At their fall general assembly, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a new letter that declared the “threat of abortion” their number one priority.

“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 2271

On Tuesday, the USCCB adopted in a 207-24 vote a letter to be included as an introduction to the reissue of their 2015 statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a guide Catholics for in their political choices, including voting in the next election cycle.

The letter affirms abortion as the number one priority above all else:

“The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives it destroys. Our efforts to protect the unborn remain as important as ever.”

In the letter, they say that despite abortion being the most urgent issue of morality, that it is no excuse to avoid other issues, such as climate change:

“At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life
and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.

Liberal-leaning Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego disagreed with the letter having abortion as the “preeminent issue” society faces: “We should get rid of preeminent.” They believed the letter does not agree with Pope Francis’ encyclical Gaudete et Exsultate, which teaches the “ideological error” of believing that “the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend.”

Despite the letter explicitly saying abortion being the number one issue is no excuse to avoid others, they said the letter will somehow still be used to say abortion “does overcome all the other issues,” and that “it is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia rebuked the pair by denying that “our saying that abortion is preeminent is contrary to the teaching of the pope.” He said their comments only “sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father.”

“We do support the Holy Father completely. What he said is true. But it has been very clearly the articulated opinion of the bishops’ conference for many years that pro-life is still the preeminent issue. It doesn’t mean that the others are not equal in dignity. It’s just time in this certain circumstances of our church in the United States.”

The bishops in attendance at the fall general assembly applauded Chaput and voted to deny Cupich’s and McElroy’s proposed revisions 143-69.

You can read the full letter from the USCCB here.

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