Monday, September 1, 2008

Can I Be Pro-Choice & Catholic at the Same Time?

In trying to figure out the mysteries of life with its penumbras, emanations and conundra, I have always found it necessary (whenever possible) to reduce everything to its simplest level. For example when I think of a pregnant woman with an unborn child within her, I think of two possibilities. One: she lets the kid live. Or, two, she kills it. In my simple way, I can think of no other option. Can anyone? It seems to me that this term, abortion, really means a kind of “killing field.” Abortion (or whatever modern euphemism calls it—termination or choice) is simply killing human beings—and the most defenseless of all of us and the most innocent.

Even if pragmatists say “it is only potential human life”, my own limited study in physiology and biology indicates that, like a hyperbolic curve with precision accuracy, the life within this pregnant woman will generally and inexorably develop heart and lungs and cerebral cortex and be born basically a full human being like me and you and everyone else. It is simply impossible that she will give birth to a lion or hawk or Martian. I say “basically” because I know of the possible mishaps in the gestation process like Down’s syndrome, webbed hand and the like. For the most part, however, human beings have generally been born, over the eons, fairly healthy, with ten fingers and ten toes, well equipped for the life journey. And since I am one of those Romantics who believe that life is great and wonderful and meant to be enjoyed, I find myself profoundly revolted with the human carnage which occurs every single year in my country and the world. It means that literally millions of persons without personal fault will never see a sunset or enjoy great music or laugh at funny jokes or sit on a summer’s night in a Roman bistro sipping a cappuccino.

I am amazed, astonished and delighted with the new technology of sonogram whereby prospective parents can literally “see” the little heart, the formation of limbs and even the sex of their child. It is unbelievable that with such visual information, anyone could destroy that child. Such callousness flies directly against not only basic human decency and compassion but also against the guarantees of the American tradition: the self evident truth that everyone is entitled to life, at the least. It clearly and directly contradicts the holy Will of God—at least in the Judeo-Christian and Moslem Belief. For example most Americans believe, along with the late Senator Patrick Moynihan, that the procedure called “late term abortion” is not only barbarism but factually infanticide. This is the unbelievable procedure in which the child is turned around, in utero, to allow the abortionist to extract the child by the feet and then puncture the base of the skull (as this point still within the mother’s body), suction out brain matter and pull the now dead child completely out for disposal. How irreligious and jaded can one get?

However, in a recent televised “debate” two political candidates were asked the same question: ‘When do you think life begins”? One candidate replied with immediacy and crispness “At the moment of conception.” The other responded with a sonorous and elegant ambiguity. “Theology has a viewpoint” he said. “So does biology” and he spent a whole series of open-ended maneuvers almost frantically avoiding the direct question. He did not say what he thought. He is, regardless, on record, vigorously supporting the abortion movement, even to the extent of partial birth, as described above, and opposing a ban on allowing children, born from botched abortion procedures, to die. Yet, he clearly, without ambiguity, totally supports all movements meant to protect the Roe v. Wade decision which, in its ultimate effect, means that the life within the mother (the unborn child) can be terminated anytime during the pregnancy. Even understanding that, at times, medical limitations might make this literally impossible, the concept of “license” to kill for any reason stands. Such people can disregard the implications of the 14th amendment and insist that until the child can live on its own (i.e. be viable) it is not a person and therefore has no rights. It was rumored on Talk Radio that this candidate promised NARAL that the first act of his presidency would be to remove all restrictions on any level of abortion.

Both of these candidates are Protestant and as such are beyond the parameters of this paper. It is the Catholic whom we consider. Views among Protestants vary greatly. Rarely does one find a Church which specifically condemns abortion as a matter of Faith and Doctrine. It is highly personal and subjective unlike Orthodox Jews, Catholics and strict Moslem sects who recognize the evil of abortion in general. Seeing the abomination of abortion would, one would imagine, be sufficiently cogent for a practicing Catholic (with an informed conscience) to support the right to live for infants. This should occur regardless of one’s political affiliation. I am embarrassed, as a Catholic priest, to find in the Protestant world, as described above, and not among Catholics, the politician who declared that he would sacrifice his politician career rather than support the abortion movement.

The truth –alas—is that we have so-called Catholics trumpeting positions antithetically opposed to the teaching of our Religion. Catholics for a Free Choice is a prime example of using the Catholic name to cover evil practices which we unequivocally condemn. Such blatant hypocrisy is easier to handle than the subtle smooth talking politician who can mislead millions of well intentioned Americans. The Catholic stance is beyond interpretation and speculation. For example, in the 2001 Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, the American Catholic Bishops wrote:

“Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral[1]. Its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice…..”

In effect, no serious Catholic can become engaged in or support the abortion movement without incurring serious consequences and guilt. When the allegation is raised that this type of Catholic insight is a single issue policy, I hasten to remind such opponents of some reality factors. I, as a half Jew, know that had I been in Munich in 1938 at the age of 17, my inexorable destination was Dachau. It would be singularly reasonable for me to face this immediate issue: my life. Was this single issue thinking? When I went to Johannesburg in 1948, had I been non-white, my destiny would have been discrimination, poverty and humiliation. Was such concern to be dismissed because of “single issue” thinking? If an infant in the womb could speak, would it be single issue thinking if the child struggles for survival?

Realistically, there is no “other side.” Slaughter of “non-Aryans” is flat wrong and can never be justified. Nor can the brutality of apartheid. Nor the slaughter of millions of innocent infants. If one is on the receiving end of such barbarism, it is impossible to see the “other side” or other issues. If only the child in the womb could debate, perhaps he might have a chance of survival. The child will never get that chance. The child will be killed. Only in the “bubble” society of Hollywood and East side New York City (maybe west side too) is the infant butchery clothed in the mantle of the “good.” This is the style of the Demon.

When Catholic politicians follow a Party line which seriously violates the Catholic principles of the fundamental justice, the right to life, they cannot in conscience use their Faith to bolster evil behavior. Unless, of course, they are totally ignorant and uniformed about their own Religion. In my years as chaplain in the NYPD I heard many times the dimension of crime called “aiding and abetting.” To support and help some one commit a “crime” even in a remote way, is to make one guilty proportionate to levels of involvement. I believe there is a “spiritual” crime here when we deprive innocents of the most fundamental right of all: LIFE. I hold that prominent Catholics (even if well intended), particularly those in public life, aid and abet this crime. However, I prefer to view these “Catholics” in the light of stupidity rather than malice. I pray that I am right when I say that.

When a so-called Catholic, high in public office, insists that her faith justifies her unbelievable support of outright evil, I prefer to classify her as ignorant rather than evil. When she does not know what she believes about the Blessed Eucharist (the Core of Catholicism), I am forced, by charity, to believe that she is operating without a full deck of faith. Yet, I am also forced by the pressure of Truth and the Revelation of God’s will through His Church to point out her error and pray that she will amend her life (which might be well intentioned even if incorrect). Her possible Good Will is not sufficient to allow her to go unchallenged when she uses the Faith to advance her political position. Even her own pastor publicly challenged her and suggested that she stop calling herself Catholic since she so clearly speaks in a way which is not only non-Catholic but even anti-Catholic.

This person, holding the third highest office in the United States, completely misrepresents the Catholic doctrine when she says that the Church has not been able to agree on when life begins. Church leaders on the contrary say that since the first century the Catholic position has been to affirm the moral evil of abortion. Her notion that some theologians over the centuries have had hesitancy about this point is again revealing her ignorance. Theologians do not establish Church teaching. The official Church does. The Jesuit priest, John McGarry, years ago, jocosely remarked that he has nothing against theologians. Their study keeps them off the street at night! An obvious reference to the Catholic notion of who, officially, “teaches” the Faith— It is specifically the Magisterium, not individual theologians.. When she says that the Church could not agree on when life begins, she is clearly rebutted when Bishops state:

“While in Canon law these theories led to a distinction between very early and later abortions, our teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.” (Rigali and Lori, both Bishops of the Church)

Like Cardinal Egan we are shocked to hear that this so-called Catholic would make such uninformed remarks as if she spoke the Catholic stance. (Rep) Robert Dornan, Calif., wrote in a public essay that she derisively dismissed his unyielding opposition to Abortion on a legislative level. Yet she uses the Persona of “Catholic.” It is incredible in this Age that she would be unaware of what her own Church teaches. The Cardinal notes, incidentally, that unborn children are NOT part of the mother and what they are does not depend on the opinions of theologians of any faith. He also articulated where Catholics stand:

“Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”

She is fairly representative of other alleged or so-called Catholics in public life, especially those in the world of politics. The Kennedys, the Leahys, the Durbins, the Bidens, obediently toe the Party line and chant Pro Choice--Pro Choice--Pro Choice --- while shouting to the World that they are devout Catholics. How we pray that public servants would live to help others, follow what they secretly know is God’s Will and not put their personal careers above what is right. At the very least, could they stop pretending that they are Catholics in good standing? Could they stop seducing simple Catholic Americans with their fake religious allegiance?

The answer to the rhetorical title question of this essay, after all of this, is obvious. No serious Catholic can be Pro-Choice. Like the work of the psychologist, Festinger who researched “dissonance,” namely the impossible co-existence of two conflicting but antithetical factors, the thinking person must confront this impossibility. One must go. It is impossible to be both. Either I will be Pro-Choice or a serious informed Catholic. There is no “middle ground” or other side. May the Holy Spirit guide the Catholic people to see God’s Truth through all the mist and haze of modern politics.

[1] That is objective Mortal sin. Subjective implications are of a tricky nature.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and stimulating comments, Father!

Lucius said...

Can you be pro choice and Catholic at the same time? No.