I interviewed Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph today. Here’s the transcript of that conversation:
HH: As promised, I am joined now by Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, St. Joseph. Bishop Finn, welcome to the program, it’s a pleasure to have you on.
RF: Thanks, Hugh, I’m glad to be with you.
HH: Now Bishop, as of this morning, the latest poll that I’ve seen, IBD Tipp poll says that up to 13% of Roman Catholics are undecided on the presidential election. Speaking right to them, what should they be weighing in their minds?
RF: Well, I just don’t think there’s any question that in all of Church teaching that the life issues, particularly the protection of unborn children against the crime of abortion, has to be our greatest priority. This is an ongoing slaughter of 4,000 children every single day for the last 35 years. And if we don’t do anything about it, we bear a lot of responsibility. If we support and promote persons who have pledged to extend it and intensify the slaughter, then we bear a great responsibility with them.[# More #]
HH: When you say bear a great responsibility, does that rise to the level, in the eyes of the Church teaching, to grave sin?
RF: I think it is, of course. You know, how important is, you know, someone might say how important is my vote. Well, ask somebody if they think what they think if their vote was taken away from them, or if they felt that they had been defrauded of their vote. And I think all of us as Americans would say my vote’s very, very important. So…and then we’re talking about the willful destruction, direct destruction of a human life. And so when you couple the gravity of the sense of our vote, and the gravity of the action of abortion, and we see candidates pledge that they’re going to, for example, in addition to promoting everything that we have right now, they’re going to enact the Freedom Of Choice Act, removing all reasonable limitations. So many Americans say they want limitations on abortion. The Freedom Of Choice Act would remove every single limitation that’s been put in place by well-meaning folks for the last 35 years-parental notification, mandatory waiting periods, counseling, the use of ultrasounds, and not to speak of the fact that taxpayers will have to pay for abortions, and also the conscious clauses will be removed from individual healthcare workers, or even institutions. So you can’t support a person who wants to go to complete full-scale war against the unborn.
HH: Bishop Finn, if a Catholic comes to you and says yeah, but I’m worried about the poor, and there’s global warming, and candidate X is so much better than candidate Y on those, even though candidate X is pro-choice, and in fact, an absolutist when it comes to abortion rights. Doesn’t that balance out? What’s the response?
RF: Well, you know, some people say that if you have some candidate who wants to do all kind of great things for the poor, that this is going to reach abortion at its foundations. But the foundation of abortion is not poverty. The poor don’t necessarily hate their children and desire to get rid of them or don’t want them anymore than the rich, some of them want them, and some of them dispose of them. But the real root of abortion in our country is this total disregard and numbness about the value of human life. It’s the idolatry of self and selfish convenience. It’s the total neglect of personal responsibility. These are the things that are at the root of abortion, not just poverty. I’m afraid some people think that if we throw enough money at people, well then they’re going to stop all their choices for abortion. I don’t think that will work. I don’t think that it would be the solution fully, even if it was. And the same people who are then promoting someone who wants to remove limitations on abortions, which are measurable at having reduced abortions by 125,000 a year through parental notifications and the like, they can’t be serious. They can’t be serious that voting for someone who’s going to throw some more money at the poor is going to reduce abortion. What they’re looking for is a way to salve their conscience, and give them a rationalization that will help them sleep tomorrow after they vote.
HH: I’m talking with Bishop Robert Finn of the Archdiocese of Kansas City. Bishop, I’ve had Archbishop Chaput on this program, I’ve read Cardinal Rigali’s letter as well. And still I have people come up to me in places like Ohio and Minnesota after I’ve done this last week when I was traveling around, tell me that their local priests are counseling them it’s okay to vote for Barack Obama, it’s okay to vote for a candidate who’s radically pro-choice because of other reasons. If such a priest if known to you in your diocese, do you discipline them.
RF: Well, we certainly have to talk in a very serious way. I think priests are subject to many of the same limitations as other people. They may have grown up in a particular partisan household that favors a candidate regardless of their moral stance. They’re among those people who want to look for a way to rationalize their conscience. But yes, as a bishop, I have to try to hold my priests accountable for misleading people.
HH: And does that, do you communicate to their parishes that their priest is not to be listened to when you discover something like that?
RF: No, I mean I would not typically denounce the priest to his parish, because that’s not good for the unity of the flock, either. But it may mean that as the father of my priests, I have to have some heart to heart talks.
HH: If I can keep you, Bishop, I will come right back and ask you a couple more questions.
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HH: Bishop Finn, a lot of Catholics are wondering what to do tomorrow, it’s voting day. And I want you to sum it up for them, because it can’t be repeated enough how they’re supposed to approach this most important civic exercise with a sort of Catholic worldview.
RF: Well, I think that they have to see their apostolic mandate to do what they can to support human life. This slaughter’s been going on for so, so long, and it’s going to be a tough battle before us no matter what. But we can’t set it back that much more. People have to realize that they will be held accountable for these important decisions before God. I won’t know. They’ll do what they do privately. So they have to pray. They have to pray for the light of the Holy Spirit, they have to study what the candidates stand for, but also study what the Church teaches. The teaching is exceedingly clear. Don’t follow a false shepherd. Read it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read it in the statements of our Holy Father’s. And they’re non-partisan. They’re not even Americans. But again and again, they hold up for us the values of life. And then pray for the fortitude on the determination to exercise this important act of patriotism in a way that expresses a virtue and a value, rather than hides behind a party.
HH: When you say they will be held accountable for their votes, do you mean that it could cost someone their eternal soul?
RF: Well, of course. I mean, the decisions that we make are important, and they have…you know, these people who get elected, they don’t just arrive all on their own. We elect them. We, you and I support them or we don’t. And so we have some participation in that. Now you know, someone wrote to me and said well, you know, I voted for Obama, I’ll repent later. And well, you know, I hope that God does change a heart if they feel that they’ve made a terrible mistake and to have to repent. But it’s much more important and vital that we make the right decision when it’s before us.
HH: Do you think, last question, Bishop Finn, thanks again for being here, if someone votes for Obama and they know they’re voting in their mind for abortion rights absolutism, could they receive, under the Church’s teaching, Communion the very next day?
RF: Well, they shouldn’t. It’s not a matter of public action, so it’s not the same scandal as a public official who places, a legislator who places a public vote in support of abortion. But no, if formal cooperation, there’s absolutely no doubt about it that if you agree with the right of abortion, you shouldn’t be, you’re in grave sin. You shouldn’t be receiving the Sacraments.
HH: Bishop Finn, thank you.
End of interview.