Most Catholic pro-lifers know the truth, and lament it, that if all Catholics in this country fought against abortion, the days of legalized abortion in these United States could be measured in months. Alas, that is not the case. Half the Catholics in this country routinely give their votes to the political party that is pledged to keep abortion legal, and many of these same Catholics routinely work against the pro-life movement. Curious how that segment of Catholics was observing the March for Life, I wandered over to the National Catholic Reporter and read a post, read it here, which gave paeans of praise to a post, go here to read it and the comments, by a Franciscan Brother, Daniel P. Horan, at his website, Dating God, explaining why he does not support the March for Life. It so perfectly embodies the mindset among Catholics that has enabled abortion to remain legal for the past four decades that I decided it was worthy of a fisk.
There are indeed numerous reasons to withhold support for the so-called “March for Life.” I wish here to highlight three of the reasons that I have serious reservations about the annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Washington, DC, that draws thousands of well-meaning people, the young and the old alike.
Ah, come on Brother Dan, the use of the term “so-called” as an adjective to modify something that one does not approve of is so cliché. You can certainly do better than that!
Ah, but before I go further, I feel as though I need to qualify that last sentence. While the generational divide is usually traversed by a diverse representation of different ages and from idealistic youth and young adults to the more narrowly focused and opinion-concretized geriatric crowd, there is very little racial and ethnic diversity represented.
People on the left are as obsessed as any Ku Kluxer with skin color. Intellectual diversity however, never seems to be of much concern to them.
Anticipating the likely unhappy responses in what will appear in the comment section below, I suppose it is necessary to acknowledge that there are indeed African-American, Latino/a and Asian women and men who arrive for the events of the annual pilgrimage.
Yeah, Brother Dan lots of ’em, a fact that you would know if you bothered attending the March.
However, their numbers reflect that category into which they are so blindly corralled in this country – a minority. The sea of protesters (and that is what they are) is overwhelmingly white and that is not an insignificant dimension of the event.
Once again the obsession with race. The marchers Brother Dan want to save all the unborn, no matter what their skin color.
Among the various reasons one might chose to omit him or herself from participation, I wish to highlight three: (a) the event’s moniker is incomplete at best and disingenuous at worst, (b) the mode of protest has proven ineffective, and, following the second point, (c) the ‘march’ and its related events is a self-serving exercise in self-righteousness, self-congratulatory grandstanding and disinterest in the most pressing matters of human rights and dignity in our world today.
If stopping the slaying of the most innocent and defenseless among is not the most pressing matter of human rights and dignity in the world today, I wonder what is? I am sure Brother Dan will enlighten us!
To begin, I have no problem with people of faith taking a public stance against abortion.
Big of you Brother Dan!
You will never find me supporting abortion legislation nor encouraging those with and for whom I minister as a Roman Catholic cleric to support abortion.
Just casting aspersions from the side lines against those fighting against this manifest evil.
I believe it is a legitimate issue against which, as a Christian and Roman Catholic, I feel should be a thematic feature of social transformation.
“A thematic feature of social transformation”, whatever the heck that is supposed to mean.
However, it is not, at all, the most important issue, nor is it the single issue upon which Catholics – or anyone – should focus in an exclusive manner.
Why not? Most great evils in this world have been removed due to a single-minded focus upon a particular evil for a time. The crusade against slavery in this country comes immediately to mind.
Abortion belongs to a series of social sins of a systemic degree that include capital punishment, war and violence, limitation of social services for the least among us, economic inequality, abject poverty and other threats to the dignity of human persons in our culture and globalized world.
Ah, the “seamless garment” in all its threadbare glory. The Pope disagrees with you brother. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote as Cardinal Ratzinger.
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
Some will claim (likely in the comment section below) that abortion is more egregious than those other things because of the s0-called innocence of the fetuses whose life is prematurely ended.
“So-called innocence” of the fetuses? Brother, if the unborn are not innocent then there is no such thing as innocence.
Yet, innocence is a construct that has theological and ethical implications and characteristics that have been explored on this website as well as on the excellent WIT: Women in Theology website. I will not rehearse those discussions here.
Just as well Brother Dan.
Instead, what is necessary is to recognize the shortcomings of what is too often uncritically lauded among certain sectors of the Catholic and more broad Christian communities as the “pro-life” event par excellence. In fact, it is a striking showing of support for anti-abortion protests, but offers little (with very few, and always marginal, exceptions) by way of a truly Catholic (and catholic, as in universal) pro-life demonstration.
“Seamless garment” this is your cue!
Such an event would include a much broader representation of the issues that also threaten life and human dignity. And so I offer this rather non-exhaustive reflection on three points I think need to be considered with regard to assessing the (so-called) “March for Life” each January in Washington, DC.
“So-called” again. Really Brother, your reliance on that cliché is juvenile.
A. The Disingenuousness of its Title While those who trek to the nation’s capital to stand in the chilly January air are undoubtedly sincere in their conviction, I wonder about the provenance of the march and its title. The march is presented as a positive effort (hence the preposition “for”), yet it really is a protest against something.
Indeed Brother Dan, they are protesting the killing of some 50 million of our brothers and sisters in the womb over the past four decades.
Ostensibly, it is a protest against a United States Supreme Court ruling thirty-nine years ago that grants women the right to procure safe, regulated and legal medical abortions.
Brother Dan has pro-abort-speak down pat. There is very little regulation in regard to abortion Brother, and more than a few women have died while receiving a “safe” abortion. Of course the abortion is never safe for the target of the abortion.
To claim that the march’s focus has anything to do with other matters of justice, human dignity or social justice is contradicted by the endless parade of ecclesiastical and civil politicians that speak at the Vigil Mass the night before and then at the march itself. The focus is very clear: Roe vs. Wade and its overturning.
Never pretended otherwise Brother.
I might be more apt to support an anti-abortion rally or march against the Roe vs. Wade decision if such an event was given its proper title and promotion.
I sincerely doubt that Brother, judging from this post.
Instead, moral agency is replaced by pre-emptive and divisive rhetorical deployment in the way that those who gather in the streets of the District of Columbia bearing placards featuring inhumane depictions of aborted fetuses and other such means of attention-seeking present themselves as the “good” (they are, of course, “for life”), and anyone who does not march alongside them, joining the rabble of discontented churchgoers is therefore “bad.”
“Inhumane depictions”? Brother, the reality is much, much worse. “Rabble of discontented churchgoers?” You know, one of the most striking features of most anti-anti-abortion Catholics that I have encountered is what thorough-going snobs they are. “You seriously expect me to march with those blue-collar K of Cs and the blue-hair ladies who pray the rosary before Mass?”
In other words, someone such as myself, an honest and outspoken critic of this particular event, is cast as “bad” or “pro-abortion” by way of omission and my particular absence from the group.
Not at all Brother. This post establishes that point, not your absence from the March.
Likewise, anyone who finds the means by which this organized and self-congratulatory annual event questionable or disingenuous, those who chose not to partake in the happenings of the march, are similarly considered – if tacitly – “bad.”
No Brother, unless they write a post like this.
Call me what you will, but I’ll call the march what it is: an anti-abortion rally under the guise of a “pro-life event.”
Shock and horror! Being against abortion Brother is being pro-life.
B. Lack of Desired Effect and Absence of Purpose I am the first to argue the one’s ethical telos shouldn’t always be “success” or “accomplishment” according to the standards of the world (in line with the Pauline epistolary). In the case of nonviolence, for example, “success” is often cited as the most justified reason for war and military action. Pacifists will argue that such an end – “success” – is not a category that Christians should appropriate. However, when someone does claim a specific goal as the desired end of an effort, then I think it is fair to evaluate one’s actions based on that aim. When asked what they want, why they gather and why they march, those assembled today for the (so-called) “March for Life” will readily reply: “to overturn Roe vs. Wade,” by which they mean “to make abortion illegal in the United States.”
For nearly forty years people have been doing the exact same thing with no progress of which to speak.
Quite untrue Brother, as the lamentations on pro-abort websites indicate. The progress is too slow, but progress we are making, no thanks to you or people like you.
That classic definition of insanity comes to mind: doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result.
By that definition Brother, then Christianity has been insane since the Crucifixion since sin is still plentiful on this planet.
It would appear clear that the method currently in anti-abortion-protest-vogue is not working.
No Brother that is incorrect. New methods are also being brought into play each year. I am sure that you are a big fan of Lila Rose and Live Action for instance and their Planned Parenthood stings.
If anything the number of abortions have increased in the US (most notably and strikingly during the previously esteemed “champion” of the pro-life movement, President George W. Bush).
Ah now we see what really gripes you, eh Brother? Damn Republicans! Actually Brother the number of abortions have been going down for years.
And yes they continue to persist under a Democratic presidential administration too. Which sheds light on my point: what is the purpose of this march? Is it a political rally? Is it a Republican effort? Is it a Democratic effort? Or is it a Religious effort?
It is a rally Brother to remind people that the pro-life cause will keep fighting until legal protection is once again afforded to God’s children in the womb.
If it is the latter, then perhaps some serious prayer and discernment is needed so that something can be done in an effort to effect the goal desired by those well-meaning women and men who take time away from families and jobs to march around the streets of DC and sight-see at the Basilica and National Mall. I don’t care for events that do not have any chance of effecting the goal set out for the effort. Try something new if you are really serious about reducing or ending abortions. Perhaps caring for young adults who become pregnant, taking care of unwed mothers, offering good school systems for the children who are carried to term and brought into this world – all of these would be good places to begin.
All being done already Brother, as I think you would know if you were part of the pro-life movement. If you are ever in Dwight, Illinois stop by my law office and I will take you to the crisis pregnancy center staffed by volunteers, mostly evangelical women. I have been honored to be the Chairman of the Board of the Center for the past ten years. They took part in a local pro-life march on Sunday.
Perhaps those, mostly white, marchers would do well to consider the racial, gender, ethnic, socio-cultural and economic issues that undergird the abortion questions in this country.
Leftists never fail to always return to their hobby horses!
It is never, never as simple as “good” versus “bad,” “pro-life” versus “pro-death,” and so on.
It certainly is in the case of whether an unborn child should be legally killed Brother.
Perhaps I would be more sympathetic to the movement to parade through the streets of Washington, DC, in protest of a forty-year-old Supreme Court decision if I was more convinced of the sincerity of the protesters to do what it is they claim they want, which, if they are truly Christians, demands so very much more of them than getting on a bus for a two-day road trip each January.
Brother Dan, you have bought the pro-abort propaganda about the pro-life movement hook, line and sinker haven’t you?
C. An Exercise in Self-Congratulatory Fanfare This leads me to my final reservation of this post, a point of reflection on which I will conclude these thoughts. While the presenting focus of the (so-called) “March for Life” is the abortion legislation of the United States, what actually takes place seems far less issue-focused and far more an exercise in self-congratulatory fanfare.
Brother Dan that is perhaps the silliest observation that you make. No one gains any “prestige points” in our society by being a pro-life activist. Quite the reverse is the case in regard to the powers that be, including, frequently, within the Catholic Church.
I have heard numerous people, even those who avidly support the march, lament that the Vigil Mass has become more a “Who’s Who” of a sector of the American Catholic Church than it has the Eucharistic celebration it alleges to be.
No one has ever claimed Brother Dan that the March for Life is a celebration of the Eucharist. The Vigil Mass of course is all about the Eucharist, as all masses are. The allegation that it is not is simply bizarre.
What amounts to a veritable “party convention,” with its requisite and seemingly endless congratulatory introductions and “thank yous” to all the US churchmen, the event takes on a sense of the spectacle over and against the sense of the sacred it might otherwise elicit.
No Brother Dan, the fellowship reminds pro-lifers that they are not alone. Considering how the pro-life movement is treated routinely in the mainstream media, it is a useful morale boost. Besides, most of the participants are young people, and they, thank God, have the enthusiasm of youth.
What strikes me as most egregious in this whole extravaganza is the simplistic distillation of an incredibly complex moral and political issue into the binary “good vs. evil” construction.
Brother Dan, on the question of whether it should be legal to slay the unborn, the terms of good vs. evil are entirely accurate.
It is not that simple.
You couldn’t be more wrong Brother.
Furthermore, as stated above, anything in the Catholic tradition that claims to be “pro-life” – person or event – must also include those other important issues of life and dignity, issues that most of these marchers would otherwise prefer to forget: war, poverty, torture, capital punishment, economic inequality, and the like.
In short, you can’t be pro-life unless you adopt this laundry list of my issues.
It is sad that a boutique, albeit legitimate, issue in the Catholic moral tradition has been made to be the singular and defining catholicity litmus test for so many.
The Church has vehemently opposed abortion since the Crucifixion Brother. There is nothing “boutique” about this teaching.
Who is in and who is out is rarely determined by one’s profession of faith and baptism (that is, by the way, what makes someone a Christian), but where they fall in the pseudo-reality of binary moral categories: “pro-life or not?” which always really means: “anti-abortion” – if only nominally, because no one marching who knows anything about the political system in the US actually thinks a president or a congressman or a supreme court justice can overturn such a contentious and constitutionally protected law – “or not?”
Brother, if Catholics like yourself did not expend a fair amount of effort in giving aid and comfort to pro-aborts, Roe would only be a bad memory now.
I look forward to the day when we do assemble thousands of young people and old people alike to march through the streets of the nation’s capital in order to support a movement for life and for human dignity.
You missed a golden opportunity to do so this weekend Brother.
But until the annual January event really addresses the matter of what it means to be for life (literally, “pro-life”), I cannot support it. I will pray though, as I often do, for all those issues of life and human dignity that get left by the roadside as the marchers in DC parade to the Capitol, their Jerusalem. Perhaps, just maybe, a single Samaritan or even a few might be among the crowd and stop to pick up the ignored and forgotten and left-for-dead issues that continue to threaten life and human dignity in our world.
Brother Dan, the issues that so exercise you, obviously a great deal more than the lack of legal protection for the unborn concerns you, will always have their advocates. However, absolutely no issue today is more important than stopping abortion. It is the paramount civil rights issue of our day and I hope that you, and other Catholics on the left, will someday see that.