Abortion presents a problem for the Catholic left since it does not fit into its social justice agenda. It certainly involves social justice in the highest degree since it is a great injustice to deprive an innocent person of life. However, the left, by its nature, always seeks to change “oppressive” social structures that they deem unjust. Abortion does not fit squarely into this category. Indeed, some Catholic leftists will use the oppressive structures of poverty or patriarchy as a reason to justify abortion.
While the Catholic left prefers other issues like climate change, social revolution, and illegal immigration, it is hard to argue against the missing 60 million Americans. These issues pale in comparison to the magnitude of death caused by the sin of abortion. Thus, abortion has long occupied the preeminent place on the American Catholic political scene.
However, a key Catholic figure is directly disputing abortion’s preeminent place as a non-negotiable issue for faithful Catholic voters.
Speaking at the University of San Diego on February 6, Most Rev. Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, cast doubt on abortion’s preeminent position, especially in light of the upcoming elections. He did not directly discourage opposition to abortion but put climate change on equal footing, declaring that “both abortion and the environment are core life issues in Catholic teaching.”
The two issues pose unequal threats, however. For the outspoken liberal bishop, “the long-term death toll from unchecked climate change is larger [than that from abortion] and threatens the very future of humanity.”
Three questions about Bishop McElroy’s controversial statements need to be answered.
The first is addressed directly to Bishop McElroy, the politician: “Your Excellency, why are you raising this issue now?”
In making this statement during an election year, Bishop McElroy intentionally muddles the issues in the hope of encouraging Catholics to vote for radical pro-abortion candidates who are eco- or illegal immigration-friendly.
The second question involves Bishop McElroy, the scientist: “Your Excellency, why are you speaking as a scientist?”
Bishop McElroy is not a scientist and thus speaks outside his competence when painting a picture based on alarmist scientific speculation devoid of solid facts. He claims that “it is a far greater moral evil for our country to abandon the Paris Climate Accord than to provide contraceptives to federal health centers.” Abortion kills tens of millions every year around the world. There are no recorded deaths specifically due to climate change.
The third question is the most tragic and important one: “Your Excellency, why aren’t you speaking as a bishop, which is your area of competence?”
Bishops speak about matters touching on God and His relationship with humanity. But Bishop McElroy’s speech projects a purely naturalistic worldview, a perspective from which God and the supernatural are absent.
To claim that climate change is deadlier than abortion is to deny the truth anyone can see. People must work toward preserving the environment, a gift of God. However, their first duty will ever be to obey God and His Divine Law.