A “Pro-Life Pledge” initiative, launched by the Pro-Life Pledge Alliance in Santa Ana, Calif., appears to be meeting stiff resistance in circles where you would expect it to obtain at least grudging support.

Brian Murphy, a father of five grown children who lives in Mission Viejo, Calif., and one of the strongest promoters of the pro-life pledge, has failed to find a doorway to promote the initiative.

Murphy’s most recent letter from Edward E. Dolejsi, the executive director of the California Catholic Conference, and the spokesman for Bishop Sylvester Ryan, the president of the California Catholic Conference in Sacramento, said that while appreciating “both the concept and the strategy that underlies the pledge, I would strongly advocate for this effort to continue to be developed under lay auspices.”

Dolejsi also said, “Whenever the institutional Church has become ensnared in partisan politics, it has been burdened by the charge that it is a power play to gain control rather than a moral issue that is being addressed on its own merits. Your effort is clearly the latter at this time.”

The Pro-Life Pledge simply states: “I pledge never to vote for, support, or endorse any candidate for public office who embraces a pro-abortion (pro-choice) public policy position. I take this Pro-life Pledge freely, with God as my witness.” The pledge is then signed, and a printed name, date and address are added.

The goal was to have ordinary people and politicians of all stripes take the pledge. Unfortunately, 49 per cent of American Catholics voted for Bill Clinton, who as president twice vetoed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. California Republican Governor Pete Wilson, who enjoys strong Catholic support, is no better. Wilson is solidly pro-abortion and has even vowed to remove the pro-life plank from the Republican Party’s national platform.

Murphy has met priests who were unwilling to make the Pro-Life Pledge because they felt it tied their hands. Murphy also quoted a Democratic party insider who said that 50 per cent of Catholic priests in California are registered Democrats. The Diocese of Orange County also forbids the dissemination of pro-life voter literature in church parking lots.

Murphy feels this is an illegal restriction on freedom of speech. No changes to this position are planned. Murphy, who was interviewed by phone, was told that his problems mirror those facing Canadian pro-life Catholics and other pro-lifers.

Murphy, who is president of his parish’s pro-life committee, is now struggling to promote the teachings of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control. He feels the abortion problem might be solved if the doctrine contained in the encyclical were more widely accepted.