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Bp. Thomas Daly of Spokane, Wash.John the Son of Thunder / YouTube

October 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Wash. has spoken out against Bishop Robert McElroy’s recent downplaying of the importance of abortion in a virtual meeting on October 13.

During the meeting, McElroy, the bishop of San Diego, Calif., questioned the claim that “candidates who seek laws opposing intrinsically evil actions automatically have a primary claim to political support in the Catholic conscience.” Additionally, he lamented the fact that many have publicly denied Democrat vice presidential candidate Joe Biden’s Catholic identity, saying, “Such denials are injurious because they reduce Catholic social teaching to a single issue.”

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Bishop Daly said McElroy’s comments “effectively constituted a defense of Biden and other prominent Catholic elected officials who publicly support unrestricted abortion.” Daly disputed McElroy’s minimalist view of what it means to be Catholic, saying the belief that “life begins at conception and must be protected and reverenced until natural death … forms who we are as Catholics.”  

McElroy opposes treating abortion as the “pre-eminent” issue in the upcoming election. In 2019, together with Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, he opposed calling the threat of abortion the “pre-eminent” priority for voters in the new introductory letter appended to the bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” At the Fall General Assembly last year, he told the bishops, “It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the pre-eminent issue that we face as the world in Catholic social teaching.”

In a February 2020 talk that seems to have been the basis for his recent comments, McElroy claimed that “[t]here is no mandate in universal Catholic social teaching that gives a categorical priority to either of these issues [i.e. abortion and climate change] as uniquely determinative of the common good.” In that talk, he stressed the possible long-range consequences of climate change to justify treating climate action on par with the immediate consequences of permissive abortion laws.

In an article endorsed and promoted by Denver archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Fr. Luis Granados directly countered McElroy’s form of argumentation. Granados emphasized the indirect nature of the harm to the environment caused by good human action. Acknowledging that we are sometimes morally responsible for even indirect effects of our actions, “our responsibility is limited to the consequences we can reasonably foresee (and in the measure of our action, not in the measure of the whole effect).” Ultimately, the gravity of these indirect “sins against the environment” is “significantly smaller than in the case of abortion and euthanasia.”

While McElroy does admit that abortion is intrinsically evil, he emphasizes that prudential considerations could lead one to prioritize other issues. Further, in his February talk, he stressed that it is the candidate, not the issues, on the ballot.

As if in response to this line of argument, Bishop Daly noted what kind of candidate a ballot in favor of Joe Biden would be supporting: “He has moved in an aggressive way to do all he can to make sure abortion is available. He has walked away from the Hyde Amendment. If elected, he will push for legislation that furthers abortion. He is not passive on this issue. There is no nuance. He has taken a strong stand.”

Given both the record of the candidate and the importance of protecting unborn life, Daly wonders how McElroy could countenance a prudential choice in favor of the Democrat politician: “But if abortion is intrinsically evil, which Bishop McElroy admits to, how can Catholics vote for a candidate like Biden?”


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