Thursday, January 22, 2009

Preaching To the Choir?

There's a notion out there in the secular world that all Catholics consider themselves pro-life, that Catholic parishes spend all sorts of time preaching and educating the faithful on life issues, that to be Catholic is to be constantly called to obey the Church's teachings on the sanctity of life and on the dignity of marriage, including the avoidance of contraception. But as Catholics know, this sort of "preaching to the choir" in terms of life issues is hardly the reality in many, if not most, Catholic parishes today; things have gotten so bad in some places that parishioners will march out of Mass on a Sunday if the priest mentions Church teachings on abortion and contraception.

And that reality is one reason why so many Catholics had no problem at all voting and campaigning for Barack Obama. If you read nothing else today, read this:

A simple web search for the order of presidential succession in the newly-minted Obama administration makes clear what a profound debacle the '08 election was for the pro-life movement in the United States. The country's top leadership now looks like a Who's Who of the National Abortion Rights Action League's "100% pro-choice" club. Largely ignored in the last election, abortion remains a massively important political issue. Catholics who did so should be ashamed of themselves for voting with disregard for a ticket and party that is inimical to a central moral tenet of their Church's teaching. Abortion kills.

This nation daily tolerates the willfully procured death of over 3,200 innocent and defenseless human beings, and that slaughter is an abomination far beyond other considerations that entered into electoral decisions last year. To maintain any sort of credible witness to the value of human life, Catholic leaders and faithful must choose to directly and publicly reengage the pro-life movement and to put John Paul II's Gospel of Life at the very top of their social and political agendas in the battles that lie ahead. [...]

The Respect Life community failed to make abortion a meaningful issue in the past election and the current situation is the sour fruit of that negligence. Catholics especially abandoned the unborn at the polls. At least 54% of those identifying themselves as Catholic supported President Obama, while "Church-going Catholics" voted 50% for McCain to Obama's 49%. Either number demonstrates an inability in the ecclesial hierarchy and the lay leadership in the Catholic Pro-life movement to make a convincing argument about the nature of the abortion act and the issue's relative importance versus other weighty but lesser political questions such as the election of African-American leaders, the economy, or the war on terror.

Abortion kills and its deadly impact is orders of magnitude beyond the violence of the Iraq war or any indignities visited upon detainees held at Guantanamo. However many millions of visitors may have journeyed to the Capital for this week's inaugural, it is certain that several million Americans never had the slightest chance of making it to the festivities. At least 45 million to be more accurate: all those aborted since the handing down of Roe v Wade. While the election of President Obama means good things for progress in racial integration in this nation, it cannot be ignored that abortion continues to heavily disproportionately target African-Americans, 13 million since 1973. [...]

Today, as the bunting comes down and crews disassemble the reviewing stands on Pennsylvania Avenue, the annual March for Life will stream quietly by the Capitol dome and Congress will prepare to debate the Freedom of Choice Act as a first order of business. This government is poised to push the pro-life movement in America into oblivion. Whether they decide to do so in the pulpit, the media, or in their extensive school networks, bishops, clergy and lay leaders in the Catholic Church will have to motivate their flocks to action if they want to see any movement out of the moral quagmire this country finds itself in on abortion.

I've been thinking about this today. How many of us live in dioceses where the diocesan "Respect Life" office is underfunded, understaffed, and overwhelmed, while offices for such things as "Peace and Justice" or "Diversity" flourish? How many of our parishes actively preach the Church's message against the sin of abortion? Of contraception, which creates the "need" for abortion in the first place by divorcing the fecundity of the marriage act from the act itself? How many parishes have an active pro-life ministry attached to the parish?

How many of us would wear pro-life jewelry to Mass on Sunday, or offer to provide some to a parish youth group or religious education program? How many of us have ever asked that prayers for the unborn be included in our parish's Prayers of the Faithful (if they aren't already)? How many of us have offered to organize a parish group to protest outside an abortion clinic, participate in a letter or postcard campaign, or otherwise show the community that our parish stands for life?

I think this election and its aftermath are a time for reflection on the things we can do, large and small, to raise the level of pro-life awareness in our parishes and dioceses. If we really want Catholics to become educated on life issues, to understand why we can't consider abortion as just one of many equal issues to weigh when deciding to vote, and to get involved in helping pro-life candidates for political office win future elections, then we can't wait--we need to figure out what we can do to help educate our fellow Catholics, and then do it.

It's no longer a matter of preaching to the choir; it's now a matter of witnessing to the truth about abortion in places where abortion isn't talked about nearly enough--and sadly, for many of us, that means in church.


opey124 said...

We never hear the "a" word. I have never heard it in a homily here. Never. We are passing out postcards this weekend to be sent, so there are some good things.
I am not sure about the jewelry. I am really not a jewelry person but we do have a prolife tag.

Nicola said...

Our Priest and Deacon have both spoken against FOCA and against abortion, at least three times this year so far.

I do have a Precious Feet Lapel Pin which I wear most of the time, to Mass too. For me it means not only pro-life but in memoriam of my first pregnancy which I miscarried at 9 - 10 weeks, so my baby's feet would have looked just like that.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

I heard a quote at the March yesterday about "Preaching to the choir". Someone said that while we may be preaching to the choir, it is the choir that sings to the entire congregation so let's get out their and sing!

I thought that was a good point.

Badger said...

There's a notion out there in the secular world that all Catholics consider themselves pro-life

No there isn't.

And that reality is one reason why so many Catholics had no problem at all voting and campaigning for Barack Obama.

Perhaps once your reality matches reality, you will understand reasonings better. Insularity is a bad thing.

Too many in the pro-life community use the term 'we' are having abortions when they mean 'they' are having abortions. They delude themselves into thinking they are in a serperate culture, a counterculture if you will, that celebrates life. For many, pro-life advocacy is just like advocating for AIDS in Africa: something to do because it is really horrible, but the cause is nothing that could actually be their fault except in the esoteric and detached way. It's just another way to do something without doing anything real at all.

molly said...

Gratefully our pastor is fired up, sadly though, I think too many years of silence have passed!

Great post.