Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego has accused some fellow bishops of making abortion the ‘litmus test’ for judging Catholic politicians. He argues, “if adopted, such a position will reduce the common good to a single issue.” Let’s see, what does abortion stand for? The deliberate taking of innocent life. That sounds like a very good ‘litmus test’ to me.
That Bishop McElroy’s theological thinking has become completely politicized is evident from his use of the phrase ‘litmus test,’ which until now I’ve never heard in a theological discussion about Catholic identity. The commitment to protect innocent life from being killed, oh, that’s an unfair ‘litmus test’ to Bishop McElroy. In this, he out-Herods Herod as the medievals once joked.
What about his attempt at arguing the problem of an abortion ‘litmus test’? The common good, he claims, would be reduced to one issue. No doubt the Catholic idea of the common good includes a collective dimension, the totality of all the earthly goods needed to live happily. Notice, however, the phrase “to live” that anchors the concept. Without life itself, all the other goods become irrelevant — a child killed in the womb won’t hear Bishop McElroy speak so eloquently about the common good.
The essence of love can be expressed as “It’s good that you exist.” All forms of genuine love celebrate the existence, the presence, of the beloved. We are taught that God Himself created the world out of his Love so that His existence itself could be shared among a manifold of beings. Where is the love, Bishop McElroy?
For over half a century, the bishops of the United States have provided cover for Catholic politicians, mostly Democrats, who cowered like cowards in the face of constituent demands they embrace the killing of the innocent.
The story of this capitulation is well known and documented: Jesuit theologians school Democrats like Ted Kennedy about making his conscience private and inscrutable, and then Bishop Bernadin spends four years at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now the USCCB) pushing it hard left, formalizing his position in 1983 with the ‘seamless garment’ relegating abortion to one life issue among others.
In one sense, Bishop McElroy is only restating, but in political terms, what has become the accepted norm among 90% of the Catholic bishops. But the criticism of President Biden by a handful of prominent bishops provoked McElroy’s defense of the bishop’s norm that led to the election Biden in the first place. After all, during the campaign these bishops had remained quiet — why should they rock the boat now?
The bottom line, I think, is this: When Catholics bishops and laity turn their back on the gift of life, they’ve turned their back on God’s love which was expressed throughout salvation history from Creation and the prophets to the Incarnation, Resurrection, and the Church. To exist is the greatest gift of all, and those who love sing loudly, ‘It’s good that you exist!’
Ubi Caritas est vera, Deus ibi est: Where true love is, God is there Who is Life and the source of all life.