Detroit Free Press, October 20,
are in opposition to a culture of life
BY BISHOP THOMAS J. GUMBLETON
President George W. Bush has visited Michigan
many times during the campaign, including a
recent visit to Farmington Hills, but he has
never stopped in Detroit's inner city. If he
did, he would meet firsthand many men, women
and children who have dramatically experienced
the effects of his policies.
When Bush travels the country, he often says
that he stands "for a culture of life
in which every person counts and every being
matters." These words resonate deeply
with Catholics. But is Bush's agenda really
the Catholic agenda? Does he really stand for
a "culture of life" that recognizes
and celebrates the worth of every human being?
The United States Catholic Bishops have written
that "any politics of human life must
work to resist the violence of war and the
scandal of capital punishment. Any politics
of human dignity must address issues of racism,
poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing
and health care." Applying this agenda
as the guide, it is clear that the president's
words have not translated into action.
War: In a "culture of life," we are
called to be peacemakers. Bush, however, chose
to pursue a war over the moral objections of
hundreds of religious leaders, including Pope
John Paul II, the U.S. Catholic Bishops and
the leaders of the president's own Methodist
Church. The report released on Oct. 6 by chief
weapons searcher Charles Duelfer definitively
proves that Saddam Hussein did not possess
weapons of mass destruction. The evidence is
now clear that the Bush administration misled
the American people into the war in Iraq.
Speaking at the United Nations this month, Vatican
official Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo said, "Everyone
can see that (the war) did not lead to a safer
world either inside or outside Iraq."
Now, more than 1,000 American soldiers have been
killed and upward of 7,000 have been injured.
The sinful and systematic abuses committed
in Iraqi prisons have rocked the moral conscience
of our nation and soiled our credibility in
the international community. An estimated 13,000
innocent Iraqis have died as the result of
the invasion. All the while, the Bush administration
refuses even to tally Iraqi civilian casualties.
Capital punishment: In a "culture of life,"
we are called to be merciful. As the governor
of Texas, however, Bush approved the execution
of 152 people. In one infamous incident, he
publicly mocked a woman as she awaited execution
on death row. The president's attorney general
has ordered a federal prosecutor to seek the
death penalty despite the prosecutor's own
recommendation of a life sentence in at least
12 cases. In other words, current U.S. policy
is that some human life does not matter.
Human dignity:In a "culture of life,"
we are called to care for the least among us,
including human life in the womb. One proven
way to reduce abortions is to reduce the numbers
of people living in poverty. Unfortunately,
under Bush, statistics show that the abortion
rate has gone up. Since he took office, the
number of Americans living in poverty has risen
by 4.3 million, to a total of 35.9 million.
I see these real people and hear their stories
at the doorstep of St. Leo's every day. One
of every three people living in poverty is
a child. During the Bush presidency, the number
of Americans without health insurance has risen
by 5.2 million. Our economy has lost over 1
million jobs, and the wages that our families
depend on have become stagnant. Meanwhile,
the richest 1 percent received a tax break
70 times greater than the tax cut for the middle
How are Catholics to deal with this split between
rhetoric and reality? Ours must be a prophetic
voice. We must call on Bush to account for
a deeply troubling record. And we must also
challenge Democrats to embrace the entire culture
of life, not just a selective economic and
social agenda. The sad reality of American
political life is that no candidate or party
embraces and advances a "culture of life"
in the fullest sense of the term.
Yet responsible citizenship calls us to cast
our vote Nov. 2. How do we choose amongst imperfect
candidates? We must each consult our conscience
and consider the entirety of church teaching.
And, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops'
voter guide, Faithful Citizenship, encourages,
we should measure "all candidates, policies,
parties and platforms by how they protect or
undermine the life, dignity, and rights of
the human person, whether they protect the
poor and vulnerable and advance the common
What we will not do is vote for a candidate just
because he uses words that we like to hear;
remembering, as scripture tells us, that we
must be "doers of the Word and not hearers
BISHOP THOMAS J. GUMBLETON is an auxiliary
bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor
at St. Leo Parish in Detroit. Write to him
in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600
W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226.
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