Bishop With First-Hand Knowledge of Abortion as a Med Student Explains How a Catholic Should Vote This Year
DENVER, Colorado — With the American presidential election only 27 days away, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver has written a public letter on the Catholic vote. “The defense of life and religious freedom must be the key issues for a Christian,” he declares. While this is what should be expected from a Catholic bishop, Aquila additionally revealed in 2013 that he witnessed two abortions as a medical student in 1968, giving him firsthand experience to back his political opinions. Despite the general unpleasantness of this election cycle, a Catholic can still ascertain how to cast the right vote.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila wrote about his experience as a lapsed Catholic medical student in a 2013 pastoral letter commemorating the 40-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He spent three years working in an emergency room as an orderly in the late 1960s. “When I began the job, I hadn’t thought much about human suffering or about human dignity,” he wrote. One day, however, Aquila walked into a surgical unit and saw the body of an aborted baby lying in a sink, forgotten. “I remember being stunned,” he said. “I remember thinking I had to baptize that child.”
The second encounter with abortion that Aquila had, however, was even more distressing. A young woman came into the emergency room requiring operation to repair a failed abortion. The future Archbishop watched as the doctor was forced to remove the parts of a baby from the woman’s body. “I witnessed a tiny human being destroyed by violence. The memory haunts me,” the archbishop concluded. “I will never forget that I stood witness to acts of unspeakable brutality.”
“I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that,” he said. “And I have never been the same. My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I know, without a doubt, that abortion is a violent act of murder and exploitation. And I know that our responsibility is to work and pray without ceasing for its end.”
“Every follower of Christ must oppose at all times the inflicted direct killing of an innocent human being.” Archbishop Samuel Aquila
With this background, the Archbishop addresses the 2016 presidential election in the following terms. “Both candidates are very poor, have little credibility and have made comments that have ruffled my feathers,” he begins. “The American people are fed up with politicians and the ruling class of both parties. This being so, what should Catholics do when we vote in November?”
The Democratic party platform demonstrates a ideological commitment to abortion, which must be opposed, the Archbishop points out. Democrats have declared their intention to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding of domestic abortions, and the Helms Amendment, which restricts federal funding of abortions overseas. He also points out the connection to religious liberty, using as an example the long-standing battle between the U.S. government and the Little Sisters of the Poor to force the religious order’s compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s abortion and contraceptive provisions.
In contrast, the Republican Party platform supports the Hyde Amendment and, just this year, has strengthened its defense of life, calling for the suspension of funding for Planned Parenthood, prohibiting abortion by dismemberment and opposing assisted suicide. “The right to life is the most important and fundamental right because life is necessary for any other right or issue. Other issues can be discussed legitimately among Christians — such as what policies are most effective in caring for the poor — but every follower of Christ must oppose at all times the inflicted direct killing of an innocent human being,” the Archbishop states.