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Candidates respond to Catholic Bishops' call to cut ties with Texas Right To Life

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has advised parishes across the Lone Star State to cut ties with the Texas Right To Life organization.

In a letter to parishes, the Bishops claim Texas Right to Life goes against church teaching on pro-life and end-of-life issues. The Bishops also said Texas Right to Life's voting guide is misleading on the voting record of many pro-life lawmakers.

Several local lawmakers and candidates who have been attacked or endorsed by Texas Right To Life responded to the Bishops' claims.

Texas Senate District 31 incumbant Kel Seliger noted that he has been attacked by Texas Right To Life despite receiving a 100% rating from the organization.

"I got endorsed by Texas Alliance for Life and Life PAC. Texas Right to Life gave me a 100% rating and they still are contributing money against me and attacking me.

"It does seem there is something wrong with this picture. You would have to look at their donors to see if there are any extraordinarily large contributors who might persuade them to attack someone who is 100% pro-life, even by their own rating system.

"Nobody is more definitively pro-life than the Catholic Bishops. When a group presumes they are somehow more authoritative, there must be another agenda," Seliger said.

Victor Leal, who is challenging Seliger in the March 6 GOP primary, defended Texas Right To Life and said he is leary when the Catholic Bishops "wade into public policy."

"I'm a deeply committed Catholic who strives to cooperate with God's grace to live my Catholic faith. The timing of the Bishops on this issue however is suspect.

"I'm always leary when Catholic Bishops wade into public policy. It was the U.S. Catholic Bishops who cooperated with President Obama that gave us the disaster that is Obamacare," Leal said.

Leal is one of two challengers in the Texas Senate District 31 GOP primary to be endorsed by Texas Right To Life.

"I'm honored to have the endorsement of Texas Right To Life and I look forward to defending life from conception to natural death in the Texas Senate," Leal said.

Former Midland mayor Mike Canon is has also been endorsed by Texas Right To Life in his second attempt to unseat Seliger. Canon did not respond to the High Plains Daily News request for a written comment.

Incumbant 87th District Texas State Representative Four Price has also been attacked by Texas Right To Life leading up to the March primary. Price noted that Texas Right To Life has endorsed his challenger who “has no voting record whatsoever."

“My initial reaction is I compliment the bishops for having the courage to speak out. They are saying it’s not OK to mislead people, especially during this election season when finding facts can be hard.”

"I think it’s kind of the point the Bishops were trying to make with members like me who have a very pro-life voting record,” Price said.

Price's challenger, Drew Brassfield, said that "everyone is entitled to have their own opinion. Brassfield went on to defend the organization that has endorsed him over Price.

“I just simply want to be a legislator who saves babies from abortions in law, and I know that Texas Right to Life is a reliable group that does that," Brassfield said.

One of the main issues the Bishops have with Texas Right to Life stems from the anti-abortion group's "rejection of incremental pro-life reforms." According to Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae, a church document that talks about the sanctity of human life, incremental reforms are better than none.

"The organization Texas Right to Life at times seeks volunteers from parishes and Catholic schools to participate in their efforts. We write to inform you of our concerns with Texas Right to Life and we urge parishes not to participate in their activities or allow the organization to use parish sites. (Texas Right to Life is not to be confused with Texas Alliance for Life or Texans for Life Coalition, which are separate organizations and remain consistent with the bishops’ positions.)

"1. Conflicts on pro-life reform. Texas Right to Life often opposes the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and has implied that the bishops do not faithfully represent Church teaching. Part of the dispute is rooted in Texas Right to Life’s rejection of incremental pro-life reforms, which bishops support following the guidance of St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae. An incremental reform is one which improves the current situation but does not reform the status quo as much as we might desire. It is “incrementally” better than the status quo.

"Evangelium Vitae states: A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on… This [vote] does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects. (EV, 73)

"2. Conflicts on end-of-life reform. The bishops have been compelled to publicly correct Texas Right to Life’s misstatements on end-of-life care and advance directives, in which Texas Right to Life implied that the legislation the bishops were supporting allowed euthanasia and death panels rather than the reality that the legislation reflected the long-standing Church teaching requiring a balance of patient autonomy and the physician conscience protection," the Bishops stated.

The Bishops went on to say that Texas Right To Life Texas Right to Life's voting guide is misleading on the voting record of many pro-life lawmakers.

"Texas Right to Life publishes a scorecard that purports to show which Texas legislators are pro-life. We believe this publication is not based on a fair analysis of a legislator’s work, but rather upon whether the legislator has followed voting recommendations of Texas Right to Life. Unfortunately, a number of legislators who have consistently voted for pro-life and end of life legislation have been opposed by Texas Right to Life.

"We encourage all Catholics to engage in pro-life legislative advocacy by engaging with the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, joining the Texas Catholic Advocacy Network, and by supporting pro-life groups which engage in respectful legislative advocacy," the Bishops stated in the letter to Texas parishes.

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