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Some time back Bp. Cupich decided, for completely incoherent reasons, to stiff arm 40 Days for Life, as well as to try to crush any involvement by clergy and seminarians in this fine, widely approved by American bishops, peaceful witness to human life. He partly backed down, due to embarrassing publicity (as near as I can tell). But his icy treatment of the prolife movement in Spokane continues. Witness this recent letter to me from John Weingarten, who heads Spokane’s 40 Days for Life:
I’m working on another anti-Catholic/anti-life problem at our largest “Catholic” hospital in Spokane, Sacred Heart Medical Center. After hearing numerous reports that women patients who give birth at Sacred Heart are routinely offered tubal ligations and/or have artificial birth control recommended to them, I communicated my concern to Bishop Cupich about a year ago. The response was less than useful.
Three weeks ago, I sent him another letter with a request for a response within a couple of weeks. In it, I told him I planned to make this issue public if he chose not to take this issue seriously.
So far, one woman who worked at Sacred Heart and was offered a tubal ligation when she was a patient there, has agreed to go public with the story. I’m looking for others who are willing to speak up, but there seems to be enough anecdotal evidence that it’s time to move forward with this story.
I sent the following letter via certified mail to Bishop Cupich on November 8th and confirmed with his secretary Mary Cole that he did receive it.
Here’s the letter I sent. Please feel free to use it and also don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions prior to posting, if you choose to post this.
Thanks so much for all you do, and for your help with this.
November 8, 2011
Dear Bishop Cupich,
In a previous letter, I wrote to you about numerous reports I and others had received from women who had been patients at Sacred Heart Hospital. After delivering a baby, these women were asked what sort contraception they would be using; or they were offered tubal ligations. In your response a couple of months later, you stated that you had contacted Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, then CEO of Providence, and that he had assured you everything was being done in accordance with Catholic ERDs.
I sent you a reply on January 24, 2011, expressing my appreciation for the attention you paid to the issue, but at the same time requesting additional guidance about what we should do in the future when such reports come to our attention.
On the one hand, reports of hospital practice in conflict with Catholic ERDs may reflect a misunderstanding of the ERDs or inaccurate perception of what is actually occurring at the hospital. On the other hand, they may reflect an inadequate understanding by Hospital personnel of what the ERDs require, or of the commitment that a health care provider makes when providing care at a Catholic hospital. Since my previous letters, I’ve heard even more reports from women who have been patients at Sacred Heart and corroborated what we told you in the first letter. I just heard from a woman who observed such practices while she was employed at Sacred Heart, and then experienced them when, as a patient, she was offered a tubal ligation as though it were standard procedure—which it apparently is. She has given me permission to give you her name and contact information so that you can verify these facts to your satisfaction. She is also willing to have her name and story publicized if it will help move Sacred Heart Hospital toward fostering a culture of life.The lack of response to my previous letter left me wondering whether you were both inclined and able to exercise the type of oversight that the Hospital apparently requires. While I lack the authority that you, as Bishop, have over institutions that identify themselves as Catholic, I have some ability as well as responsibility to call attention to practices that are in grave conflict with Catholic moral teaching. Because you would be significantly more effective in accomplishing this goal, I would very much prefer that you address the situation directly. However, in the absence of a response from you, I intend to accept the offer of this brave woman to make her story public—along with many others who have had similar experiences. I would profoundly regret the damage that would ensue from publicizing the disconnect between the ideals of a Catholic hospital and the practice at Sacred Heart, but I would regret even more the silence at the continuation of the evils that these reports suggest.
Women (and men) who are admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital for medical treatment ought to have the confidence that the treatment they receive will be consistent with Catholic moral teaching. Although many patients are not Catholic, and many hospital personnel are not Catholic, the practices within the hospital should consistently reflect Catholic teaching. In many ways it is precisely the non-Catholic patients and non-Catholic hospital personnel who are most likely to be harmed by a failure to ensure that Catholic values in health care are not only preached but practiced.
I apologize in advance if this letter seems abrupt or impertinent. But in the belief that it is my moral duty to take these steps, I hope that you will forgive any defect in the manner of presentation.
I’ll look forward to your response within the next couple of weeks.
I got this letter a couple of weeks ago and figured, “Maybe the bishop is just busy”. So I waited with the expectation that, surely, a Catholic bishop would respond to a respectful letter from a member of his flock with a legitimate concern about a grave matter. I wrote John a day or two ago and asked if he’d ever heard back from Bp. Cupich.
The good people of the prolife movement in Spokane deserve better than this contemptuous treatment from their shepherd. He’s treating devoted children of the Church (and friends who are ready to serve him) like enemies. Why?
Yet another reader who used to live under Bp. Cupich echoes the other traumatized prolife readers who have written to describe the wreckage wrought on the prolife movement by this shepherd everywhere he has gone:
I have not heard one positive word from people who attempted prolife work under Bp. Cupich. It looks like the prolife movement in Spokane is not merely on its own: it is facing opposition from its bishop. Sad. On the bright side, as my reader says: nothing is impossible with God. It’s not the end of the prolife movement in Spokane. Just a setback. There are still ways to do God’s work there, particularly for laity. Time to get creative! Start by doing it with love for Bp. Cupich and not in an atmosphere of polarized media circus as in Amarillo. Perhaps he will finally see that the prolife movement is on his side and not a liability.
Spokane prolifers should prepare to stand strong without the leadership of their priests who are bound to respect and obedience. It is only going to get worse in the upcoming election year when priests will want to support prolife candidates. The prolife movement survived here due to the steadfastness of the laity. You can do it. Nothing is impossible with God.
When visiting with the presbyterate, the Bishop asked the priests to approach respect life issues as teachers, for that is what they are. Teachers create new openings for learning and reduce obstacles. Their intense passion to share the truth leads them to greater patience and prudence and not frustration with and disdain for students who fail to respond appropriately. Their witness to the faith through teaching becomes all the more powerful when the presbyterate works together in unity and solidarity. …
As for the specific question of the priests’ participation in the 40 Days for Life vigils, the Bishop recognizes that a given priest in good conscience may feel the need to participate in the vigils and he should never be forced to go against a good and informed conscience. The Bishop only asked that all priests prayerfully reflect on what he has told them, commit themselves to making teaching effectively their first priority and keep in mind the irreplaceable power of the witness of their unity with each other.
Forgive me, but this sounds an awful lot like, “If a priest really thinks he *has* to then he can do 40 Days for Life, I suppose. Though I don’t like it and will be taking notice of those who do, since they are causing disunity with those who don’t participate.” It looks just like making an appearance of backing down under public outrage and scrutiny, while still trying to throw a spanner in the works of support for 40 Days for Life and sending a clear message to priests to knuckle under, or else.
John Weingarten of Spokane 40 DFL notices the same thing, and the response he gets back from the diocese is not one that goes down in history as a ringing endorsement of 40 DFL.
“We need a clear statement from [Bishop Cupich] that priests and seminarians are free to pray at abortion facilities at any time without being disobedient and there will be no repercussions,” Weingarten said. “If he told them they are not to be at these places, but then says they may follow their well-formed consciences, they would be scared to pray at Planned Parenthood.”A clarifying email from the Diocese of Spokane’s director of communications stated that yes, priests in Spokane may in good conscience participate in 40 Days for Life vigils without being considered disobedient to their ordinary.
Wow. If priests support 40 DFL (which is endorsed by the USCCB) they are not “considered disobedient to their ordinary”. Feel the enthusiasm!
Meanwhile, left unaddressed by all these reluctant “clarifications” is this point from a reader in the combox:
In Spokane, there was a group of Seminiarians that led a group of Gonzaga University students parying outside of Planned Parenthood for years. The seminarians are now forbidden from doing this. Notice the clarification does not mention seminarians at all. The priests were told in person at a meeting to not pariticipate “in or out of clerics”. Regardless of what this clarification says we will be able to judge the bishop’s actual communicated attitude towards priests’ participation by what they will now they do. Priests used to pray outside Planned Parenthood. After this I really doubt a single one will.
I remain mystified by Bp. Cupich’s behavior. What is wrong with 40 DFL? I wish to add my name to this petition urging him to rethink this inexplicable attitude toward this fine organization and to *support* (not merely reluctantly and coldly tolerate) priests *and* seminarians as they bear public witness to life. I urge you to do so as well.
A reader writes:
I don’t get the guy. His reasoning isn’t even internally consistent since the USCCB (rightly) has no problem at all with 40 DFL, a perfectly peaceful, non-confrontational, non-gory form of civil witness for life. Plus, he’s just taken over a diocese that’s been through the ringer financially due to abuse lawsuits. So he deliberately spits in the eye of the most dedicated and loyal Catholics, provoking them to withhold their appeal funds out of conscience? What gives?
We recently learned about a troubling decision regarding pro-life activities by our bishop, His Excellency Blase Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane.
I am emailing you because you are a parishioner in the diocese, or have a connection to the diocese, or you have the ability to make public this regrettable decision.
Bishop Cupich has informed all of his priests and seminarians that they cannot:
– pray outside of Planned Parenthood
– promote or organize peaceful protest outside Planned Parenthood in their parishes (naming 40 Days for Life specifically)
– or allow pro-life material to be distributed in their parishes unless it is published by the Washington State Conference of Catholic Bishops or the USCCB–who, ironically, support 40 DFL.
This information came to us directly from multiple Spokane priests. We were also told by these priests that Bishop Cupich identifies himself as pro-life, but disagrees with the “tactic” of praying outside of abortion clinics. The reason he gave for his decision is that he does not want his priests being identified with “extreme” pro-life persons.
We know you all understand the great concern that comes when a bishop is 1) not overtly supportive of pro-life activities and 2) will not allow his priests to fight for the pro-life cause by praying and giving witness to the sanctity of human life outside of Planned Parenthood.
My wife and I have written a letter that we will be sending to the bishop tomorrow and have copied the text below. I am asking that you also do what you can to help him change his mind, especially since we begin the fall campaign of 40 Days for Life in a few weeks.
Let us all pray for Bishop Cupich that he has a conversion of heart on this issue.
May God bless each of you as you fight for life!
Most Reverend Blase J. Cupich
Diocese Of Spokane
1023 W. Riverside Avenue
Spokane, WA 99210
Your Excellency:In the last 38 years, since abortion became legal in the United States, over 50 million children have been lost (that we know of) through the horror of abortion. While we are hoping that your denial of priests to pray for the unborn outside of the very place where children are murdered is a matter of disagreement on tactics, it seems as though you do not support the movement at all; again, we hope that is not true.
We have recently learned of facts that are highly disturbing to us. We are seeking clarification from your office.
We have been told that you have forbidden priests and seminarians of the Diocese of Spokane from praying in front of Planned Parenthood, participating in 40 Days for Life, organizing peaceful protest outside of Planned Parenthood (either as a part of 40 Days for Life or otherwise), and endorsing/allowing communication of pro-life activities involving the above two methods in a parish.
We also learned that no pro-life literature may be distributed in a parish except for those produced by the Washington State Conference of Catholic Bishops or by the USCCB. A few months ago, we learned that you declined to endorse 40 Days for Life—something Bishop Skylstad, your predecessor, did indeed endorse. Even the USCCB supports and promotes this organization.
We were concerned, but hoped you had a good reason for your decision, and that it might be a misunderstanding. With this new information, we find it hard to believe it is a misunderstanding.
As members of the Diocese of Spokane, we do not understand why our bishop, the man entrusted by the Church and by Christ to lead the flock, would not allow a peaceful protest of the destruction of human lives. The pro-life issue, which has been championed and endorsed by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the USCCB, is the most important of our age.
However, we do not understand how a bishop could not endorse praying the rosary, Our Lady’s prayer, for the sake of the unborn, their mothers and fathers and the workers, at the very scene of their deaths. Prayer and peaceful witness are the only ways that we will win the battle of converting hearts to believe in the sanctity of every human life. If what we heard is true, telling priests not to pray outside of abortion clinics would be equivalent to telling a priest in Germany or Poland that they should not pray outside of Death Camps. The same tragedy that happened in Germany is happening in our country today, but too many people are standing by without defending the unborn.
We need our priests and our bishops, our spiritual leaders, to take on the cause of defending the unborn! We need our priests and bishops to unabashedly proclaim the sanctity of human life! We need our priests and bishops to witness to the women who are going into a clinic and are in need of a friendly face! If they don’t lead the people of God, how will we win this battle for the lives of the unborn? How do we tell the world that the Catholic Church is the most pro-life faith when our bishops are not willing to sacrifice for the life of a baby?
We are not necessarily asking you to pray outside of Planned Parenthood or be the leader of 40 Days for Life, although we wish you would desire to do so.
But we are asking you to clarify why you would not allow your priests and seminarians to take part in this essential part of the pro-life movement. We are also asking you to publicly endorse 40 Days for Life, an important part of our witness in this diocese each year.
It saddens us that our new bishop is not overtly pro-life, let alone that he will not allow his priests and seminarians to express their own pro-life convictions.
Know that we will pray for you as the shepherd of our diocese. However, if this decision remains in effect, we will not be able to support you financially. We will be rescinding our 2011 pledge to the Annual Catholic Appeal, additionally.
It is essential that the Catholic Church be the beacon of hope in this time where our society finds it acceptable to murder innocent human life by the millions each year.
May God bless you in your ministry and give you wisdom as you lead our diocese.
God grant him a change of heart through Christ Jesus.
By the way, in stark contrast to Bp. Cupich, here is a story about Abp. Vigneron of Detroit, manfully leading people in prayer outside two abortion mills–in the rain. God be praised for good shepherds!
Update: A reader writes in the combox:
I am the co-director of 40 Days for Life Spokane, so I have a personal interest in this issue. I heard about Bishop Cupich’s order to the priests and seminarians on Friday evening from a person who told me they heard this from two priests who were at the meeting with the bishop. That evening I spoke directly with a priest who was at the meeting. He confirmed all the details in the above letter.
We’ve started a petition to ask Bishop Cupich to reverse his decision. A button and link to the petition can be found at the top of the 40 Days for Life Spokane website, http://40daysforlife.com/spokane/ just below the picture, or you can get to the petition directly at this address http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ask-bishop-cu….
I won’t identify the priest who confirmed these details, but I will identify myself. I’m John Weingarten. My wife Lynn and I are listed as the campaign directors at the bottom of the 40 Days for Life Spokane website.
So when the Right Wing Noise Machine (Catholic edition) has been so wrong about so much so many times for so long that only a fool would continue to unquestioningly trust their judgment, it is prudent to consider the possibility that the people who saw and reported accurately on the problem of priestly abuse nearly 30 year ago might, despite the denunciations of the Lie Machine, have something to say worth listening to. The National Catholic Reporter is exactly such a paper and, despite the reflexive booing and hissing from the Francis-hating, Trump adoring Cult of Wrong about Everything, I believe in prudence. Here is their recent, devastating, and spot on editorial to the bishops:
Dear brothers in Christ, shepherds, fellow pilgrims,
We address you as you approach this year’s national meeting in Baltimore because we know there is nowhere left to hide.
All the manipulations and contortions of the past 33 years, all the attempts to deflect and equivocate — all of it has brought the church, but especially you, to this moment.
Even the feds are now on the trail. They’ve ordered that you not destroy any documents. The Department of Justice is conducting a national criminal investigation of how you’ve handled the clergy sex abuse scandal. It is a point in our history without precedent. We want you to know that you aren’t alone in this moment, you’ve not been abandoned. But this time it must be different. This time it won’t be easy.
From fable to sacred text, we know how this goes. The point is reached where all realize the king wears no clothes, the righteous accusers read the writing in the sand and fade away, the religious authorities receive the Master’s most stinging rebukes. As a class of religious rulers, the loudest among you have become quite good at applying the law and claiming divine authority in marginalizing those who transgress the statutes. The prolonged abuse scandal would suggest, however, that you’ve not done very well taking stock of yourselves.
We have no special insight into why this moment — the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the downfall of Theodore McCarrick — has so captured the public imagination and pushed the church to this outer limit of exposure and vulnerability. There are theories, not least of which is that the opportunists among us are attempting to use this moment to bring down the only pope who has actually dethroned bishops and a cardinal for their crimes and indiscretions.
But that’s an issue for another time.
The reality, we all know, is that it has been going on for a long time. The first national story appeared across four pages of this publication in the summer of 1985. The worst of it occurred during the pontificate of the hastily sainted John Paul II, a giant on the world stage, but a pastor who let wolves roam his own flock. His idealized concept of heroic priesthood apparently left him incapable of hearing the truth from credible witnesses, including the few bishops who dared disturb that idealized world with troubling reports. He promoted to the end Marciel Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, and a persona who came to represent the worst of the abuse scandal. Maciel, an accomplished sycophant, kept scrutiny at bay with his ability to spread a lot of young priests and a lot of money around the Vatican.
The point beyond dispute is that we are at a moment in U.S. church history — and perhaps in the history of the global church — without precedent. This is not about debatable matters — celibacy or the filioque clause, or the primacy of Scripture or whether the Earth is the center of the universe or whether women should be allowed ordination or any of the hot button issues that have kept us roiling and at each others’ throats these past decades. This, instead, is about a rot at the heart of the culture entrusted with leadership of the Catholic community. A rot so pervasive that it has touched every aspect of the community’s life, disrupting all of the certainties and presumptions about who we are and who you are that helped hold this community together.
Those who worked so ardently in the past to enable you — the faithful, so betrayed, who just couldn’t believe you would engage in such a deliberate cover up; the likes of George Weigel and his blind, uncritical hagiography of Pope John Paul II; Dr. Mary Ann Glendon and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and their naive celebration and defense of Maciel; the rest of the chorus at First Things and like publications; the telling silence of so many other Catholic outlets; the absurdity of charlatan William Donohue and his silly “Catholic” League — they helped sustain your weak narrative as many of them denigrated those who raised the tough questions and pursued the truth.
None of them any longer has a persuasive case to make. Some of them now try to blame the crisis on gay priests. You might be tempted to latch onto that diversion, but it will only prolong the already intolerably long agony.
Gay priests and bishops are certainly among us — probably a greater percentage of gays in the Catholic clergy, if anecdotal evidence and the private chatter of seminary rectors and heads of orders is to be believed, than one would find in the general population.
The clergy culture is in deep need of serious conversation and education about that issue and much more regarding sexuality. That discussion is unlikely on any significant scale because too many bishops and too many priests, if they were honest, would have to admit to an orientation that the church still calls “disordered.” Unless the preponderance of credible experts has suddenly flipped its understanding of things, however, sexual orientation is not one of the topics that match with sexual abuse.Detail of Page 20 of National Catholic Reporter issue date June 7, 1985, jump page of Jason Berry’s article “Pedophile priest: study in inept church response”Orientation is not a determining factor in abuse of children. If it were, we’d have to be investigating heterosexual orientation as a cause because a lot of abuse is perpetrated by heterosexual men upon boys and girls. So, take that path if you’d like, but be prepared to lose whatever bit of credibility might be left in the tank.
You’ve been ensconced in a culture that has for too long protected you from the consequences of your worst instincts. The boundaries that once kept your culture safe from scrutiny have become as irrelevant today as the moats and walls of previous centuries. There is no hiding any longer. You’ve been imbibing the excesses of power, authority and privilege that have accrued over centuries and, like the addict who hits bottom, a fundamental decision for recovery is essential to your survival.
You’ve hit bottom not because the latest gush of bad news resulted from a resolve to come clean and tell the truth. It resulted from yet another investigation. In short, you were moved to words of contrition because you were, once again, caught. Yes, most of it is old news. Yes, the coverup was engineered mostly by bishops who are no longer in office or have died. News organizations once reluctant to take you on for fear of being labeled anti-Catholic are no longer reticent.
You’ve become certain clickbait. And you will continue to be as, in diocese after diocese, more documents are released and revealed and more grand juries look into the inner workings of this institution over the past 50 years or so. It is self-inflicted pain.And please stop asserting that you did not know what was going on before 2002. If the scandal exploded in 2002, it was because a long fuse had already set off explosions in city after city and state after state and been chronicled widely for 17 years before the spark hit Boston. In the aftermath of those explosions, you were certain enough about what was going on and its potential consequences that you employed individually and corporately legions of lawyers. You knew enough to keep secret files under lock and key. You knew it was evil enough that you had to hide it.
There is no denying you’ve done a lot of adjusting to the bad news. You put together a charter to protect youth. (Fair to note that it’s taken you 16 years to get around to considering including yourselves among those to be held accountable.) You’ve instituted a national office, paid for elaborate studies, instituted national and local review boards, held reconciliation services and required child protection training and background checks, and paid billions in settlements. The church is indisputably a safer place for kids for all of that effort. But it was all done in reaction to outside forces.
The only thing you can’t be forced to do is what you would say our sacramental tradition requires: a deep personal examination, telling the truth, begging forgiveness and a resolve to amend.
The examination begins with the question that only you can answer, individually and as a group: How did we and our brothers in the past, as leaders of this clerical culture, reach the point where we could rationalize turning our backs on children who had been sexually tortured by our priests to protect those priests and our culture? One of your brothers, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, has already laid out some appropriate steps. Bishops must “cede authority,” he said, to allow for greater accountability to outside authority. He also said that “privilege, power and protection of a clerical culture” have to be “eradicated from the life of the church” or “everything else is a sideshow.”
Those are worthy points to consider. The retreat you’ve scheduled for January would be the perfect place to do just that as a body. A suggestion: attend in mufti and leave all the trappings, the collars and black suits, all the silk and lace and pectoral crosses at home. God will recognize you. Take that little step in humility and actually meet as brothers. Seek out those among you who have suffered, who have known what it means to come through pain or addiction or illness. Ask them to help lead you out of this dark moment. They would know the way.
When it is over, and here we make a suggestion that runs contrary to journalistic interest: Be quiet. No grand pronouncements.
In the months to follow, as the federal investigation likely forces out more documents and that burning fuse continues to set off explosions, some of you may pay dearly for what you have or have not done in the past. We’ll know how your retreat went by how you act in those moments.
We’ll know whether you’ve really hit bottom and are on the mend with the best interests of the community at heart or whether you’re still in search of cheap grace and the easy way out.
In the name of the child victims, the families torn apart, the parents who know no end to their agony, the body of Christ subjected to relentless humiliation for decades, it has to be over. This time has to be different.
We pray for you,
Your sisters and brothers, your fellow pilgrims, the church.
I can’t find a word to disagree with here. Meanwhile, conservative Christianist Catholics continue to refuse to think or open their eyes because they have swallowed an ideology that demand they believe the problem cannot possibly involve them–the people who blindly cheered for Maciel. The suckers who defended Euteneuer. The gullible chumps who backed Corapi and who cheered for Michael Voris and Church Militant when those dunces attacked Corapi’s bishop. And the gullible suckers who have now swallowed hook, line, and sinker the narrative of Vigano, Liesite, 1Peter5, EWTN, and the Register that the sole issue is gay and liberals, who must all be purged from the Church, starting with the pope. These people have no interest in victims except insofar as they are useful for advancing the Power Struggle. The towering pride of the Greatest Catholics of All Time has rendered that cult utterly unable to consider the reality that the problem is abusers, gay and straight and enablers, liberal and conservative–and that the only people who matter in this are victims, not conservatives clawing their way to power.
Nope. The Cult of Conservative Pride knows that they and they alone are the saviors of the Church and they and they alone are qualified to purge and destroy the Enemy: anybody who is not themselves. The hubris is breathtaking.
Meawhile, the evil National Catholic Reporter has a pretty sound grasp on what the problem is and what the first steps toward healing are. But we must not listen to them because we will incur ritual impurity if we do. As I have done, by praising them here.
Oh well. I was expelled from the ranks of the Righteous by the Combox Episcopacy a long time ago:
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing abuse for him. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. (Heb 13:11–14).
Washington Catholics interested in thinking with Church and in working to prevent sort of slaughter we just witnessed at Marysville-Pilchuck High School would do well to ignore the threadbare lies and sophistries of the gun cult and listen to Holy Church instead.
The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) represents the Catholic Bishops of Washington State: Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle; Bishop Blase J. Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima; and Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Tragic mass shootings have become all too prevalent in our day and reflect a devaluing of human life in our nation. As people of faith, we, the Catholic Bishops of Washington State, are deeply committed to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of liberty and recognize legitimate recourse to self-defense. However, we cannot ignore the threat to public safety that arises when guns are too easily accessible. Therefore, we support Initiative 594, which requires background checks on gun sales.
As a consistent voice for reducing violence, the Catholic Church has been a strong advocate for the reasonable regulation of firearms. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in its document, “The International Arms Trade” (2006), emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, noting, “Limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.” (Confronting Armed Violence and Promoting Peace, USCCB Office of Domestic Social Development, February 2013) Both state and federal laws regulate the purchase and transfer of firearms. Under these laws, “dealers” are required to have licenses in order to sell guns and must, with few exceptions, conduct a background check to determine whether a purchaser is prohibited by law from possessing a firearm. The purpose of Initiative 594 is to require a background check on the sale or transfer of all firearms other than antique firearms, for both licensed and unlicensed purchasers. We bishops have supported these provisions in the past and now support this initiative’s reasonable inclusion of background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows. A competing measure, I-591, will also appear on the ballot in November. I-591 would not extend background checks for gun sales and could possibly reduce or limit current background check requirements.I-594 provides modest conditions for legal purchase of firearms and represents a prudent balance between concerns for personal liberty and public safety. In addition to this initiative measure, we also urge support by public and elected officials for policy initiatives to improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence. Such steps would prove both effective and humane, and would receive broad public support as a means of reducing violent crime.
Catholic teaching emphasizes that it is the moral duty of all people to take steps to defend human life and, as pastoral leaders, we have a particular responsibility to participate in efforts that will reduce violence. As our U.S. bishops’ 1994 document, Confronting a Culture of Violence, states: “We see the loss of lives. We serve the victims. We feel the fear. We must confront this growing culture of violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope and a call to action.” Thus, in concert with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Bishops of Washington State offer the following priorities to assist in public discourse and deliberations regarding gun safety. We support:
1. Measures that place reasonable conditions on the sale and use of firearms
2. Measures that make guns safer
3. Sensible regulation of handguns
4. Efforts intended to curb easy access to deadly weapons, including assault rifles
5. A serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime
Our hope is that judicious steps to prevent gun violence will lead to greater respect for human life. We urge Catholics and all people of good will to seek consensus on initiatives that promote public safety while respecting our constitutional guarantees for personal liberty
Gun violence is a prolife issue too. May God break the power of the NRA and the gun cult through our Lord Jesus Christ. Enough is enough. Vote YES on I-594 and NO on I-591.
John Weingarten of 40 Days for Life Spokane writes the following letter to Bishop Blaise Cupich regarding his Annual Catholic Appeal:
Dear Bishop Cupich,
February 4 was the birthday of Christian pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who much like Saint Maximillian Kolbe, stood up to the evil of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Where they saw inhumanity and immorality, they raised their voices. They did not—could not—stand by while the voiceless were being brutally treated as less than human and snuffed out. My heart breaks as I see so many Catholics, all of whom are called to live lives of holiness, often failing (myself included) to do so. Forgive me if this letter seems harsh, but after much prayer, I feel compelled to write this.
Speaking of the greatest holocaust of our time, Pope Francis said “Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you.”
It has been pointed out to you on numerous occasions that several of the institutions that call themselves Catholic in your diocese have strayed far from the teachings of the Catholic Church and are engaged in activities causing the destruction of souls, but you have turned a blind eye.
When told that Providence Sacred Heart routinely performs tubal ligations and recommends artificial birth control (which often act as abortifacients), what did you do? When it was brought to your attention that doctors at that institution are engaged in performing abortions (they call them “early inductions” and just leave the baby to die a horrific death) what was your response?
When advised that Gonzaga was planning to honor then Governor Christine Gregoire, one of the most pro-abortion politicians in the country, and that GU had invited Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to bestow on him an honorary degree at commencement when you were informed he actively promotes abortions, did you even raise your voice to object that such honors would be inappropriate and would create scandal?But when your wonderful and faithful priests and seminarians simply wanted to pray for the unborn and their mothers, and to be Christ for those babies being killed at abortion facilities, that moved you to action—and you put a stop to it. No priests or seminarians have been seen at abortion facilities in this diocese since, even though many have told me privately they wish they could be there.
My heart also breaks that I cannot in good conscience support the ACA, but I will give our money to causes that support morality and stand up against evil. I will also continue to fervently pray for your change of heart.
Saint Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us.
As is his custom, the bishop has not responded. I do not understand Bp. Cupich’s hostility to the prolife movement and 40DFL, but this is not the first time I have gotten samizdat from some suffering soul in Spokane, struggling with the fact that the bishop appears to be bent on campaign of crushing and suppressing pro-life activity and punishing people for the crime of being orthodox. I do not understand that guy.
A reader writes:
Sadly, it appears that GU will comply with the HHS Mandate without even a fight. I spoke to Melissa in Human Resource at Gonzaga today and she confirmed December 1, 2012 Gonzaga will cover contraceptives, sterilizations and plan b drugs. This devastating news comes out at the same time Cardinal Dolan said as Catholics we will fight the immoral HHS Mandate.
As Catholics, we will be called in the days ahead to stand up for our Catholic faith and it will be difficult. Remember what our Lord said about being “lukewarm” and have courage.If you feel called to email or make a phone please do. Above all please keep Dr. McCulloh and Bishop Cupich in your prayers.
President Thayne McCulloh, D. Phil
Most Reverend Blase J Cupich
Mary Cole, Executive Assistant to the Bishop