California's Catholic bishops have decided to put on a positive face in their fight against abortion.
The nearly two dozen bishops, at a two-day meeting this week in San Diego, chose Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony to chair a committee urging dioceses to increase health services for women with problem pregnancies in hope that they will not get an abortion.
In the same vein, the bishops did not follow the recent lead of Mahony by confronting government officials publicly with their stances on abortion legislation. Mahony wrote a controversial letter last June pointedly warning Catholic legislators that they are under a "moral imperative" to end legalized abortion.
Jesuit Father William Wood, executive director of the bishops' Sacramento office, attended the closed meeting and said that "the main response of the bishops seemed to (feel) that our main way of dealing with the problem was to speak persuasively about the issues and make it clear the church does not want to go yelling at people, telling them they are wrong."
Mahony disagreed with Wood. "That kind of remark was made on our public education approach," Mahony said in an interview. "Several mentioned my letter positively, but we decided that the most effective legislative approach was for each bishop to meet individually with legislators in his own diocese."
The discussion of new anti-abortion strategies for the 12 California dioceses emphasized developing or expanding services to provide alternatives to abortion, such as more prenatal and postnatal care for pregnant women, Wood said in a telephone interview.
The four-man bishops' committee headed by Mahony was asked to support possible legislation making it easier for women to receive health care, temporary housing and maternity leaves from work. The bishops also want government agencies to insist that "adequate information (be provided) for women planning abortions and that those performing abortions be accountable for proper medical procedures," Wood said.
"The realism is that (the bishops) can't overturn abortion laws tomorrow, but the long-range goal is still constitutional protection for the unborn," Wood said.
Besides Mahony, the bishops' committee includes Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, Bishop Joseph J. Madera of Fresno and Auxiliary Bishop Carl Fisher of Los Angeles.