Bp. Carlson of Saginaw speaks out on Prop. 2

His Excellency Most Reverend Robert Carlson, Bishop of Saginaw, has issued a statement to Catholics in that diocese about the issues to consider at this year’s election.

Read this also against the background of what the dreadful pro-abortion "Catholic" Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) has endorsed: Prop. 2.  Bp. Boyea of Lansing has spoken against this already.

My emphases and comments.

I. On Abortion and Catholic Voters

As the presidential election approaches, I want to respond to a few questions that many Catholics are asking themselves, and each other.

“Isn’t abortion the only issue in this election?” No. Any serious Catholic voter must be concerned about a great many issues in this election: the right to life, education, war and peace, how we treat the poor and the vulnerable, the economy.  [Watch what he does.]

“Isn’t abortion just one issue among others in this election?” No. Any serious Catholic voter must recognize abortion as the premier threat to human rights and dignity in our day. The right to life is the right through which all others flow.  [He is helping people prepare to respond to questions or objections in a conversation.]

“So, how’s a Catholic to vote?Let me put the matter as simply as I can: Abortion results in the killing of approximately 1 million children in the womb every year. A Catholic can, in good conscience, vote for a pro-choice candidate only if other issues outweigh this one in number and in kind[I don’t think we have seen this approach from an American bishop yet.  I am always, btw, delighted to see a bishop speak about anything having to do with "number and kind".  We need to remind people that they must confess their sins in number and kind.  These are very important distinctions.]

What do I mean by “in number and in kind”? Let’s take an example. The Church is opposed to the use of the death penalty. But the death penalty does not outweigh abortion because:

1) they differ in number: over 1 million abortions per year vs. less than 100 executions per year, and

2) they differ in kind: the directly willed death of the innocent vs. the directly willed death of those found guilty in a court of law.

Aren’t there other issues to be considered? Absolutely.

Immigration, the economy, the use of military force, the care of the poor, the use of renewable energy. These are all important issues in the life of the country. In good conscience, a Catholic voter must weigh them all.

But there is also a scale of values. [scale of values] In good conscience, a Catholic needs to recognize that all issues do not have the same weight. [Exactly.] The directly willed death of over a million innocent children each year certainly places a special burden on the conscience.

Can any other issue, or combination of issues, attain sufficient gravity to outweigh the directly willed destruction of 1 million children every year? That’s the question we must ask ourselves and each other as we weigh our election choices.  [Clearly from this the answer is "No. They do not outweigh the willed destruction of the innocent in the millions."]

II. Finding Cures and Protecting Life  [Making it more concrete.]

Proposal 2 asks us to amend the state constitution to expand the use of human embryos for the purposes of embryonic stem cell research.

Regarding the presidential election, there is the potential for Catholics to reach different conclusions in good conscience. Regarding Proposal 2, however, the duties of every Catholic voter are clear.

In the first place, Proposal 2 is scientifically unnecessary for following reasons.

1) The use of adult stem cells has already played a role in the treatment and cure of over 70 types of diseases, including sickle-cell anemia and various types of leukemia. The use of embryonic stem cells has resulted in 0 treatments or cures. (For more information, go to www.stemcellresearch.org)

2) Researchers prized embryonic stem cells because of their capacity to become any other cell in the body. (In scientific language, they are “pluri-potent” stem cells.) Scientific breakthroughs in the last year have made it possible to take ordinary skin cells from any adult and transform them into pluri-potent stem cells. (In scientific language, these are called “induced pluri-potent stem cells” or iPS cells.) The technique has already been used to cure sickle-cell anemia in mice.  [Therefore there is no need to attempt this with embryonic stem-cells.]

In other words, there are other and better avenues for finding cures. In fact Dr. Field, the Director of the Field Neurosciences Institute (FNI), has made a statement that the FNI “will not be using human embryonic stem cells in its clinical or preclinical research projects. We believe that stem cell therapy has tremendous potential for treating brain and spinal cord damage due to trauma or disease, but that either adult-derived stem cells or inducible pluri-potent stem cells have the potential to provide therapeutic efficacy in this regard.”

In the second place, Proposal 2 goes too far as a piece of legislation. Proposal 2 would not only authorize the destruction of human embryos to obtain pluri-potent stem cells, it would take the drastic step of prohibiting any state or local law that would discourage such research. Even a regulation that required researchers to pursue all other options before turning to embryonic stem cells would be unconstitutional. In this respect, Proposal 2 is not only scientifically unnecessary, it simply goes too far.

In the third place, and most importantly, Proposal 2 is based on principles that are morally reprehensible, [morally reprehensible] namely:

1) Things like size, age, and location matter in determining whether a human life is to be accorded legal protection. If those who are very small, very young, and dependent on others for their existence are not to be accorded legal protection, it is hard to see why those who are very old, very infirm, and equally dependent on others for their existence should be accorded legal protection.

2) One group of human beings can be used to advance the well-being of another group of human beings. This is the same principle that justified slavery.  [And Nazi human experimentation.]

3) We can sacrifice the lives of some individuals for the sake of research “because they are going to die anyway.” Those with advanced dementia are also going to die. That hardly justifies using them for research.

The reasoning behind Proposal 2 establishes dangerous moral precedents. In the words of one commentator, “If a principle is established by which some indisputably human lives do not warrant the protections traditionally associated with the dignity of the human person — because of their size, location, dependency, level of development, burdensomeness to others — it would seem that there are numerous other candidates for the application of the principle, beginning with the radically handicapped, both physically and mentally, not to mention millions of the aged and severely debilitated in our nation’s nursing homes.”

Finding cures for diseases is surely a great good. And science and technology are needed to show the way to those cures. But:

1) there are other avenues for research that protect life rather than destroying
it, and have a better scientific track record in finding cures, and

2) there are some things we must never do, like sacrificing our children’s lives to extend our own health and well-being.

Because it is scientifically unnecessary, because it goes too far, and because it is based on reprehensible moral principles, I call on all Catholics in the Diocese of Saginaw to oppose Proposal 2[There it is!]

For more information on Stem Cells and Proposal 2, visit the following websites: www.2goes2far.com, www.micause.org, www.stemcellresearch.org, and www.ncbcenter.org/10Myths.pdf

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson
Bishop of Saginaw


Another good statement.

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  1. very clearly laid out, good statement.

  2. Howard says:

    Since today is Halloween, read a good, traditional ghost story: M.R. James’ “Lost Hearts” (available online at http://www.curculio.org/mrj/GSA2.html). Then ask yourself, “Is there really any significant difference between what Mr. Abney was doing and human embryonic stem-cell research?”

  3. Brian says:

    Such lucid, intelligent, rational moral reasoning makes me proud to be Catholic.

    Unfortunately one or two generations of post-VC2 Catholics were deprived of the razor-sharp brilliance of Catholic Truth, and as a result, Catholics have lost their moral compass and are preparing to vote into office a president who will advocate for the legalized murder of millions of precious, innocent infants. These Catholics, deceived by the Prince of Darkness, feel that they are helping the poor and doing a loving thing.

    It is tragic on so many levels.

    No doubt, God will greatly reward Bishops who shine the light of truth into the darkness of this deluded, feel-good, culture of death.

    Thank you Lord, for sending us Bishops like His Excellency, the Most Reverend Robert Carlson.

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    It gladdens me most particularly to hear this (emphasis mine):

    “In the third place, and most importantly, Proposal 2 is based on principles that are morally reprehensible…”

    He speaks of the cures and therapies resulting from adult stem cell research and the lack of same from embryonic stem cell research. In my opinion, that’s useful if a cost-benefit analysis helps tip someone to the right answer. However, he makes clear the value at the heart of the issue.

    It wouldn’t matter if embryonic stem cell research was the field that produced 70 cures and adult cell research had produced nothing. The underlying principles, and therefore the practice, would still be morally reprehensible!

  5. Jeff Pinyan says:

    It reads like a good old, tried-and-true Catechism!

  6. Paul Stokell says:

    Saginaw: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

  7. magdalen says:

    Saginaw has come a long way but decades of misinformation will not be undone by this faithful bishop in a few years. I have many relatives in this diocese and they are absolutely pro-abortion and catholic. They think confession went out with vatican two and that God is mother / father or he/she and that you and I are the sacrament and women should be ordained. I have heard the ‘homilies’ m yself ridiculing those who would not change–to their liberal/modernist point of view.

    Bottom line: most will ignore this bishop.

  8. Matt says:

    Two points….

    One….it’s objectionable that the post has chosen to fill in the blanks on part one of the bishop’s well written letter. [? This makes no sense.]

    Secondly, again, please stop acting like Saginaw is some awful place…having grown up there I can assure you that Robert Carlson is not the first bishop to defend life issues in the diocese. The former (now deceased) bishop opposed the euthanasia ballot issue several years ago and also pushed back strongly against abortion.

    So, come on people, recognize what Bp Carlson is doing, but don’t do so through a viewpoint that is malformed and full of ill will.

    And I can’t wait until Fr Z (in charity I’m sure) puts a cute little graphic of a bunny or a turtle or a bitter pill up here in response to my post. [Was that necessary?]

  9. seminarian101 says:

    Bishop Cooney of the diocese of Gaylord wrote a similar letter. He spelled it out clearly that proposal 2 must be opposed by all Catholics.

    Here take a look: http://www.dioceseofgaylord.org/

  10. Disappointed says:

    I’m not nearly as happy about Bishop Carlson’s statement. In fact, I’m terribly disappointed. The reason is, for all the appropriate things he says in his letter (regarding abortion), he negates them all by stating: “Regarding the presidential election, there is the potential for Catholics to reach different conclusions in good conscience.” That’s all the pro-abortionists need. They will be quoting that just like they quote from Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It’s also worth noting that Fr.Zuhlsdorf doesn’t analyze that troubling sentence.

    When so many bishops have taken a courageous stand–urging Catholics to think of Judgment Day, making clear there is no proportional reason for the killing of children, etc.–Bishop Carlson has given a green light for Catholics to vote for the most radical pro-abortion candidate in history. In fact, his letter has probably set back the pro-life movement in the Saginaw Diocese. For years people will be saying, “Bishop Carlson said I can vote for whoever I want in good conscience,” or, “Bishop Carlson said I just have to follow my conscience.”

    I’ve always supported Bishop Carlson, and he’s been doing great work here. However, he really missed the boat on this one

  11. John says:

    Vote pro-life!

  12. I agree, this statement is true and well reasoned, and strong on prop. 2, but I think it is fatally flawed in regards to Sen. Barack Obama and the presidential election.

    National socialism in Germany didn’t come to power by the adoption of an ideology or election of propositions on the part of the German people. It was centered around a person and his will, and its ascension in Germany was due to that man’s ascension to power.

    When Bishop Carlson writes: “Regarding the presidential election, there is the potential for Catholics to reach different conclusions in good conscience” isn’t he contradicting his own moral reasoning? Is he not cognizant that an ideology needs a personality in order to become ascendant? If so, do you think he does so to save the diocese’s tax exempt status?

    These are sincere questions. I’m trying understand the moral reasoning and historical perspective of what I believe to be a good bishop.

  13. David Kastel says:

    Fr. Z, I have a problem with His Excellency’s arithmetic. The 1 million per year is not the difference between the number of legal abortions that will occur under Obama vs. the number which would occur under McCain. McCain voted to confirm Ginsburg and Breyer to the Supreme Court, knowing full well where they stood on Roe v Wade. He has publicly stated in the past that he does not believe Roe should be overturned. McCain may support additional restrictions against some late term abortions, parental notification, etc., than Obama, but this number is far fewer than 1 million, as the vast majority of abortions are (so-called) pre-viability, early term abortions.

    In order to justify the 1 million figure, we have to conclude all of the following:
    1) that McCain actually wants to appoint judges who want Roe overturned which is an assumption, certainly not a promise made by him
    2) that there will be at least one judge who dies or retires over the next 4 years
    3) that he will appoint anti-Roe judges rather than do the proto-typical McCain “moderate” compromise-with-leftists dance
    4) that the Democrat controlled Senate will confirm those anti-Roe judges to the Supreme Court
    5) that the Court will accept yet another abortion case whereby it might overturn Roe
    6) that Roberts and Alito, the newest members of the Court (neither of whom, I believe, has yet voted on overturning Roe) will both actually vote to overturn it
    7) that the judge who McCain appoints will also vote to overturn it
    8) that after all this, and the issue goes back to the states (where it certainly does belong), that all the states, including California and New York, with upwards of 35% of the entire population of the country, and which had both legalized abortion even prior to Roe, would then outlaw abortion. For sure, a lot more states will allow abortion today, probably most of the states.

    The 1 million figure is unsustainable and disingenuous.

  14. Fr. Brian Stanley says:

    Thursday afternoon on MSNBC, Sen. Obama has announced again that he will appoint only pro-choice judges to the federal bench. He is, once again, endorsing and promoting an intrinsic evil and seeks to make it part of the judicial philosophy “litmus test” for nominees to the bench, under the guise of a woman’s “right to privacy.” Sen. Obama has reaffirmed his support of abortion rights, and seeks to expand those rights through the courts. Catholics need to know that a vote for Sen. Obama is a vote for the expansion of abortion through promotion of abortion rights legislation, through direct executive orders, and through judicial appointments and legal decisions.

  15. Dear Mr. Kastel:

    What figure do you have that wouldn’t be disingenuous and unsustainable? Do you have a “sustainable” number of abortions annually that you find acceptable? What if the actual figure were 750,000 — would it make a huge difference to you, or would you still imply that the bishop is lying? It really begs the question: how many abortions are YOU willing to tolerate, Mr. Kastel? Does it become less intrinsically evil for you if the number of abortions is lower? It is evident that Bishop Carlson finds ONE abortion one too many, and that ONE abortion is unsustainable and intolerable, as it is without question an intrinsic evil.

    This is for certain: Sen. Obama intends to expand availability and funding for abortions, and means to roll back any prohibitions. Sen. McCain is pro-life — and intends to decrease the number of abortions through legislation and regulation. It is highly speculative whether abolishing Roe v. Wade would actually increase the number of abortions in the US.

    As you willingly admit that this is and should be a matter for each of the states to decide, wouldn’t it be most prudent to elect a president who seeks to return that decision to the voters in each state, rather than a president who seeks to expand abortions through funding, executive decrees, support of more liberalized legislation, and appointments to the federal bench, and seeks to sustain Roe v. Wade as an “emanation” from the alleged “right to privacy”?

  16. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    I note that the Diocese of Saginaw is now one of the most populous U.S. dioceses which does not have an every-Sunday Traditional Latin Mass. In fact, to my recollection, it does not have such a Mass on any basis at all. Some time ago, Bsp. Carlson remarked that there were not priests in his Diocese who were willing and able to say it. I hope that he considers doing something about this. The Diocese of Gaylord to the north and those of Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids, not to mention the local Metropolitan Archdiocese, all have the old Mass every Sunday. Time to join the club, Saginaw!


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