Catholic Bishop to Pro-Life Groups: 'Merely Anti-Abortion' Not Enough

Bishop Robert N. Lynch, head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, listens to a  reporter's question during a news conference Fri
Bishop Robert N. Lynch, head of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, listens to a reporter's question during a news conference Friday, March 22, 2002, in St. Petersburg, Fla., regarding an allegation of sexual misconduct made by a former head of communications for the diocese against Lynch. Lynch denied the allegation. (AP Photo/Scott Martin)

Catholic progressives are used to feeling the heat from some bishops who give the impression that abortion is the only life issue. It's not every day that you hear a Catholic bishop directly challenge self-identified "pro-life" groups for their selective moralizing and crass tactics. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg -- a moderate who has also questioned some religious leaders' apocalyptic denunciations of the Obama administration's contraception coverage requirements as part of the Affordable Care Act -- jumps into the fray on his blog:

I am convinced that many so called Pro-Life groups are not really pro-life but merely anti-abortion. We heard nothing from the heavy hitters in the prolife movement in the last week when Florida last night executed a man on death row for 34 years having been diagnosed as a severe schizophrenic.

And this:

Many priests grow weary of continual calls to action for legislative support for abortion and contraception related issues but nothing for immigration reform, food aid, and capital punishment. And, this is a big one, priests don't like unfair attacks on things they highly value and esteem, like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services.

Bishop Lynch is responding to trends I wrote about recently in a new report that uncovers how pro-life groups like the American Life League are waging a relentless campaign to undermine the church's most respected social justice ministries. He doesn't beat around the bush:

From time to time, I suspect when these organizations need money, they try to stir up a hornet's nest or storm by attacking a Catholic organization, usually falsely accusing them of being anti-life, pro-contraception, either pro or soft on abortion, etc. The storms start small enough and then occasionally grow in size. It's simply a money raising scheme with little regard for the human lives which they allege they seek to protect -- well maybe it is only pre-born human life in which they are interested.

It's refreshing to hear a bishop stand up for the church's consistent ethic of life tradition in a way that puts public pressure on conservatives who usually receive a free pass from the hierarchy.