Friday, January 1, 2010

When Criminalizing Abortion Becomes The Litmus Test For Real Catholicism The Baby Really Has Been Thrown Out With The Bathwater

Happy New Year one and all. I wish you a happy, peaceful and joyous 2010. I also know that's probably not too likely because Catholic swords will clash more than ever in the coming year and the points of contention will be the same as the past year. One should never forget there are elections this coming fall and the culture warriors will be out in full force.

For us who claim any Catholic affiliation, the points of contention will continue to be abortion, gay rights, and the politicization of the hierarchy. This serves a two fold purpose. The first is it keeps the culture wars brewing, distracting us from other issues. The second is it keeps the focus on the teaching authority of the hierarchy rather than the systemic structure in which the hierarchy operates.

This is a very useful strategy to keep the Irish sexual abuse crisis and it's forced resignations of bishops from engulfing the USCCB. Imagine if that solution were used in the States where we know that two thirds of our bishops did exactly what the now resigned bishops in Ireland did. Chaos would reign in the Vatican and the USCCB, but probably not so much in our parishes and dioceses. In fact we might all come to learn we could get along just fine with out Vatican sycophants for bishops.

But in the meantime, Deal Hudson is keeping the abortion issue in front of us. He has taken umbrage with a Huffington Post article written by Byran Cones, the Managing Editor of US Catholic Magazine. Cone's article was in response to a previous article of Deal Hudson's. The very same article I responded too in which Deal tells his readers that the Catholic Hospital Association and the LCWR have no authority to speak for real Catholics. Real Catholics could not support the Senate health reform bill.

It's not so much Deal's latest article that I found of note, but one of the comments posted in response to Deal's article. The gloves are coming off. Real Catholics must support the criminalization of abortion. There is to be no more beating around the bush on this strategy.
The following is an edited version of the comment...

Individuals of the Catholic left claim to be pro-life because they want abortions reduced. But I hold that some of them are actually pro-life, whereas others are just shamming.

We may test which camp a given Catholic leftist is really in, by asking two questions: (1.) Do you want abortions reduced to as close to zero as possible, or just to a lower number than today? and, (2.) Is it morally licit for governments to outlaw murder, rather than just using economic incentives to discourage it? (This question completely ignores the whole debate of when human life begins by assuming the default 'at conception' point of view. Which of course, has never been the traditional church position. It is a very recent position.)

For, you see, if there remain any abortions after all the economic incentives are applied, the Catholic Church will not cease to teach that we are obligated to use the normal means of government to reduce them still more. And of course criminalization is the normal means by which government reduces murder.

The Catholic Church will only stop saying, "Okay, and what next?" when there are zero abortions, or when all of the morally licit means of reducing abortion have been exhausted and only morally illicit means remain.

If you think the morally licit category includes criminalization, why, then, you must assume that the Catholic Church will eventually require it...and then, to be a faithful Catholic, you too must require it. (I don't have to assume this position at all to be still be a faithful Catholic. The Communion of Saints is full of Catholics who did not accept criminalization by the state for certain behaviors the church at one time
taught were criminal.)

So for a Catholic leftist to oppose criminalizing abortion, he must provide a reason why it is not morally licit to outlaw murder generally; or else provide a reason why abortion is different from other murders in this regard; or else admit that he dissents from the Church on this view. (Here's one. How do you tell abortion from miscarriage short of violating all other kinds of privacy laws? Any law which is patently unenforceable and unprovable is unjust.)

Don't Make Me Think! The logic spelled out above leads leftist Catholics to uncomfortable conclusions...uncomfortable, because it requires them to sacrifice their ties with some of their favorite political allies. It obligates them to give up the "moderated, nuanced" policy positions which make their Catholicity palatable at dinner parties. (In your dreams it does.)

For this reason, the most common leftist-Catholic response is not to engage the arguments on a logical level, but to say, "La, la, la, I'm not listening." This technique happens not only in conversation with the faithful, but inside the mind: One gradually develops habits of thinking which carefully step around those uncomfortable conclusions to which an honest thinker would be inevitably drawn. (An honest thinker would not denigrate his debate partner by assuming they can't engage in logic or that they refuse to listen.)

But were they honest with themselves, they'd either support Criminalization of Abortion as an end-goal, or just give up the whole "Catholic" thing. I suspect many of them would opt for the latter. (If I truly believed Jesus meant my Catholicism to be determined by criminalizing abortion rather than what He actually taught, I would give up that Catholicism in a flash.)


I could write a great deal more about the kind of thinking embodied in the above comment and fostered by the Deal Hudson's and Robert P George's of the Catholic right. I'm not going to today because I'm sure I'll be given plenty more opportunity in the future. Besides I'm still trying to get my head around the concept that being Catholic requires state criminalization of abortion.

That's quite a leap in the boundaries of what it means to be Catholic. If being a real Catholic is now to include extending personal faith belief to state enforcement of those beliefs, that's really a leap backward. That's not just pre Vatican II, that's pre Enlightenment.


  1. Real and fake Catholic. These distinctions - made by those who would reject, make me insane.

    I just commented at your other post from the other day... To reiterate, what do people think will happen if abortion becomes criminalized?

    The January 2010 issue of US Catholic has an interesting article about the abortion rights battle in Europe. It is worth reading - a very different scenario.

    This matter brings out the worst in me. I am actually far more pro-life than not. That said, I find the pro-life movement very not focused on life, but rather on control and power.

    As a woman who was abused as a girl, I have lots of thoughts about abortion (no I have not ever had one) and the whole concept of "it is my body" that drives much of this battle. It has been hard to articulate what I want to say about it. Please pray that I can do it at some point.

  2. Fran the thing that gets me is there is no concern on the virulent pro life side about the fact that their philosophy also forces too many children into horrific life sentences.

    They would never conceive of forcing a criminal to a life of abject abuse and a state of poverty which insures no roof, no food, no medicine, no sanitation, no nothing, no release. For God's sakes we build prisons to insure our criminals have all of the above.

    But children, no such a deal is made for them. The only issue is forcing their mother to have them.

    After birth the truth is many of these children would be better off in one of our prisons than with their mothers.

  3. The archbishop of Kampala(Uganda) wants the government to go after the priests who marry-another example of criminalizing anyone who disagrees with the RC Church and their friends. The criminalization of gays with draconian sentences is something the Uganda bishops-and the Vatican- supported by their silence. Do the American bishops hope for the same government control over abortion in the US? They are clear that criminalizing abortion is more important that preserving life through health care. Better millions of children, men and women should die than a potential abortion paid for by health care. I am old enough to remember what happened when abortion was illegal. It was brutish and ugly.
    What is pro-life anyway? As you said Coleen, it appears to end at birth.

  4. The "pro-life" movement is a sham. Until they are for making slave wages illegal, making poverty illegal, making starvation and malnutrition and lack of medicine illegal, I won't believe them.

    Until they are for shutting down & making it illegal to manufacture and sell nuclear weapons, I will never believe they are pro-life.

    As long as they focus on the issue of abortion as a litmus test for "real" Catholicism, the issues they ignore will become larger and larger and hit them over the head with the reality of the dangers of ignoring these life issues that help create the circumstances for a culture of death to exceed that of a culture of life.

    If the idea was to truly create a culture of life, then why don't they get down to the business of creating a culture of life? All they are doing with this abortion issue is obliterating the chance for life to be lived at its fullest. It is a stingy and selfish way to go about being "pro-life."

    The kind of "pro-life" we need is not more punishment, but the kind of encouragement needed to create a world that would focus more on the positives. The negatives will always be with us, but if we dwell in them we only live in the negative and never transcend into the positive.

  5. Amen to all the comments. I think the Catholic Right is acting out the concept that "biology is destiny" and continuing the politicization of the hierarchy as a distraction from the very real failures of the institutional Church leadership. I think they believe if they shout for "protection of all life" loud enough, we'll forget the complete compromise of the hierarchy's moral witness. It isn't going to happen.

    That being said, I think those of us who post here and disagree with the "real vs. fake Catholic" straitjacket have a duty to witness against these false dichotomies.

  6. I've a new piece of music entitled Rebirth up at several of the websites. Happy New Year Everyone!

  7. Two other things-

    Robert George is in the running for Frank Cocozzelli's annual "Coughie" award, and Deal Hudson might be an appropriate candidate with all his bloviating.

    o/t-Butterfly, I am interested in your music-any way to reach you on this?

  8. Hi Khughes, If you are in facebook you can find me there. Or, send your contact info to Colleen and she can forward to me.

  9. I follow the blog of Rabbi Rami Shapiro and he had a commentary a couple days ago about Pius XII and how his progress towards canonization shows that our hierarchy is no friend of the Jews. I have to agree, and what got me was the title of his blog entry: Which is more valuable: a fetus or a Jew? Unfortunately, I think that the attitude of Deal Hudson et al seems to indicate that we are making horrible value judgments which seem to prefer one over the other.

  10. Colleen - I could not agree with you more. I am always reluctant to use the term pro-life in self-description as it has been horribly coopted.

    And as the other commenters have duly noted - the regard for life is rather selective.

    The whole thing makes me ill. Your posts, as always, are tonic for the weary soul.

  11. dtedac I really hate to have to say this, but I think Rabbi Shapiro has a legitimate point. I keep wondering when some of these pro lifers, who are also anti semitic and homophobic and white supremacists, are going to realize that some fetuses are born Jews and gay and not caucasian. Does something magic happen at birth that then makes these previously innocent fetuses not worth of Catholic concern any longer?

  12. ## The Abortion Act of 1967 in the UK was passed because criminalising abortion merely drove it underground, leading to coat-hanger abortions. At least the mother is not killed now - which is better than losing both child and mother.

    Legal abortion in the UK is a very unsatisfactory solution, but it is less unsatisfactory than killing mother as well as child.