June 20, 2008
How the Catholic Left Is Boxed in by Abortion
They just can’t shake it. It’s a noose. It’s destroying their credibility. It’s the abortion albatross.
Try as they may to find matters that rival the life issues, the Catholic Left continues to come up empty. When the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly on June 13 to affirm the Church’s teaching on embryonic stem cell research, the Catholic Left could not summon the courage to congratulate them.
Of the four Catholic Left groups that have been making some noise this presidential season — Catholics United, Catholic Democrats, NETWORK, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good — only the latter even mentioned the bishops’ vote. And the best it could do was to reprint a ChicagoTribune story on it.
Interestingly, Catholics in Alliance posted another story the same day it ran the AP piece, only this one was from the Washington Post titled “‘Pro-Life’ Drugstores Market Beliefs.” It was a mostly critical column on the alleged dangers of allowing a pro-life drugstore to open in Chantilly, Virginia; the operators refuse to sell condoms, birth-control pills, or the Plan B emergency contraceptive/abortifacient. Given that Catholics in Alliance has not exactly been vocal in supporting the Church’s teachings on sexuality, it makes one wonder why it chose to run this particular piece. More important, it makes one wonder which side it takes.
There is every reason to question Catholics in Alliance on matters like these. After all, this is the same group that two years ago issued a voter’s guide on the mid-term elections that continuously referred to pro-life candidates as “pro-life” candidates, scare quotes included. Nowhere in its 12-page booklet did it condemn partial-birth abortion — but it did take the time to justify voting for pro-abortion candidates. The following year, it took out a full-page ad in the Washington Times explicitly condemning me, and a few others, for fighting the “War on Christmas.”
Catholics United is another group on the Catholic Left seeking to get some traction in its effort to relativize the life issues. So far it has been an abysmal failure. Even pro-abortion leftists who are not Catholic know that abortion is not just one of many public policy issues for the Catholic Church, and that is why attempts to maintain otherwise run the risk of being laughed at in public.
Every now and then we will be contacted by Catholics United to see if we will oppose a conservative-leaning individual or group that has done something anti-Catholic. We do. For example, we’ve gone after some Minutemen operations that have gotten out of line with Catholic Latinos. But when we ask Catholics United to join with us in opposing the prohibition of crèches in schools, they always seem to come up short.
When the Catholic League took on Pastor John Hagee, Catholics United was initially thrown off-base. Had the group been more familiar with the Catholic League — we criticized George W. Bush when he went to Bob Jones University in 2000, and we led the fight against Republican evangelicals who fought the appointment of the first Catholic priest as House chaplain — then it would not have been surprised. It was revealing that when we accepted Pastor Hagee’s apology, Catholics United went bonkers.
NETWORK has been around the longest of these organizations. It has a great deal of interest in social justice issues, and none whatsoever in abortion or any other life issue. Indeed, it is so radical and unrepresentative of American Catholics that it has butted heads several times with the Church hierarchy here at home, as well as in Rome.
In 1983, NETWORK took the side of a dissident nun who refused to denounce publicly funded abortions. When the Sisters of Mercy nun refused, the Vatican stepped in to force her to leave her order. NETWORK responded with boilerplate, saying it “deeply regrets the authoritarian exercise of administrative power on the part of Vatican officials.”
The very next year, Sr. Marjorie Tuite, a founder of NETWORK, was herself threatened with expulsion from her order, the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary in Columbus, Ohio, when she signed a New York Times ad calling on the Catholic Church to reconsider its opposition to abortion. When she died two years later, she was remembered for accusing the Church of treating women unjustly for opposing abortion.
To this day, NETWORK says the reason it does not address the issue of abortion is because other Catholic groups already do that. Yet there is no shortage of dissident Catholic groups that tackle the very same issues it supports — e.g., higher taxes — but this hasn’t stopped it from operating. More important, as already shown, NETWORK is not neutral on abortion.
The late Rev. Robert Drinan, himself a champion of Bill Clinton’s veto of a partial-birth abortion bill, actually congratulated NETWORK’s nuns for not “scolding” pro-abortion congressmen when they met with them in the 1970s. Moreover, Father Drinan boasted that a non-Catholic member of Congress received no praise from the group for his pro-life votes, though he was chastised for not agreeing with them on their issues. In short, NETWORK has more in common with pro-abortion groups than it does pro-life groups.
Catholic Democrats is now conducting a national search in quest of finding conservatives who are in the tank for Sen. Barack Obama. So far it has found two. No matter — what really exercises this group is any criticism of their hero. That is why it blew a gasket when the Catholic League took on Obama’s Catholic National Advisory Council. We pointed out that most of the politicians who belong to this group had a 100 percent NARAL record. This did not sit well with Catholic Democrats.
When we subsequently questioned whether the Catholic Advisory group still exits — there is no longer any mention of it on the Obama campaign Web site — Catholic Democrats tried to get cute by saying we were “having trouble navigating the website” of their hero. When we asked them to provide evidence that we were wrong, and that the Catholic Advisory group was still on the campaign site, it could not do so. But instead of admitting this, it raised non-issues like “why the CL [Catholic League] wants to pick this particular fight with Senator Obama’s Catholic Outreach people.”
To top things off, Catholic Democrats is proudly running a most embarrassing article by a Jesuit priest, Rev. Raymond Schroth. Father Schroth loves the fact that Muslim terrorists held at Gitmo will now be afforded ACLU lawyers. What bothers him is that the Catholics on the high court dissented from the majority opinion. He asks, “Is there any trace of their religious upbringing in their judicial decisions?” Indeed, he concludes by writing, “Thank God for non-Catholics John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Father Schroth’s argument is fatally flawed. While legislators can rightfully allow their religiously informed conscience to affect their votes, judges cannot. Lawmakers may vote for what they believe is in the best interest of the nation, and they can be removed by the voters. Judges have a different charge: They must interpret the law as it was intended to be applied by those who wrote it. In other words, they must put aside their religiously informed conscience in rendering a judgment. Moreover, they cannot be removed by the voters.
All of these examples come down to one thing: In 2004, the Democrats lost because they got their clocks cleaned by values voters. Now Catholic Democrats are determined not to let this happen again — hence the sudden interest in “God talk” and attempts to neutralize the abortion issue. But at the end of the day, few will be fooled by such shenanigans. Even those who try to establish parity between the moral significance of global warming and killing children in the womb have to know that they’re engaged in a fool’s exercise.
Just recently, John Kelly, Catholic outreach liaison for the Democratic National Committee, gave away the store when he wrote, “The Democratic Party realizes that life does not end at birth and must be supported and nurtured through a society built on the common good.”
How refreshing. If the Democrats are willing to admit that life doesn’t end at birth, then they are conceding that it begins some time before birth. And whether that point is at conception, or at quickening, or at some other time before birth, it makes it morally indefensible to justify some, if not all, abortions.
It is for reasons like this that abortion will continue to haunt the Catholic Left. They’ve boxed themselves in, and there’s no way out.
The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.
Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.