Voters should make abortion and the vulnerability of the unborn their top priority, says Catholic Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.
Speaking with LifeSiteNews during a Q&A session about the bishops' voting guide for Catholics at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring general assembly meeting in Baltimore, Strickland said that while other issues should be on a voter's radar, abortion must take precedence.
"It has a priority, because, unless you can manage to be born you really don’t have any life issues. So certainly that’s foundational," Strickland said, adding that "atrocious laws" like those in New York and Virginia should stir people's conscience.
While Strickland does not discount immigration issues and the quality of life for anyone at any stage of development, he conceded that the unborn child in the mother's womb is the most vulnerable of all and carries a different set of circumstances than, say, an able-bodied 25-year-old man.
Certainly, because conception is where it begins, and I think even scientifically we can say that that newly conceived child is about as vulnerable as a human being ever can be. And isn’t it tragic that that vulnerability remains in the womb, even after a child is really developed, and even can be viable outside the womb, they remain vulnerable in today’s society, and even immediately after birth in some places.
I would very clearly say, absolutely, at conception is where the precious gift of life is given, and that’s where the most important emphasis needs to be, because it’s the most vulnerable. And then as that vulnerability diminishes, still, the value of the person is there. For (example), the 25-year-old, strong, man, is in a different circumstance than a newly conceived child or an unborn child in the womb.
Later, when LifeSiteNews asked if Catholic bishops should bar pro-abortion politicians from receiving Holy Communion, he said that the bishops should do so not out of punishment but out of care for the politician's soul, so that they may repent and avoid any further occasion of sin or scandal.
"We’re not attackers, we’re shepherds, but we should care for that person," said Strickland. "Care for a presidential candidate who claims to be Catholic but isn’t upholding the basic Deposit of Faith — that we promised to guard as bishops, to guard the deposit of faith, whole and incorrupt, entire and incorrupt I think are the exact words."
According to Catholic Canon Law 915, people who publicly express grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. The Catholic Church has always taught abortion to be intrinsically evil and that people who either procure or support the practice are in grave error that can only be reconciled through the sacrament of confession.
Bishop Strickland's support for making abortion a top priority and for barring pro-abortion politicians from Holy Communion stands in direct contrast with Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who recently said he would allow such lawmakers to receive what Catholics believe to be the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ — despite his state of Illinois recently liberalizing its already-permissive abortion regime.