On August 28, the City Council of South San Francisco voted 3-2 to deny an appeal brought by local citizens Rosa Gomez, Rolando Delgadillo, Vera Priego, Teresita Valido and Respect Life South San Francisco. The appeal sought to overturn land-use rulings by both the South San Francisco Planning Commission and the South San Francisco Parking Place Commission which allowed Planned Parenthood to open a new location on Grand Avenue, South San Francisco’s main artery. The location will be one block away from All Souls Catholic Church and school. The pastor of All Souls, Fr. Agnel De Heredia, and All Souls school principal Vincent Riener had strongly opposed the opening.
The controversy, which had been going on since the projected opening was announced, has been well covered in local news outlets, as well as by national Catholic and pro-life publications. Although ostensibly a simple land-use issue, the real issue is whether or not to allow the nation’s largest abortion provider to open in South San Francisco. Three of the five members of the City Council who heard the appeal are Catholics. A June 30 Everything South City article quoted a local resident named Cynthia Marcopulos, who suggested that the Catholic members of the board and had a duty to recuse themselves from the vote, since support for Planned Parenthood is counter the Catholic faith: “Coming before the South San Francisco City Council for a vote on whether there can be a Planned Parenthood facility on Grand Avenue, our City Council has an inbred prejudice. Mayor Pedro Gonzalez’s wife is an active protester on the protest line against the Planned Parenthood facility, Councilman Mark Addiego works for Holy Cross Cemetery which is owned by the Catholic Church, and Councilman Richard Garbarino is active with St. Veronica’s Church. These council members must recuse themselves for their apparent and visible biases.”
Ms. Marcopulos concern turned out to have been exaggerated. When the vote was called, two of the three Catholics on the board, Mark Addiego, (identified in 2007 by Inside Bay Area as the Operations Manager at Holy Cross Cemetery), and Richard Garbarino “active with St. Veronica’s Church,” voted to deny the appeal, and thus to allow Planned Parenthood to open. The third Catholic, Pedro Gonzalez, joined by Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto, voted against Planned Parenthood.
An attendee at the meeting and vote told us that “Mr. Garbarino said that after speaking with ‘his confessor,’ he had decided to vote to allow Planned Parenthood to open.” Our source’s recollection was confirmed by an August 28 post covering the vote on the Everything South City website. The post quoted council members giving their reasons for voting:
“(Richard) Garbarino: His ‘confessor’ said he must take his decision; he will not stand in judgment of those who use the services of Planned Parenthood. Although he has his own convictions, that this decision must be based on laws.”
“(Mark) Addeigo: Other facilities, as seen on El Camino Real that offer many of the same services to those with insurance. Personal opinions cannot weigh come into play (sic), including his own Catholic beliefs that maybe contrary to this.”
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortionist in the United States. The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats abortion in entries 2270-2273, which are part of the section unpacking the meaning of the Fifth Commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill.” Entry 2270 reads: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” Entry 2271 (in part): “Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” Entry 2273 (in part) “The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined.”
After reading the Catechism, it is clear that a vote to allow Planned Parenthood into the city would have been impossible if the Catholic council members truly accepted Catholic teaching: that the unborn child is a human being; that it is defenseless; that abortion, the premeditated killing of a defenseless human being, is therefore murder. Considering the question solely as a “land-use” issue is absurd. That simply leads to the question of why “land use” issues are important. The answer is that "land use" affects the common good of society. And once one starts considering the common good of society, and drills down to its roots and first principles, one reaches the conclusion given by the Catechism: that legal abortion causes “the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined.”
One can see the councilmen's dilemma. Do they execute a single law when by so doing they undermine the basis for law in general? That's a lot of weight on the shoulders of councilmen in a small and obscure city, but that is the reality that legalized abortion has created. Do they resign? Do they follow the example of San Francisco’s then-mayor Gavin Newsom, who in 2004 defied the law and issued “marriage" licenses to same-sex couples? He picked the wrong side of the issue but he acted on his “convictions” and “beliefs” that the law he was defying was unjust. He drilled down to what he perceived to be first principles which then guided his actions. I've always maintained that as an executive and as a man his proper response would have been neither to defy the law, nor to execute what he considered to be an unjust law, but to resign. Of course he didn't, but if what Mr. Addiego and Mr. Garbarino said in justifying their vote was honest, they were neither true to their convictions on a critically important issue, nor did they resign.
While it is not wrong to blame Addiego and Garbarino for their votes, it should be remembered that Catholic politicians far more prominent than the SSF city councilmen (Mario Cuomo, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy) have made similar decisions and worse over and over again. And the Catholic Bishops, with very few exceptions—Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City’s denial of communion to Kathleen Sebelius springs to mind—have not responded in a way that the gravity of legalized abortion demands.