Saturday, March 2, 2019

Bizarro World is Here: Reflections on Catholics Deforming the Defense of Life

Imagine a world where Catholics who are devoted to the right to life saying that the US Bishops who condemned the failure in Congress to pass a law against infanticide were “played” by people with political agenda, while those members of Congress who want to expand abortion are praised as being “really pro-life.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the humorous “Bizarro World” from DC Comics where what we consider good is wrong and what we consider bad is right. This is the real world of Earth, 2019 where this is happening right now.

In case you somehow missed it, the Governor of Virginia made a statement that if a child was aborted alive, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” In response, Senator Sasse submitted a bill (text HERE) that declared in part, “If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States, and entitled to all the protections of such laws.” 

It’s a bill that people should recognize as obvious truth. Regardless of the legal status of abortion, once the child is born alive, you don’t have the right to kill it, even if the intention was to abort it. But 44 Senators filibustered the bill to prevent it from becoming law. The chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities responded saying:

There should be no bill easier for the Senate to pass than one that makes clear that killing newborn babies is wrong and should not be tolerated. That even one senator, let alone 44 senators voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, is an injustice that should horrify and anger the American people and commit us to decisive political action. A vote against this bill is a vote to extend Roe v. Wade’s license for killing unborn children to killing newborn babies. The American people, the vast majority of whom support this bill, must demand justice for innocent children.

It is comprehensible that people who are dogmatically in favor of abortion will refuse to allow anything that might threaten it to interfere—no matter how humane the bill might be. But how is it possible that a group of Catholics who claim to be “truly” Prolife responded by saying that the bishops were deceived by politicians with an agenda? Especially when they cited these same bishops’ teachings on other issues, denouncing their opponents for disobedience.

To understand this, we have to understand that in the movements defending life there is something of a schism with multiple factions. Among these factions, there are two prominent ones. One side that says abortion is so important of an issue, that any other issue can and must be sacrificed in order to ensure that the party seen as opposing it will get elected. Another faction says that the defense of life involves more than just abortion, and that a politician who supports abortion rights is actually more prolife than the politician who only opposes abortion. These two factions are known as the OPLM [*] and the NPLM [§] respectively.

The OPLM operates under the assumption that because one party supports abortion, a necessary part in fighting abortion is voting for the other party, even if that party’s platform is also at odds with Catholic teaching. The NPLM operates under a broader understanding of what the defense of life involves. But it also involves a moral calculus that decides issues implementing A+B+C+D has greater importance in defending life than the ending of legalized abortion. Therefore they tend to defend the party that supports A+B+C+D even though that party supports abortion. The defense of A+B+C+D is seen as “more” important in being prolife.

I believe both are perversions of the Catholic teaching, reducing it to opposing the political party they demonize most. The OPLM errs in thinking the other issues don’t matter until abortion is ended. The NPLM errs in thinking abortion is only one issue among many...often becoming the only issue they will compromise on. Both are wrong when they hold a position at odds with what the Church teaches.

The Church holds that the right to life is the fundamental right that all others depend on. Whatever violates that right—from conception to natural death—is to be condemned. Both factions ignore aspects of the defense of life that coincidentally work against their political views. The OPLM tends to have more “conservative” views politically. The NPLM tends to have more “liberal” views. The problem is, both tend to equate their political views with Catholic teaching. Thus, the teachings in line with the political views are emphasized. The teachings that go against their views are downplayed or written off as proof of political “biases” of the bishops.

Before anyone think this article was written in support of one of these factions, let me say this: The Bizarro World of the infanticide bill shows one example of wrongdoing. But it’s not the only one. It can be traced back to a bigger one: Bizarro World Catholics saying they are faithful Catholics because of their rejection of the Pope or bishops establishing what is authentic against them. If the bishop opposes them, it must be because the bishop is biased, not us.

Life issues, social justice, war and peace, sexual morality, etc. The Church teaching involves what we must do to be in right relationship with God. If we won’t listen to the Church, we are not listening to God (Luke 10:16). So let’s not use this failure by this faction to say, “those people are reprehensible.” Let’s use it as a teaching moment: if we know that they are wrong to do X, and we do X in support our own politics, then not only have we done the same wrong, but we have done what we condemn in others, adding hypocrisy to our guilt.

So, if we know they do wrong in explaining away the Magisterium when they don’t like their teachings, how will God judge us when we condemn them and then do the same things ourselves?

[*] “Original/Old Pro Life Movement”
[§] “New Pro Life Movement.”

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