Green Fields of Ireland Stained Blood Red

The amount of metaphorical ink spilled over the Ireland abortion referendum will likely be less than the amount of actual abortion blood. I don’t know a lot of detail about the history of Irish abortion laws or this particular referendum; I just wanted to share a brief news post I ran across the day of the vote. I found it disturbing, but was not sure why.


Polls Open in Irish Referendum on Abortion

About 3.2 million people are eligible to vote in today’s referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, a portion of the Irish Constitution introduced in 1983 that guarantees expectant mothers and unborn children equal rights to life. Abortion is almost entirely illegal in Ireland, with no exceptions for fatal fetal abnormalities, rape or incest, and thousands of Irish women every year travel to the U.K. to terminate pregnancies. Polls suggest the law is likely to be overturned, which would pave the way for legalized abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.


So what’s disturbing about it? After some contemplation, I found the article was too nonchalant; it does not convey the simple reality of the situation and the gravity of the sin. It’s about legalizing murder; the killing of innocent human life. Additionally, (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong), I’m pretty sure that intentionally using the power of your vote for the sole purpose of  legalizing abortion would be a mortal sin, provided the voter understands what they are doing. I also found the article inclined as pro-choice, even if only subtly and subconsciously. How so?

  • “Abortion is almost entirely illegal in Ireland” – I sense some outrage. How could a modern nation in this day and age have such a law? The author could have said, “The unborn are almost entirely protected in Ireland”.
  • “…pave the way for legalized abortion…” – This has a positive tone. Metaphorically, paving a new road represents progress unless used in sarcasm. The author could have said, “… a slippery slope to legalized abortion”.
  • “…thousands of Irish women every year travel to the U.K. to terminate pregnancies.” – The poor dears need to travel a long way to kill their babies…so unfair.

Consider the above article with just a few simple changes. Imagine if the following article was published in the 1930’s about Germans voting on Genocide.


Polls Open in German Referendum on Genocide

About 32 million people are eligible to vote in today’s referendum on repealing an amendment, a portion of the German Constitution introduced in 1883 that guarantees that Germans and Jews in Germany have equal rights to life. Genocide is almost entirely illegal in Germany, with no exceptions for deformed Jews or Jews brought to Germany illegally, and thousands of Germans every year travel to other countries to terminate Jews. Polls suggest the law is likely to be overturned, which would pave the way for legalized Genocide during the first stages of a Jew’s life.


We should all be horrified by such a news post regardless of our politics, right? I’ll await the outrage from Catholic leaders around the world and the Vatican, but I won’t hold my breath.


My Problem With Expanding Pro-life Definitions

Expanding the definition of “Pro-life” by new pro-life/whole-life movements reminds me of trying to expand the definition of marriage. I’ve heard it said that marriage should mean anything we want it to mean, which of course, makes it mean nothing. Taken to an extreme, if “Pro-life” should refer to almost any issue that relates to a human being alive, as opposed to dead, then it means too many things. If someone feels called by God to help the poor for example, why not join one of the many poverty alleviation organizations that already exist? If someone feels called by God to help end abortion, should they start a “New Poverty Alleviation Movement” that helps alleviate death for poor unborn children?

As possible definitions increase, meaning will decrease. If you say “I want a place to live” many things could fit the bill including your car, if you’re willing living out of it. But if you say “I want a single family home”, more meaningful and efficient action will follow. I can imagine a graph of definition vs. meaning looking something like this:

This website lists the 11 pillars of the New Pro-life Movement (NPLM) which include everything from the environment to healthcare, and there is no question that these things are certainly relevant to those of us who are alive. But since pillars are foundational, many things can fit under the roof supported by said pillars. Think of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; it consists of 4 main pillars. In brief, they are The Creed, The Sacraments, The Commandments and Prayer, but think of how many topics fit under each pillar!

One problem I have with multiple “pillars”, other than using one blanket term to describe them all, is the lack of any kind of prioritization. If you think of pillars supporting a structure, you don’t think of any one pillar standing out; they are all the same and bear the load equally. The very first pillar on the NPLM site is “The Right to Life” and it states the following, “First and foremost, we believe all humans have an absolute, inherent right to life, and we believe this right spans from conception to natural death. This includes both the protection and the sustainment of life at all stages, and creates the foundation for our entire platform.” This seems like the top priority concern, but isn’t the “Right to Life” pillar just restating the name of the movement? Couldn’t we just as well call it the “New Right to Life Movement”?

For greater clarity on what I mean about the lack of prioritization consider the following…No analogy is perfect, but ponder a reverse situation involving only two issues new pro-lifers and/or whole-lifers might deal with; immigration and abortion …Suppose abortion was never made legal in the U.S., but those women who would have had an abortion deported their newborns to orphanages in other countries instead; and this type of deportation was perfectly legal. I’m talking about deporting these babies to poor 3rd world countries that didn’t really want them either, but the babies will be alive and cared for to an extent, but their future well-being would be uncertain.

At the same time suppose immigration to the U.S. was always unlimited (open borders), but around 1973 all immigrants were declared non-persons by SCOTUS with no protection under the law. This meant that if legal immigrants happened to be on or cross over your property, you could kill them as a personal choice; a choice between you and your local law enforcement officials.

Now imagine these legal baby deportations totaled about 250,000/year in recent years and these legal immigrant murders were about 750,000/year. I’m sorry, but the 750k immigrant slaughter would be what cries to heaven for vengeance.

Now suppose that a politician or political party was working hard to keep the babies here in the U.S., so they could have a better life, but also did everything in their power to keep immigrant murder “safe & legal” (lest we return to the days of back-alley immigrant murder), and even wanted to provide government funding for it. In fact, this type of killing is part of his or her platform; a formal set principle which is supported by the party and the politician. Additionally, you are told not to be a “one issue voter” and consider all the deported babies and all the other issues in which you agree with the politician or party in question; don’t use the murder of 750,000 immigrants/year as a political shield that keeps you from voting for people who will work on others matters that are important too.

Any social justice issue needs to assume the right to life. All other rights are useless when life can be taken away by law. Therefore the inherent right to life is a foundational priority; the pillar supporting all other pillars. I can’t help but wonder how many in the new pro-life or whole-life movements would accept the above scenario as a valid way to take political action.


Top photo by Notas de prensa – Notas de prensa, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52817663


Sucking the Life Out of Prolife

In a world of texting, tweets and one-upmanship, people are getting very clever at “owning the language” with the use of overgeneralizations. This seems to be happening with the term “prolife”. I’m pretty sure it used to mean opposing legalized abortion and perhaps euthanasia, but that’s about it. Today it might relate to just about any issue that has anything to do with being alive, such as the environment, the death penalty, immigration, minimum wage, healthcare, gun control and more. This doesn’t seem to go both ways however. Do we have a NEW prochoice movement that blends the right to an abortion with the right to bear arms and the right to a secure border? How about “school choice”? Is that now part of being prochoice?

I am perhaps overly sensitive to overgeneralizations because they are problematic for both apologetics and any kind of problem solving. Overgeneralizations are terms that can mean too many different things to too many different people. Think of the word “God”. If you walk up to a stranger and ask “Do you believe in God?”, what you mean by “God” and what the other person means can be as far apart as Heaven is from Hell. Until things are made clear, there will be little progress and much frustration in the discussion. How about terms like love, spirituality, community, conscience, etc.? How many homilies have you sat through that use too many of these kinds of terms, making you think “He said a lot… without saying anything.”

Consider problems in everyday life. Someone says their smartphone is acting funny. “Acting funny” can mean too many different things to too many different people, but deliberate questioning can drill down to the specifics and possibly reveal more than one issue.

What’s wrong with your phone?

  • Camera won’t focus
    • What else?
  • Battery life is too short
    • What else?
  • It drops calls
    • What else?
  • That’s it.

“Acting funny” was separated and clarified in to three specific concerns. The three concerns may or may not be related to an underling root cause; we don’t know, but to go forward we must first we prioritize the issues and then begin to investigate each one. Depending what you use your phone for, the camera and battery issue may just be an annoyance that is manageable, but dropping calls might be totally unacceptable and thus given the highest priority, and dealt with first.

Now suppose you ask someone about being prolife:

What does “prolife” mean to you?

  • Ending abortion
    • What else?
  • Banning guns
    • What else?
  • Abolishing the death penalty
    • What else?
  • That’s it.

Once clear, we should look at the life (or death) impact of all three aforementioned issues. You can search the statistics yourself, but abortion wins in biggest death toll by far. So no matter how many issues you want to intermingle with being prolife, abortion should be dealt with first and most urgently IF preserving human life is your sincere concern.

Without clarity and prioritization—especially with complex issues with a lot of emotional baggage— confusion, division and frustration render problems nigh unsolvable. Overgeneralizations are the enemy of clarity. A recent article by Fr. George Rutler helps explain why ambiguity can be so helpful to those wishing to put agenda over reality.

“Clarity requires effort because it requires honesty, which can be a costly commodity. So George Orwell said: ‘The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.’ Clear expression issues from clear thinking, which in turn requires conforming thought to reality. This was a primary concern of the Master in his holy agony, for he prayed to the Father that his Church never fudge the truth: ‘Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth’ (John 17:17).”