(RNS) – Although U.S. Catholic bishops have traditionally not endorsed political candidates or political parties, many bishops have made their preference for Republicans clear for all to see. They embraced the Republicans and avoided the Democrats because the former promised to restrict abortion while the latter tried to facilitate abortion for women.
For many bishops, abortion is the most important issue because according to them abortion is a matter of life and death, and you cannot enjoy any other human right without life.
After decades of promises, Republican-appointed judges in the U.S. Supreme Court are on the verge of finally eliminating the right to abortion, according to a leaked draft Supreme Court decision. Roe v. Wade, the court ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion, appears to be on its last legs. It could disappear in a few weeks.
The Catholic bishops will celebrate this victory for which they have worked for decades, but ironically it should lead to a divorce between the bishops and the Republicans. The GOP has nothing else to offer them. In fact, with the exception of abortion, his proposals are the opposite of Catholic social teaching. The bishops got what they wanted from this marriage; it’s time to turn the page.
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Granted, Republicans are also better on religious liberty issues, but here the bishops also got what they wanted. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in the Boston Flag case, Shurtleff v. Boston, shows that the court will require government entities to reasonably accommodate religious views.
More importantly, the court’s decision allowing a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia to refuse same-sex couples means that Catholic agencies will be free to impose conditions required by the bishops.
There will be national conflicts over abortion and religious freedom in the future, but these will be minor compared to these victories. Do the Bishops want to stick with Republicans during this cleanup, or do they want to work with Democrats on their other priorities?
One could say that although the bishops won at the national level, the struggle has now shifted to the states. Do the bishops want to pursue their republican alliance to ban abortion in all states of the union? It will depend on the bishops of each state. At the national level, the fight is over.
Some may want Congress to take the next step and ban abortion nationwide. Republicans could try to do so after the midterm elections if they win both houses of Congress, but they would face a steep hurdle in the Senate with a filibuster from Democrats. And if Republicans backed down from the filibuster and passed a bill, they would face a veto from President Joe Biden.
And even if the Republicans end up winning both houses of Congress and the presidency, any bill they pass will eventually be repealed when the political tide turns and the Democrats return to power.
Catholic bishops face a choice. Do they want to maintain their alliance with the Republicans and continue the trench warfare over abortion, or do they declare victory and move on?
They could look to their European brethren for advice.
In Europe, abortion has been legalized by legislation or by referendum. This has not been done by the courts. When the democratic process legalized limited abortions, the bishops conceded defeat. In Europe, the status quo on abortion is rarely challenged. American bishops could follow a similar strategy in blue states.
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When the expected Supreme Court decision is released, bishops will be able to declare victory on abortion and focus on social programs such as health care, childcare, education, jobs and credits. child tax that helps women have and raise children so they are not forced to have abortions.
Or the bishops can continue the endless war on abortion.
I guess they will keep fighting until there is consensus in America on abortion. Consensus on a compromise may come one day, but only after years of trench warfare in the states. It will mean sticking with the Republicans and sacrificing all their other priorities.
Is this a wise choice?