DENVER, COLORADO, May 29, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The archbishop-designate of Denver, the Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, has heartened the pro-life community with his long history of pro-life activism.
Pope Benedict XVI selected the 61-year-old native Californian, who lived in Colorado for 25 years, as Denver’s fifth archbishop. He will follow Archbishop Charles Chaput, who will lead the archdiocese of Philadelphia.
After serving as founding rector of St. John Vianney Seminary, he moved to Fargo, North Dakota, for 11 years, just over ten of those as its bishop. He briefly oversaw the diocese of Sioux Falls in 2005.
Upon learning of his elevation, he told the Catholic News Agency society must “get back to the basic dignity of the human person.”
The next shepherd of the 1.5-million member archdiocese has strongly supported the 40 Days for Life campaign, encouraging all priests to spend an hour in front of an abortion facility. In 2007, he said, “As your bishop, I ask you to sign up for an hour of prayerful vigil, as well. Tell your parishioners when that hour will be and challenge them to meet or exceed your example.”
He taught by his actions, leading a Eucharistic procession to Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo and holding a prayer service in front of the abortion facility in 2009.
Reflecting on that history after his selection, Bishop Aquila said, “there’s always the tremendous joy when you know you’ve saved an unborn child.”
His words and actions have drawn a bright line separating Roman Catholic doctrine from participation in the inherent evil of abortion.
Last Ash Wednesday, he and fellow North Dakota bishop Paul Zipfel instructed the faithful not to give their Lenten alms to “support or endorse individuals and organizations that provide, promote, or advocate for abortion, contraception, reproductive rights/‘family planning,’ or embryonic stem cell research” – including the March of Dimes and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
However, he has been perhaps most outspoken in the need to enforce Church discipline against Catholic lawmakers who support abortion.
Bishop Aquila proposed a simple solution for politicians who support abortion and refuse to hear the voice of the Church: “Expel him.” Allowing such people to receive the Eucharist would only “leave them in their sins and confuse the faithful,” he said.
In 2004, when Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said he personally opposed abortion but voted to keep it legal, Bp. Aquila gave a Sunday homily on the topic, saying, “Catholics who separate their faith life from their professional and social activities are putting the salvation of their souls in jeopardy. They risk the possibility of Hell.”
Four years later he said, “Some believe that it is possible to be a faithful Catholic and be pro-choice. This is impossible. Abortion is an intrinsic evil.”
The Obama administration has presented fresh difficulties for the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The bishop opposed the president’s signature accomplishment, national health care reform, or any system that includes “provisions for actions which deny the dignity of human life, especially abortion, euthanasia, whether passive or active, and embryonic stem cell research.”
He forcefully rejected the notion that the reform had to be handled at the federal level. “There is a danger in being persuaded to think that the national government is the sole instrument of the common good,” he said. “Rather, according to the classic principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought, many different communities within society share this responsibility.”
When Notre Dame invited President Obama to give its 2009 commencement address, he wrote to the university’s president, “‘you are not on the side of God, but of men’ (Mt 16:23).”
The bishop has defended marriage as strongly as he has innocent life. “The Church has been clear that marriage can only be between a man and a woman,” he has said, “and we need to continue to speak clearly to society on the truth, dignity, and meaning of marriage.”
Treading into such contentious but non-negotiable issues, Bishop Aquila has embraced Caritas in Veritate, speaking the truth in love. During the keynote address to the 10th Annual Symposium on the Spirituality and Identity of the Diocesan Priest in Philadelphia last year, he said, “Correction can be difficult and painful, as parents know, yet as a shepherd I am willing to suffer the rejection and anger of another when I speak the truth for the good of the person and the Bride of Christ. To correct and/or to punish someone who has gravely sinned against real love is an act of servant love and is found in the truth!”
In its media coverage, the Associated Press referred to His Grace as “Monsignor Samuel Aquila.”
The archbishop-designate said his other priorities include priestly formation and youth and women’s ministries.