated upon the right to life, which is gravely violated by abortion. The public acceptance of abortion, therefore, renders any attempts to “further the common” good impossible, “‘It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.’”

The letter, which identifies abortion as the “preeminent intrinsic evil of our day,” draws from the earlier document issued by the bishops of the United States, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” published in November 2007.

As the Texas bishops relate, this earlier document distinguishes between those moral-political issues that are “intrinsically evil,” such as “legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and ‘marriages’, repression of religious liberty… [and] public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research,” and those which are subject to rational dialogue, such as “immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror.”

Given the fact that abortion is a grave intrinsic evil, in only two circumstances, the two bishops write, could one in conscience vote for a pro-abortion political candidate: “If both candidates running for office support abortion or ‘abortion rights,’ a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done,” or “if another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion.”

They go on to clarify: “While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no ‘truly grave moral’ or ‘proportionate’ reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.”

The bishops leave no wiggle room for any Catholics who might take a soft stance on the abortion question, writing, “As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America.”

In the conclusion the bishops highlight the duty of each Catholic to educate himself in issues of conscience:

“The decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation. As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day. With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils.”

The pastoral letter from Bishops Vann and Farrell can be found here:

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship can be found here: