Part Two of the bishops' letter
In this past week's edition of the Arlington Catholic Herald, the second part of a two part letter on the election from the Virginia Catholic Conference was posted. This essay is entitled "Voting is the tip of the iceberg." In this essay, the bishops describe how they wish to build an advocacy network all through the year and speak of the importance of prayer. The article has not been posted on the web page as of yet - so I have no link to offer this week.
When bishops speak on the issues, to an extent they are doing so in the name of their flocks. Gaining some consensus on what to say on matters where the concern is political, rather than theological, seems wise. In the ancient Church, bishops were elected, so their representativeness was not an issue so much as a problem, since often an entire city church would hold heretical views. During the Classical period, when the Church as an organ pf and then a replacement for the Empire, the authority of the bishops included suppressing heresy, which was needed, and thinking for the people, which was not. In the days of enlightened despotism, Catholic monarchs - and later Protestant ones, desired to appoint their bishops and Rome rightly stepped in to prevent this overreach by the civil government. With much of western Christendom in the hands of the people, however, such papal protection is no longer necessary to ensure the independence of the Church. Until the means of episcopal election is reformed, however, consultation is necessary.
I dearly wish the bishops would consult with their flocks more on Life issues, especially with those of us who disagree with how the issues are being pursued. Focusing on Roe is not the answer, nor is electing a President who would appoint justices to repeal Roe. Indeed, the last two Republican appointees who were appointed for this reason specifically refused to do so when given the opportunity on the partial birth abortion case . Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito were thought to be the answer to pro-life prayers, but instead joined with Justice Kennedy in finding other grounds for letting the Partial Birth Abortion Act stand. Realizing that judicial repeal was a dead letter, two lawyers who had been prominent in the pro-life movement supported President Obama in the last election, with one being denied Communion on one occasion (an action that, thankfully, Virginia bishops do not undertake). I find it odd, however, that no one in the movement called for denying Communion to Roberts, Kennedy and Alito, but yet would deny it to Pelosi, Biden and Moran -who's involvement in the issue is much more tangential.
So, if I had the bishop's ear, what would I tell them? I would tell them to focus on living wages for families and opportunities for youth who keep their children in order to reduce the number of abortions. I would start by increasing the pay of any Virginia Catholic employee who has another child by at least $12,000 per year - and by giving free High School and College tuition to both teen parents should the girl become pregnant, as well as a stipend for living expenses. Since a living wage is unaffordable for many small businesses, I would ask them to advocate for an increased refundable child tax credit of $500 per month per child at both the state and federal levels - payable with wages rather than at the end of the year.
Support for tax credit legislation should be the litmus test for pro-life voting, not opposition to Roe v. Wade - or even a non-existent abortion ban bill that would have to be federal and would have to deal with the issues of tort liability for miscarriage and police power in investigating miscarriages. The latter two issues must be dealt with if Congress granted rights to the unborn. I don't see how this could be done without simply ignoring first trimester abortions, since making exceptions would make any first trimester ban unenforceable.
Finally, I would call for the bishops to excommunicate any Catholic business owner or stockholder who does not pay employees a living wage, since doing so effectively condemns any pregnancies the employees would have to termination. Such an omission is more of a cause of abortions than is failure to vote for an abortion ban that has not even been introduced.