Cardinal O'Connor and Life Issues First

Speaking yesterday at the opening of a national conference on the "culture of life" at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, New York Cardinal John O'Connor took pride in being portrayed as a religious zealot by those who oppose the pro-life movement.

He said, "Call me a right-wing fundamentalist. Call me a religious nut. This changes nothing. To claim the right to kill the innocent is to claim the right to be God." He also condemned the aspects of modernity that make "everyone their own god," saying, "In our society, law has become the great teacher. What we do as gods is change our laws to fit our determination of good and evil."

O'Connor admonished church workers to persevere -- "despite legal setbacks" -- by promoting "nonviolence, adoptions and street marches while denouncing attacks on [abortion practitioners]" He also urged continued legislative work and care for pregnant women facing unplanned pregnancies through crisis pregnancy centers.

O'Connor also stressed the primacy of life issues over other Church teachings that cross over into the public sector. He said, "This is a demon. ... This has to be diabolic, what's happening in our country, the culture of death."

Conference goers attempted to clarify the teachings of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who promoted what he called the "consistent ethic of life" or "seamless garment" of social justice mandates. The Washington Times reports that the new "image is God's house, with abortion and euthanasia as the 'foundation' and unemployment, racism, housing and health care 'crossbeams and walls.'"

Church spokesperson Helen Alvare said that under the old understanding, lawmakers voting for abortion could say, "We are good on eight out of 10, so leave us alone." No longer.

Pope John Paul II also issued a written statement to the conference, saying in a "strange paradox" that the "sanctity of life is being denied by an appeal to freedom, democracy, pluralism, even reason and compassion." The conference closes today, with talks by five other U.S. cardinals, a representative from the Vatican and experts on sexuality, the media, population and reproductive issues (Witham, Washington Times, 3/4).

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