Culture of Life
One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of right-leaning Catholics is that they were insufficiently critical of the Bush Administration over the past eight years. According to this criticism, conservative Catholics were too eager to paper over the faults of the Bush Administration, and they failed to object at critical points to the Administration’s policies. While such generalizations can be problematic, I agree with this critique in broad outline. One of the lessons I’ve taken from the past eight years is that this is a temptation that must be consciously resisted.
It’s hard to express my disappointment, then, at the recent post entitled Mexico City? Try Gaza Instead…over at Vox Nova. Here’s the post:
In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical Protestant intellectuals and activists, while saying that they personally support legal protection for the unborn and oppose the redefinition of marriage, promoted the candidacy of Barack Obama, who made no secret of his intention to wipe out the entire range of laws restricting or discouraging abortion and embryo-destructive research, or of his opposition to all state and federal initiatives (such as California Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act) to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These men and women assured their fellow Christians and other social conservatives that Obama’s economic policies would reduce the incidence of abortion, and they promised that Obama was being honest when he said that he was opposed to “same-sex marriage.”
Despite these assurances, we fear that the Obama administration will swiftly begin an assault on pro-life laws and pro-marriage policies.
When I first came across this group, I thought it was a joke. Well it is, but they are serious. The humorous side of me wants to say, “Great! I am very happy that people with your views will not be having kids!” The more serious side of me thinks it a calamity that any group of people can seriously call for the extinction of humanity. Needless to say, although I will say it anyway, this group supports abortion.
This ties in with a particularly foolish blog entry by a woman who believes the path to social progress is to end human reproduction.
Pope John Paul II was fond of speaking of “a culture of life”. If we don’t have a culture of life in this century I think we will most certainly have a culture of death that will dwarf the body count of the last century. Silly groups like Voluntary Human Extinction and the deluded blogger are merely ludicrous manifestations of a culture that increasingly views human life not as a sacred gift from God, but rather a disposable commodity. As Catholics we face no greater challenge than rekindling in our society a respect for innocent human life, and an optimism that life, with all of its challenges and pain, is to be embraced with joy.
As is observed every time we discuss Supreme Court appointments, there is very little pro-life progress possible under the Roe v. Wade regime, because anything which is seen as unduly obstructing a woman’s access to terminate her pregnancy (and thus use her constitutional right to “privacy”) is struck down by the courts. And yet, while abortion on demand is decidedly not popular according to the polls, Roe v. Wade mysteriously is. A solid majority of people way they want to keep Roe v. Wade, despite the fact that a solid majority would also be in favor of legal restrictions on abortion well in excess of what Roe allows.
It seems to me that one of the most difficult tasks for the pro-life movement is thus not to convince the population that abortion should be seriously restricted and reduced (banning would right now be a very hard sell, but it would seem that a great deal of progress in that direction would be possible) but rather to convince citizens that Roe is actually an obstacle to this. Thus, “the fair fight initiative”. The purpose would be (and the lawyers on here can inform me if this is indeed a legal possibility) for Congress to pass a law which would officially remove from the federal government (legislature and courts) any ability to restrict or allow abortion.
Taking a quiet Saturday morning to catch up on reading the newspaper, I was perusing a WSJ article on the lost virtue of prudence in our modern American society when I came across this jarring note:
The puzzling thing is that, under normal circumstances, our Americanus prudens should be flourishing. By looking ahead and exercising self-control, these unassuming homebodies tend to do well in school, form solid families and make lots of money — which they compulsively save, tucking it away in banks or mutual funds (once-sturdy institutions recently found by scientists to be hollow). The prudent have only the children they can afford — prudential parenthood is inevitably planned — but these offspring tend to thrive thanks to a stable home environment in which education is emphasized.
This threw me because the most financially prudent people I know at work are those with single incomes and large families
In response, permit me to explain what led to my own signature of the letter in question.
Readers of Catholics in the Public Square are no doubt aware that I have emphatically disagreed with Henry and those contributors at Vox Nova who supported Barack Obama throughout the 2008 election.
At the same time, to say Catholics shouldn’t have cast their vote for Obama is not the same thing as asserting that they were prohibited from doing so. This, at least, seems to be the conclusion drawn from the USCCB document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.
Suffice to say I was among the those who did not believe a “grave moral reason” existed that warranted voting for Obama. And if some members of Vox Nova disagreed, I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt, and trust they thought about it as long and hard as my own decision to vote for Senator McCain.
With the election of the most anti-life president in this nations history, Christians across America will soon be facing a daunting gauntlet of attacks on the sanctity of life. We need to now follow Jesus more than ever, embrace His teachings, practice our faith, evangelize our friends and neighbors, and pray. Pray and strive for prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance with faith, hope, and love.
This is spiritual warfare on a massive scale. We need to win the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans in order to push back against evil. What is at stake are unknown millions of innocents that will be slaughtered for Mammon’s sake. Not since World War II and maybe even the French Revolution has human civilization been faced with such dark forces arrayed against it. The time for fruitless and pointless rhetoric ended on November 4th. We now cannot stand by the wayside and negotiate the nonnegotiables with those that intend to do harm to the most vulnerable among us. No equivocating, no complacency, and no compromise.
Pray and fast for President-elect Obama and our glorious nation.
Perhaps the most villified US President since Abraham Lincoln, George Bush has been a strong pro-life President.
It has been widely observed that the only real way to achieve change on various issues which straddle the moral-legal-cultural arenas is by “changing the culture”. Drawing from the past: although segregation was theoretically made illegal fairly early on in the civil rights movement, it was not until the cultural consensus swung heavily against segregation that it really started to vanish in practice. Similarly, if dueling were suddenly made legal in the modern US, I rather doubt it would suddenly become frequent in social sets that are not already known for shooting each other — we have reached a cultural consensus that swords or pistols at first light are not an acceptable means of settling arguments.
Yet how does one change the cultural consensus on an issue such as abortion, the nature of marriage, etc.?
Moral conservatives are often accused of “only caring about political means” when it comes to dealing with the great moral controversies of the day. And yet the advantage of advocating change within the political arena is that it’s clear how one does it. How does one work to change the culture as regards to the acceptability of abortion? Or the morality of gay marriage? Or any of the other pressing questions which provide fodder for the “culture wars”.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have made fighting against the Freedom of Choice Act a high priority in their current meeting. The Catholic Church and the incoming Obama administration are on a collision course in regard to abortion. For every American Catholic the choice couldn’t be starker: which side are you on?
Cardinal Francis George, speaking this morning as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said all Americans should “rejoice” that a country which once tolerated slavery has elected an African-American as president – and, in the same breath, he issued a blunt challenge to the new administration on abortion.
“If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons, were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be President of the United States,” George said.
“Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good,” he said.
Readers in California, please don’t forget that as you attempt to chose a pro-Life candidate for President of the US you are also being called to defend marriage by voting Yes on Proposition 8. Whether they are beloved friends, co-workers or relatives, we all probably all know gays and lesbians that we love and care deeply about; many of them may be in long-term loving relationships. But let’s not fool ourselves, a “marriage” between two people of the same sex is not a marriage in Christ. It is not love in the way Christ called us to love one another and the more we head down this path of destroying the institution of marriage, the further we move down the road to our own destruction as a society.
Mystery writer, apologist, and Dante scholar Dorothy Sayers once said of her fictional creation Lord Peter Wimsey something along the lines of, “Peter is not really Christian. He would have considered it impolite to hold such strong beliefs.” (If someone knows of the exact quotation — I believe it was from one of Sayers’ published letters — I’d be terribly grateful.)
It is, I think, one of the great temptations of people with an intellectual bent to feel apologetic over holding opinions which are too strong. And it is, I fear, because of a cowardice somewhat akin to this that I have felt slightly embarrassed each day as I check the American Catholic webpage and see that in the tag cloud in the right hand column the term “Abortion” is growing larger and larger. I have been no small contributor to this myself. I hesitate to go count, but I think over half my own posts have listed “abortion” as a topic.
The latest poll* that came out today, the Fox News Poll, show’s that Catholics are still trending away from Senator Obama and towards Senator McCain. The poll today show’s whiteCatholics are now evenly split, 46-46%, between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. Previously in the Fox News Poll it showed Senator Obama with an 11 point lead among white Catholic voters over Senator McCain (emphasis mine).
The race has tightened in part because of changes in a couple of important swing voting groups. Independents back Obama by 5 percentage points today, down from a 9-point edge last week. Similarly, among white Catholics, Obama held an 11-point edge over McCain last week and today they split 46-46.