You wouldn’t know it, because they were essentially ignored by Denver media (except Channel 7, Denver’s ABC affiliate), but thousands of anti-choice protesters rallied on the west steps of the state capitol Saturday in frigid weather, marking the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
In speeches, spiked with attacks on Planned Parenthood, rally-goers were exorted to take action on “life” issues–banning all abortion and preventing the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.
The big-cheese speaker at the March for Life event was Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who promised, “We will not be silenced,” after telling the crowd to call and email their state legislators–and to attend Colorado’s March caucuses, where political parties select candidates and hash out party platforms.
“Bombard [legislators] with emails,” Aquila said at one point.
Following the lead of his predecessor, former Dener Archbishop Charles Chaput, Aquila promotes political activism by Catholics. He hasn’t gone so far as Chaput did in recommending that faithful Catholics vote against one presidential candidate (Kerry) and for another (Bush). Instead, Aquila acted as if he was nonpartisan on Saturday, urging the protestors to look at candidates through the filter of “life” issues, without mentioning a political party.
But one of the issues that most clearly divides the two parties these days is abortion, with Democrats mostly being pro-choice and Republicans mostly not. Among the presidential candidates, the division among the two parties is shocking.
So Aquila’s decision to focus the attention of Catholics on “life,” issues, rather than, say immigration, poverty, or climate change, puts him in the pocket of Republicans–especially given that he made no mention of the death penalty on Saturday, which is a “life” issue embraced by Democrats. Aquila’s priorities are GOP priorities.
You can see this in Aquila’s attitude toward Planned Parenthood, which came up repeatedly at the rally. Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood’s work has nothing to do with abortion but instead with providing women, many of them low-income, with basic health care and family planning.
So does Aquila think Catholics should support candidates who support Planned Parenthood? For an RH Reality Check post, I asked Aquila this question after the rally.
“No,” he told me,”I believe that we really need to give witness to life, and Planned Parenthood does not give witness to life.”
Pope Francis, who’s focused the world’s attention on economic inequality and environmental disasters, has given Aquila the opening to have said something very different to me, along the lines of, “Planned Parenthood mostly embodies what the Catholic Church stands for, serving the poor and healing the sick. It’s up to individual Catholics look at the world’s needs and struggles and act in accordance with their faith.”
I honestly think, if the Catholic Church survives, someday a future Archbishop in Denver will.
RESPONSE FROM THE ARCHBISHOP’S OFFICE:
Karna Swanson, Communications Director, Archdiocese of Denver, writes:
It was unfortunate to see you mischaracterize the position of Archbishop Aquila on life issues in this blog post. You say, “Aquila’s priorities are GOP priorities.”
Actually, the Archbishop is in lock-step with the priorities of Pope Francis that you mention, particularly immigration and the death penalty. His position against the death penalty is well known.
See his column here on the issue: http://denvercatholic.org/…/power-love-conversion…/…
“The problem with the death penalty,” he states, “is that in trying to solve the problem of violence, we take up violence as our tool. Christians need to stop the cycles of violence that erode our souls—we need to stop participating in the culture of death. Instead of deterring crime, the culture of death makes all of us more open to evil and violence and crime.”
See his letter on immigration here: http://archden.org/…/Immigration-and-future-bilingual.pdf
See his column on the “Francis Option” here:http://denvercatholic.org/…/secular-slums-and-the…/…
A top priority of Archbishop Aquila is life. And he supports people and organizations that promote life, and help all life to flourish.
Regarding Planned Parenthood, it’s a fact that according to their 2013-2014 report, the organization performed 327,653 abortions. To the archbishop, and to Catholics, that is a loss of 327,653 lives.
You can mislead with stats that show that Planned Parenthood “only” does so many abortions a year compared with other services they provide, but the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of lives are ended each year by this organization. It doesn’t matter what other redeeming qualities they may have, that number—327,653—cannot be ignored. That number means that Planned Parenthood is an organization that promotes death, not life.
For this reason, neither Pope Francis, nor Archbishop Aquila, nor any future archbishop, will ever be able to say, “Planned Parenthood mostly embodies what the Catholic Church stands for,” because the Catholic Church will always stand for life, at all stages, in every moment.