Pro-Abort Catholic Politicians and the Church

Pro-abort Catholic PolsFather Roger J. Landry concludes here that the strategy of the Church to privately persuade Catholic pro-abort pols of the errors of their ways has been a flat failure.

“Let us take an honest look at the numbers. When we survey the long list of pro-choice Catholic politicians from both parties — Kennedy, Kerry, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, Daschle, Dodd, Durbin, Leahy, Mikulski, Pelosi, Delahunt, Capuano, Markey, McGovern, Meehan, Granholm, Sebelius, Pataki, Richardson, Cellucci, Cuomo, and Biden to name just a handful — is it possible to say that the strategy has worked with any of them? Over the last three and a half decades, can we point to even one success story?

Another way to assess the results of the education-alone strategy is to measure the direction that pro-choice Catholic politicians have moved over the years. Even if they haven’t experienced a total conversion, have they moved closer toward limiting abortions or toward making abortions easier to access? The facts show that the vast majority of personally opposed, publicly pro-choice Catholic legislators have become far less personally opposed and far more publicly in favor over the duration of the strategy.

In the initial years after Roe versus Wade, publicly pro-choice Catholic legislators generally whispered their support for abortion. They displayed a palpable sense of shame, letting their abortion position out just enough so that it wouldn’t cost them the votes of abortion supporters. That discomfort began to dissipate after Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1984 pro-choice defense at Notre Dame. We’ve now come to a situation when pro-choice Catholic legislators vigorously curry the favor of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily’s List;  scores of Catholics in Congress have the chutzpah to co-sponsor the Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate almost every abortion restriction ever passed at the federal or state level; and 16 out of 25 Catholic Senators vote against conscience protections to prevent their fellow Catholics in the medical field from being forced to participate in abortions and sterilizations.”

Father Landry ends by suggesting a new approach, perhaps we might call it the “more than hot air” approach:

“Jesus spoke of a different way in the Gospel (Mt 18:15-18). It involves not merely general educational statements that we hope offenders will apply to themselves in conscience, but the type of one-on-one instruction traditionally called fraternal correction. If that fails, and fails repeatedly, Jesus enjoined us to regard the offender as someone who no longer belongs to the community, who is no longer a member in good standing. This may seem harsh, but we should remember that Jesus always seeks nothing but the best for his Church and for individual sinners, even obstinate sinners. Implied in Jesus’ strategy is that education involves not just information, but formation, and that you can’t form disciples without discipline. This is a lesson that, after four decades of the undeniable failure of another approach, we need to consider anew.”

Hattip to my friend the ever vigilant Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia,  and please go here to read his comments on Father Landry’s argument.

17 Responses to Pro-Abort Catholic Politicians and the Church

  • simon says:

    Yes, I agree with the idea of not considering them part of the community anymore but I think we need to voice that more. We need to let our congregation, the nation and the world know that we do not tolerate abortion support….and that Catholics who support and advocate it are excommunicated. We need to literally stand up and state what our Catechism says:

    “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

  • TomSVDP says:

    Well stated Simon. I was disappointed that Caroline Kennedy was pro-choice, repulsive, it’s incompatible with Catholic beliefs. Isn’t their someone in the Kennedy clan who bolts from this philosophy and ideology? Isn’t it good to know, of course, that Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece is pro-life.

    I have never wavered being pro-life though I have considered the question in full when younger, I respect an argument. Now, I consider how central and pivotal of an idea is it for the Church to be pushing.

    It was an interesting editorial in the UK, by a spokesman for the Tories I believe in the Daily Telegraph that grilled Ted Kennedy for voting for the partial birth abortions. England, can’t speak for the total UK because abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland like the Republic of Ireland, but one would think England is a bit like the USA in this regard. However, many in England find our “partial birth” abortions very evil. Okay, I would find fault with all abortions but I have met others from England who do not accept the late terms abortions that occur in the USA even though they are pro-choice. The Tories by the way in the above articles did not want Ted Kennedy to get Knighthood since basically, he’s had long term ties to supporting the IRA or something of this nature. I apologize for any of this being offtopic.

  • awakaman says:

    Don:

    Totally agree with your post and the comments of Jay Anderson and the good Father. People forget that there were even limits to Christ’s spirit of charity and inclusiveness such as when he tossed the money changers out of the temple.

    That being said how can one justify actions by other “Catholic” laity and politicians in promoting other activity that runs contrary to Catholic teaching, i.e. torture, pre-emptive war, the death penalty, divorce? How can one be a “Catholic” divorce lawyer? How can one be a “Catholic” judge or prosecutor that encourages or enforces the death penalty? How can one be a “Catholic” public official that allows or attempts to justify torture and pre-emptive war?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Like most things in life awakaman you deal with each issue on its own merits. The Church has spoken with one voice on abortion since the time of Christ.

    On the issue of preemptive war on the other hand, well, I assume some of the popes have had interesting discussions on that topic in the next life. For example John Paul II and Urban II on the First Crusade. I would love, and I mean that sincerely, to listen to that discussion.

    On divorce John Paul II seemed at one point not to want Catholic attorneys involved in them, but then in a clarification said that Catholic attorneys could be involved if their aim was to secure a good custody outcome for any minor children involved. That is one area where I personally would like some clarification since, although it makes up a miniscule portion of my practice, like most small town attorneys I am confronted with these cases from time to time.

    In regard to the death penalty we have the problem of Church teaching basically being reversed on that question under John Paul II, with a great deal of confusion now as to when the death penalty is licit and when it is not.

    I have no problem with holding the feet of Catholic pols to the fire on any number of issues, but I believe that Church teaching is the clearest on abortion, it is the issue that involves the greatest death toll each year for the innocent, and for me, as it has been since 1973, abortion will always be the overriding moral issue of our time.

  • awakaman says:

    Don:

    In regards to the 1st Crusade it is debatable as to whether it truly was pre-emptive war. First, it went beyond its initial objective of defending the Byzantine Empire and the West from the expansion of Islam and became more of a war of aggression with the reconquest of Jerusalem. Secondly, saying the 1st Crusade was fought by those exclusinvely seeking to protect Christainity is like saying the Civil War was fought exclusively over the issue of Slavery – total nonsense. It was extremely interesting that Jerusalem was a major trading center as well as an important city to Christians – just as it was an amazing coincidence that Iraq happened to have a lot of oil as well as a nasty dictator. Finally, even if we regard it as a pre-emptive war to prevent the spread of Islam given the current status of Islam in the middle east (and Europe) I would hardly say that it speaks well for pre-emptive war.

    In regard to the Death penalty did church teaching on the death penalty reverse or did it develop as a result of the growth or evolution of the modern prison system? Your argument reminds me of those offered by the Church of Christ as to why they do not have instrumental music at their services – because the early Christians did not – of course they didn’t have air conditioning or heating either. As prisons have become relatively “escape proof” and we have developed systems of rehabilitation (as I assume you agree that it is our Christian duty to do) the death penalty has become less necessary unless you want to engage in pure retribution. I know, I know . . . the deterance argument . . . but given that countries and states without the death penalty generally have less crime then those with the death penalty this is not a very good argument.

    Finally, given that JPII was rather adament in his denunciation of Catholic lawyers being involved in divorces “Roman Catholic lawyers should refuse to handle divorce cases, Pope John Paul has said.
    He said divorce was ‘spreading like a plague’ through society, and lawyers should refuse to be part of the ‘evil’.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1787106.stm

    Yes, one can engage in some self rationalization such as one is doing some good such as getting children into a good custody situation, but isn’t that the type of rationalization used by pro-choice politicians and those who vote for them, i.e. ignoring the great evil you are doing by pointing ut the small amount of good that may result.

  • Claudio says:

    well, we as catholics are so stupid. If you work, for example for Pepsi, but you don’t like Pepsi, and talk the whole day about the wonders of Coke, and try to sell Coke at every chance you have … what would your boss do? Fire you!!

    Off course, if you were coherent and a normal and rational person, you would leave Pepsi and move to Coke asap.

    This is how ratio works, this how the world is, this is how everybody in this planet feels. And what does the hierarchy do, not only in the States but anywhere else, without some honorable exceptions? They are SCARED, because the sheeps will leave the flock.. so WHAT?

    It is better to be fewer but real,rather than have many who disturb, who don’t leave us do the work of our Heavenly Father!

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    I believe the Catechism [2383] expresses well the Church’s position. Separation [divorce] is not immoral. Indeed it may be for the benefit of both parties.

    It is remarriage which is wrong.

  • cminor says:

    TomSVDP,
    The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver was notable for her pro-life advocacy within the Democratic party and her activism outside it. Her passing several weeks ago was noted on this blog and elsewhere, though there was little mention of her pro-life associations outside pro-life sources.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Awakaman in regard to divorce cases and Catholic lawyers this is where the ambiguity enters in:

    “Lawyers, as independent professionals, should always decline the use of their profession for an end that is contrary to justice, as is divorce. They can only cooperate in this kind of activity when, in the intention of the client, it is not directed to the break-up of the marriage, but to the securing of other legitimate effects that can only be obtained through such a judicial process in the established legal order (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2383). In this way, with their work of assisting and reconciling persons who are going through a marital crises, lawyers truly serve the rights of the person and avoid becoming mere technicians at the service of any interest whatever.”

    http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0264xh.htm

    In this area I wouldn’t mind at all if the Pope told me that I could never take such a case again as it would give me an excellent reason not to do so when clients press me for my services in these types of matters. These cases are time consuming, emotionally draining, and, as I noted in my earlier comment a miniscule portion of my practice, and the only reason I get involved with them now is when a client convinces me that the kids would be better off with them, or they are being denied visitation, or they want an increase in child support, or they wish to attempt to change custody because the kids are begging to live with the client, etc. I would cheer a papal ban as giving me a good conscience deafness to their pleas, but I do not think the Pope has done that yet.

    More on your other points in a day or so when I am no longer shackled to my desk in my law office.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    But how can civil divorce really be “contrary to justice” in cases where an innocent spouse is merely trying to remove herself or himself and any children from a situation that gravely endangers their physical, mental, or spiritual health or safety?

    I don’t think even JPII would have argued that it was “evil” for a woman to divorce a husband who was beating her or molesting their children, or a man to divorce a wife who was shooting up drugs and prostituting herself to get the money for them, or had taken up witchcraft or Satan worship, etc.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    On the other hand, if it’s just a case of a man or woman having fallen in “love” with someone else and wanting to divorce their spouse to marry their partner in adultery, that’s another story, and a case in which I would think no observant Catholic lawyer would want to get involved.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    You can also add into the complexity mix Elaine that clients are often less than forthcoming in this area of the law, and will frequently tell their attorney all about the misdeeds, real or imagined, of their spouse while not mentioning their own. Not infrequently this is being done in a high state of emotion, especially when the custody of children is at stake, and quick decisions often have to be made by the attorney. In hotly contested custody cases sex abuse allegations regarding the kids not infrequently enter into the case, and often the attorney has no way of knowing if the allegations are true. This is a difficult area of the law for an attorney concerned about following a moral path, and, unfortunately, not difficult at all for an attorney completely unconcerned with the morality of what is going on.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Elaine,

    I don’t think even JPII would have argued that it was “evil” for a woman to divorce a husband who was beating her or molesting their children, or a man to divorce a wife who was shooting up drugs and prostituting herself to get the money for them, or had taken up witchcraft or Satan worship, etc.

    divorce is still an “evil”, but it is the guilty party who is culpable. In the same sense, war is an “evil”, and the unjust aggressor is culpable.

  • Karl says:

    And what of Catholic priests and bishops who encourage divorces when they know that one of the parties is opposed to the divorce and they, the Catholic priests and bishops, flatly refuse to listen to them as they plead for action to support their marriage? What when this goes on for twenty years and the Holy see has completely ignored the same please?

    Some of us have seen this and have chosen to leave the Catholic Church over this. Why is there no support among “rank and file” Catholics for the plight of abandoned spouses who have to defend their marriage against both civil courts and marriage tribunals? And why, when one has defended one’s marriage before the highest courts in the Catholic Church, and watched those courts uphold that marriage, is their no action on the part of priests, bishops and the Roman Curia to canonically hold to account a spouse who has abandoned, wrongly, a faithful spouse, when the evidence is clear and in the possession of the Catholic Church(and has been for twenty years) that the marriage was usurped with the full cooperation of priests(to this day) and bishops(to this day)with mostly complete disregard for the valid, sacramental marriage?

    I think the politicians should receive a bye on this divorce/annulment issue while the Catholic Church tends to the clergy whose actions are far more harmful in this regard. Only after the Catholic Church has tended to its own, in house, facilitators of adultery and all the crimes that unjust divorce entails should it take the time to attempt to call to order catholic politicians. the house should be in order before that house attempts to call others to order.

    Just my two cents.

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