In an online event recently, Bishop McElroy of San Diego criticized the idea of making abortion a “litmus test” for Catholic politicians. When Catholic leaders do this, he claims, “such a position will reduce the common good to a single issue.”
Clearly, the bishop was thinking of many Catholic Democrat politicians, notably the new president, who are fully pro-abortion at all times and at the taxpayers’ expense. Even so, argues McElroy, they do ostensibly support measures to help immigrants, save the environment, and lower the punishment for criminals. Apparently, a little thing like the collective murdering of the most vulnerable members of society should not overshadow a politician’s progressive views in these other areas.
No doubt, Pope Francis and his favorite bishops feel the same way as Bishop McElroy, as they themselves overlook genocide and slavery to find “common ground” with murderous dictators, Leftist politicians, and anti-religious organizations. One would think that they might appear somewhat hypocritical to look past the flaws of so many of the world’s worst people while condemning President Trump’s American immigration policy. But, according to Catholic leadership, this isn’t hypocritical—it’s just being “pastoral.”
And no doubt, the logic of seeking common ground around the issue of abortion is very much the agenda in Catholic parishes around the world. How often does one even hear a sermon in support of life versus sermons on fundraising, being nice, or the trendy social justice topic of the day? Even in traditional parishes, one can sense that the pastors and priests are discouraged from broaching certain topics for fear of upsetting the bishop.
However, if one’s position on abortion is removed from assessing a person’s moral and spiritual character, all for the sake of finding common ground, what common ground is left? If a politician believes that some lives matter more than others and that killing a baby in the womb is not necessarily murder, where does the conversation go from there?
Life is not just one issue among many, one area of the ground of ideas; it is the issue on which all other issues depend. It is the ground. This is what is meant when other bishops regard abortion as a “preeminent” issue. The supposed “encounter” and “dialogue” that pastorally-minded bishops pretend to have with bad Catholics like Joe Biden is simply not possible in any logical sense. Because the moral and intellectual ground is removed, bishops who try to come to terms with such people will consequently fall into depravity and scandal.
This truth helps explain why abortion tends to define a person’s position on every other issue. When a person supports life, he usually supports liberty, tradition, and virtue—issues that align with American conservatism. When a person supports abortion, he usually supports government entitlements, identity politics, and outcome-based equality—issues that align with American progressivism. Hence, the Democratic platform fundamentally changed when its position on abortion changed, and the Republican platform has remained very much the same (sometimes frustratingly so) for over a century.
Adding to the hypocrisy of bishops seeking common ground by ignoring the issue of abortion is the insistence that abortion is a complex, nuanced issue where positions fall along a spectrum. However, compared to most controversies, abortion is remarkably binary: one either believes life is sacred from conception and must be preserved, or one believes life is contingent on some arbitrary standard (heartbeat, brain activity, weeks of incubation, level of convenience for the parent, etc.) and thus disposable. Sure, abortionists introduce euphemisms, ridiculous hypotheticals, and emotional testimonials into the debate to muddy the waters, but the matter really does come down to whether one chooses life or death.
By contrast, on issues which really are nuanced and complex, like environmental or immigration policy or how to best alleviate poverty, these same bishops ironically take a hard line and issue statements regularly. As John Zmirak writes in American Greatness, so many of these bishops’ statements simply parrot progressive philosophy: “A slim percentage (10-20 percent) referred to the sanctity of life, religious liberty, or some other fitting issue that actually fell within their authority. The rest were typically calls for ever more taxpayer money to be squeezed out of the citizenry and handed to the government.” Does anyone believe that these bishops are ready to have a serious discussion on the actual efficacy or morality on so many of these issues? Is there really any nuance to any of a multitude of loaded terms and arguments on which they opine?
What results from this inconsistency of Bishop McElroy and so many Catholic leaders is less common ground between Catholics than ever before. Because they have essentially politicized the faith, emphasizing progressive values over Christian values in the interest of having a phony consensus, most Catholics now define themselves more by their politics than their religion, and they follow the words and example of politicians more than those of the clergy.
If the shepherds have any desire to bring back their flock—and, judging by their unflappable complacency, this seems doubtful—they need to take up the issue of human life and stop compromising. Not only should they stop serving Holy Communion to politicians who promote abortion, but they should also stop the sophistry they use to defend them. It is driving people away from the Church and hurting evangelization efforts. When Catholic teaching and the Catholic identity are continually diluted, attempting to convert and catechize others feels increasingly empty and pointless.
No one is fooled by the cop-outs. What most people see when they look at the bishops are men who are ridiculously out of touch with the world, let alone their congregations, speaking on behalf of corrupt politicians who are also ridiculously out of touch. If there is any common ground in these times, it is the delusions of moral authority that both these groups seem to share. Therefore, the Catholic laity, and Christians in general, should be their own leaders in public life and continue to fight the good fight for life while they pray that their leaders will quit courting evil and start supporting their spiritual families once again.
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