Monday, August 24, 2020

Both Factions Are Wrong: Let’s Talk About Abortion as an Issue

Every fourth year, abortion becomes a very contentious issue in America. The remaining three years usually involves Catholics pointing fingers at each other for how they voted, saying things would be better/worse if the other guy got elected. Catholics from both of our major political parties tell us that their party is the only real pro-life choice and are swift to point out the evils of the other side.

And let’s face it. Both sides have caused major harm to the defense of life. The Democrats and Republicans alike are correct on pointing out the problems in the other side. But they are wrong to be silent about their own.

The first thing to remember is the Church absolutely calls for the end of abortion. We cannot draw a line where we will say “We’ll tolerate it this far, but no further.” We might have to settle for a lesser gain for now while fighting for a greater gain later. But a Catholic cannot say they will sacrifice the fight to end abortion while focusing on other means to end it. St. John Paul II was quite clear on this:

38. In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

—John Paul II, Christifideles Laici (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1988).

Note that some of the issues some Catholics cite as being “more important” to defend life are listed and called “false and illusory” when the right to defend life is not defended. That is not because St. John Paul II doesn’t care about those issues. On the contrary, he wrote some very firm encyclicals on those topics. But he is removing the fig leaf from the argument some Catholics make. We can’t escape the obligation to fight to end legalized abortion (that is, you can’t claim that reducing the conditions where people consider it is enough). So, the criticism against those Catholics is quite valid because their argument is pharisaical at best.

That being said, the criticism against other Catholics is also a valid concern. Working to help pregnant women so they won’t think abortion is the only option is important as well. Yes, we can legitimately have different ideas on how best to do this so long as we don’t use these different ideas as an excuse to do nothing. The problem is, sometimes these different ideas amount to “let somebody else do it.” That doesn’t work as a Catholic solution. The Church does indeed favor subsidiarity for solutions over huge government bureaucracies because the bigger the body working on it, the more likely somebody will slip through the cracks. But, sometimes people’s “let somebody else do it” approach to subsidiarity results in overwhelmed charity groups working to help too many people with not enough resources.

So, we have on one side Catholics on one side is silent over their party championing an intrinsic evil to achieve an end. Catholics on the other side are silent when their party tolerates evil consequences to achieve theirs. So, this is why I say both sides mentioned are wrong, and reject “but what about...” arguments. On one side, turning one’s back on the issue of abolishing abortion is to effectively say that it doesn’t matter if some get aborted as long as it flies under the radar. No, abortion is not just going to vanish when conditions improve enough. Call it negligence, call it cowardice, call it indifference. Just don’t call it principled. It’s still complicity with evil. On the other side, by refusing to consider policies that go against one’s political philosophy on government size, they are leaving women without resources that might give them the courage to choose life. Oh, I’m sure that Catholics in this camp would want these women to get help. But we should keep in mind what the Epistle of James said: If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? (James 2:15–16). God will judge them just as surely as he will those who make excuses for pro-abortion politicians.

The danger is, Catholics have grown to think that Evil X is so bad that they can ignore Evil Y because of it. That’s not how Catholic moral obligation works. In our dualistic political system, we are all too often forced to choose between a party that calls abortion “good,” while trying to expand it, and a party that seems to say “tsk, too bad” when it comes to conditions that make the evil of abortion seem like it is an option.

So, while both factions of Catholics are correct in pointing out the hypocrisies of the other side, they are in dangerous—quite possibly damnable—error over their blindness about their own hypocrisies. So, here’s the thing. If you identify with the party that promotes abortion, you have an obligation to fight abortion tooth and nail in a pro-abortion party you plan to vote for. If you identify with the party that opposes abortion, you have an obligation to fight callous indifference over what those women considering abortion need.

If you don’t do that within your own party, you’re no better than those on the other side that you denounce. It really is that simple.

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