Cardinal O'Malley reacts to leaked SCOTUS draft decision

BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley addressed the backlash against the Supreme Court's expected overturning of Roe v. Wade and reiterated the Catholic Church's position in the national abortion debate in his May 13 weekly blog post.

His reaction followed the media's publication of a draft of Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health on May 2. The draft indicated that the Supreme Court is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.

In his post on, Cardinal O'Malley said that at a meeting of the Presbyteral Council on May 12, Archdiocesan General Counsel Fran O'Connor and Secretary for Social Services Father Bryan Hehir had briefed the priests about ramifications of the court's pending decision.

Cardinal O'Malley acknowledged that the leaked document is "only a potential version of what the final decision may be." However, he said, he wanted to address the issue because "extreme things are being said." He also said that the targeting of Catholic institutions for vandalism by abortion supporters in the days after the leak was "truly outrageous."

"The Church has worked, prayed, and advocated for 50 years for the overturning of this very flawed decision, in which an activist court legislated for the entire country rather than allowing the American people to have a vote on this issue. For us, this is not a question of Catholic doctrine that we want to impose on the country, but rather a matter of defense of innocent human life, which is the obligation of everyone -- regardless of faith," Cardinal O'Malley said.

His blog entry included the text of a prepared statement in which he identified two characteristics that have marked the Catholic Church's position in the abortion debate.

First, he said, although Catholic moral teaching opposes abortion, as it has since the apostolic era, "the case we have made to our religiously pluralistic nation is that abortion is fundamentally a human rights question."

"Such questions are argued in rational terms: the right in danger is the right to life. Its defense in the public arena can and should be articulated in ways which those of any faith or no faith can analyze and understand," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He said the Church will continue to make that case no matter what the court's final decision turns out to be.

The second characteristic Cardinal O'Malley named is that "the human rights argument means that human life must be protected before birth and after birth."

"A pro-life position does not end at birth; it must extend to a public vision which encompasses the common good of our society. The child whose life is protected by the moral and civil law deserves the support of a society which will provide the socio-economic conditions in which life can flourish," he said.

In closing, the cardinal acknowledged that a draft opinion would not settle the national debate over abortion.

"As it goes forward, before and after the final decision is made, my hope is that all participants will respect the dignity of others; on a question as deep as the one we seek to decide this attitude is essential," he said.