By Michael Hichborn
Since 2003, American Life League has taken out a full-page ad in USA Today, to send a message to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its annual spring three-day conference. The ads call on the bishops to obey Canon 915 by denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians and other public figures. This year’s ad, titled “A Message of Salvation for the Shepherds of the Catholic Church,” displays a 3-D ultrasound image of a preborn baby next to a quote from the Gospel of Matthew: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” The ad can be viewed here: http://www.all.org/pdf/LeastOfTheseAdUSAtoday.pdf.
ALL places these ads in USA Today because most hotels deliver it to their guests’ rooms. The ad is timed for delivery to the bishops on the first morning of the conference. On the first day of the conference, however, we were rather shocked to learn that the bishops had not seen the ad because USA Today was never delivered to the bishops’ rooms.
While the situation is somewhat complicated, the odd circumstances and strange responses to our questions cause us to ask, “Did the USCCB’s leadership deliberately prevent the attending bishops from seeing ALL’s ad on the first day of the conference?”
An American Life League employee was on the ground in San Antonio, Texas, where the conference took place, and reported what could have been an attempt to prevent the ad from reaching the bishops’ rooms:
On Wed. morning, I woke up to find the New York Times at my door. I called the desk asking where USA Today was, and they said they had some at the desk and would send one up to me. I explained that it was our understanding from talking with hotel personnel that USA Today would be delivered to all the rooms. The person at the desk stated that they had stopped delivering USA Today a couple of weeks ago, but that they keep a small bundle for those who request it. She was surprised that I had received the New York Times, as that is not the paper they normally distribute.
I checked my copy of USA Today that was sent up to my room and found that the ad was indeed in it. I called the desk again and asked for a member of management. The person who answered was eager to please and said that it was no problem; he could run a list of the bishops and have USA Today delivered to their rooms. [American Life League offered to pay, if there was a fee for this service.] He thought he had enough copies, but if not, he would let me know.
Some time passed and I did not hear back from them, so I called again. This time, he had backed down, saying that the drop would have to be approved by the USCCB contact person. He referred me to Lisa, the event supervisor for the hotel, who was coordinating with the USCCB.
Lisa called me and said that we would not be able to make any drops of USA Today, due to security issues and because the bishops had approved only of having the New York Times dropped during their stay.
When an offer to pay for the hotel to distribute a newspaper they already have stocked is first accepted and then refused because the bishops stated that they only wanted the New York Times (one of the most liberal papers in the country), we can only conclude that the USCCB’s leadership wished to prevent the attending bishops from seeing our ad during the conference. And given that this is the first time—in six years of placing such ads—that something like this has happened, we can’t help but think that this was a deliberate dodge.
However, upon their return to their own diocese, each bishop who attended the conference will find a copy of the ad waiting for them in the mail.
The sad conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that the ads we place must be tugging at the consciences of the bishops who see them. And with hardened hearts, the USCCB’s leadership apparently wishes to altogether remove our reminder of the duty that most of the U.S. bishops still ignore.
But we still have hope that, through persistence, the U.S. bishops, as a whole, will finally realize their obligation to deny Holy Communion to pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a poor widow and an unjust judge. The judge "did not fear God, neither did he care for people." Nevertheless, he eventually agreed to do justice to a poor widow because she was so persistent in her pursuit of justice. And inspired by our Blessed Lord’s own words, American Life League will continue to remind the bishops of their just duty, so that we will see eventually the day when all of the Church’s shepherds have made it abundantly clear that you can’t be both Catholic and pro-abortion.
Michael Hichborn is the director of American Life League’s Canon 915 project, which encourages Catholic bishops and priests to protect the Holy Eucharist from sacrilege.