Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The moral blind spot of the pro-choice Catholic

A lot of virtual ink has already been spilled over the astoundingly stupid decision by the astonishingly irrelevant National Catholic Reporter to create a special new award--their Person of the Year award--solely in order to award it to dissident nun Sr. Carol Keehan, the Obama abortion shill who worked hard against the bishops to insist that the baby-destroying provisions in the health care legislation were totally unimportant and no reason at all for Catholics to quit supporting it--if they weren't, in fact, really pro-life when you looked closely at their penumbras, which were more about helping poor women than killing as many of their offspring on the government dime as possible.

Sister Carol then added insult to injury by coming out in support of the formerly Catholic St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, for their "courageous" act to kill, directly and intentionally, an eleven-week-old human being rather than attempt to treat both the baby and her sick mother, which would probably have been expensive and bothersome. The hospital maintains, of course, that their act was really really moral because they cried a lot as they ripped the baby's arms and legs off, or some such thing--and Sister Carol Keehan applauds the whole dirty business. The NCR warmly congratulates Sister C. for her heroic woman-spirit vision, or whatever; their prose gives me a headache.

The thing is, this award is a fraud. I highly doubt the NCR really gives a flying fig one way or the other about Sister Carol Keehan (they certainly don't appear to give a damn about her immortal soul, anyway). What the NCR really wants to do is to say to the United States Bishops, and to Bishop Olmsted in particular, "You have no authority here. We reject your silly Church's antiquated teachings on the intrinsic worth of human life. If a higher good, such as the health of a woman with pulmonary hypertension or the glorious passing of a huge Democrat social program, demands that one baby or a million babies a year be slaughtered, so be it. We are not pro-life and never have been; what's more, we reject all the Church's teachings on human sexuality, whether these refer to the evils of contraception, fornication, adultery, or homosexual acts, or whether they place a positive value on chastity and the dignity of the human person. And we insist that we still get to call ourselves Catholic; we insist that we are still singing a grand new church into being, and in our new church there will be abortions and birth control and sex with anyone at all without any guilt at all, so long as the individual believes in his or her sincere heart that he or she isn't using the other person but is really interested in him or her, whether for a night or for a lifetime. But we can't sing this new grand church into being until the old Church stops thinking it has the right to tell people what to believe about sex and about abortion, and we especially can't sing without the voices of woman who should be ordained and made bishops and even popesses who will celebrate their womanhood with as many abortions as they like; and so we'll applaud Sister Keehan as a way of sticking our collective tongues out at the bishops and especially at Bishop Olmsted, who has the audacity to hope that we'll see the errors of our ways one of these days."

If you think I'm overstating things, just check out some of the comments beneath either of the articles linked above, or beneath this truly asinine essay praising St. Joseph's for their practice of murdering unborn babies (remember, there are reports that there have certainly been more abortions than this one at this hospital in the relatively recent past). The absolute hatred directed at the hierarchy in total, and especially toward Bishop Olmsted, is breathtakingly ugly. The sad thing is that these were the same sort of Catholics who have celebrated when liberal bishops have pushed heterodox agendas or honored pro-abort Catholic politicians--and they've had plenty of tsk-tsking for "orthodox" Catholics who stood up to liberal bishops in the past. But now that the hierarchy in America is beginning, once again, to be made up of men with actual backbones who teach what the Church teaches, boldly and without regard for the silly sycophants still puddled in shrinking pools around organs of dissidentia like the National Catholic Reporter, suddenly it's "prophetic" and "heroic" to say hateful and even (gasp!) judgmental things about the American Catholic bishops.

This has never been about a single tragically misguided decision to kill an unborn child rather than attempt to save both mother and baby. It has always been about the moral blind spot of the liberal Catholic, who utterly refuses to accept fully the Church's teachings concerning human sexuality. So long as the bishops of America were willing to stay relatively quiet about abortion, or come up with "seamless garment" constructs that allowed pro-"choice" Catholics to vote for Democrats under the cover of working for a broader vision of the protection of human lives and human dignity, those pro-"choice" Catholics were willing to go with the flow. But now that some of the American bishops are calling an end to that old expedient truce and insisting that, for instance, a hospital that wishes to call itself Catholic can't be in the business of performing any abortions at all, let alone colluding with those who provide abortions, contraception, and voluntary sterilizations, the mask that allowed heresy-affirming "Catholics" to continue to think of themselves as fully Catholic has been ripped away.

So the game the National Catholic Reporter has played of coyly holding up an abortion shill as their "Person of the Year" is simply a sort of last-ditch effort to penalize Catholic bishops who speak and act according to the truth the Church teaches, in the hopes that enough of these courageously Catholic bishops will get the message and stop rocking the boat. There have even been, among the various commenters at NCR, calls for schism from those Catholics who openly disagree with the Church on the matters of sexual morality, including the teaching concerning the intrinsic evil of abortion. Why should they stay, they petulantly whine, in a Church that still prohibits "reproductive freedom," that is misogynistic, that won't ordain women, and that values the lives of human fetuses?

Why should they, indeed?

I know that it would be tragic for many Catholics in America if these sorts of Catholics really did decide to break off into schism. I used to think that such a terrible thing would be an unqualified evil.

Yet these liberal, pro-"choice" Catholics are leading many weak Catholics astray--so many, in fact, that my views have undergone a bit of a change. I now think that those who really are schismatic in all but a formal act ought, perhaps, to make it official. In this way they could stop living the lie that it's perfectly all right to be a Catholic while dissenting from huge swaths of Church teaching; the Church could reach out to those weak Catholics who might still be open to learning the truths of the faith and deepening their relationship with the real Christ, not the counterfeit concocted by those who think there is some sort of enmity between Christ and His Church; and a hospital that wants to call itself Catholic while performing abortions could call itself a member of the "American Universal Catholic NewSpirit Church of God" or something without anybody getting confused about their affiliations--or scandalized by their violence toward the unborn.


Christopher said...

Have you ever read a blog post before and thought, "Man, that was great! I wish I would have wrote that"? This is one of those times. Well done!

romishgraffiti said...

I now think that those who really are schismatic in all but a formal act ought, perhaps, to make it official

Indeed. We have been rightfully fearful of a schism and have tolerated an awful lot to prevent it. Schism sucks, no way around it. But eventually the offenses mount up so much that it can't be ignored and a time comes when it is necessary to make people choose whether they are going to be Catholic or gonna be EpiscoPresbyUnitarian. (Go here and make sure to read the "American Malvern" link to really see what I mean).

kkollwitz said...

"I now think that those who really are schismatic in all but a formal act ought, perhaps, to make it official."

But they'd forfeit the chance to take over the American Church from within, per the CofE and ECUSA.

Patrick said...

Anyone have an idea about the age demographics of these people?

My guess is that the borderline schismatic crowd is middle-aged and older: the generation that grew up in the pre-Vatican II Church and never lost their reforming zeal or distrust of *all* Catholic authority.

If I'm correct (and this is speculation), then the "John Paul II Generation" will be considerably more orthodox than this crowd, and this type of thing will die out just as the secular "hippy" crowd, the feminist crowd, etc. dies out (my guess is they're a similar age- people who came-of-age in the 1960's).

And thus rather than encourage schism, we can simply "watch and pray" and take heart that a turn toward orthodoxy may soon be upon us. In other words, Vatican II released a lot of forces, but those forces will shortly be spent, perhaps; and in ten years you will have *way* less of this inside the Church.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Well, we can agree on one thing.

Those who say "You have no authority here" are defining themselves, whether they admit it or not, as Protestants.

Perhaps they should just admit it.

Or, they could form the Congregational Catholic Liturgy Assembly, for those who appreciate the rituals of the mass, but do not wish to acknowledge the authority of the hierarchy.

It would make everything simpler for everyone. Those who truly believe the Roman Catholic Church IS the representative of God on earth, could go about practicing that belief without the distracting of Catholycs in their midst. Those who don't believe it could stop trying to prove that they sort of do.

L. said...

Contrary to what Patrick thinks above, those of us Catholics (or "Catholics") who reject almost all of the Church's teachings on sexuality are mostly post-Vatican II.

Most of us are not petulantly whining -- unless you count a little ranting in the blog world now and then. In person, we don't say much, because, quite honestly, these issues don't come up in conversation much. And when they do, we don't always speak up, because not all of us are looking for an argument.

And despite Erin's insistance that we would be better off elsewhere, we are staying put, right where we are.

c matt said...

I suppose it does raise a question - if you are physically (or formally) in the Church, but you do not affirm what the Church teaches, are you still really in the Church in a way that ultimately matters (that passage about "not all who call me Lord are saved" comes to mind)?

Bathilda said...

I agree with L. I think that perhaps the vast majority of Catholics are "in Schism" and just don't know it, or at least call it that. Most just call it Cafeteria Catholic. I'm guessing that among my own peer group (female 35-45)most do practice some sort of artificial birth control. I'm also guessing that most have some sort of other practice or belief other than an orthodox interpretation of the Church. Perhaps it would be easier if there was an "Orthodox" branch that just separated. I'll bet dollars to donuts that there are lot less Orthodox Catholics out there. That would make the schism a whole lot easier. I'll also bet dollars to creme brulee that the vast majority of priest would stay with us heretics, too.

Geoff G. said...

"If a higher good, such as the health of a woman with pulmonary hypertension or the glorious passing of a huge Democrat social program, demands that one baby or a million babies a year be slaughtered, so be it. We are not pro-life and never have been[.]"

This is what has always bothered me about calling anti-abortion activists "pro-life." Because they are manifestly not pro-life. At best, you can say they're "pro-some-lives-but-not-others" or "pro-life-but-only-for-the-first-nine-months."

People who are pro-life would show some concern for both a dying woman (a concern this blog has never shown, revealed yet again by the quoted attempt to downplay the seriousness of her condition) and the baby she carries. People who are truly pro-life would be appalled by the millions who lack proper health care in this country.

Readers of Rod Dreher's old blog may recall that I personally supported the Stupak amendment to the Health Care Reform bill on the grounds that in addition to the lives saved by extending proper health care to more people, it would have had a salutary effect on preserving the lives of the unborn as well.

But the fact that that amendment did not pass does not mean that the provisions that will help save real, living human beings are somehow not "pro-life."

I remain deeply opposed to abortion myself, and continue to personally lobby my representatives on this issue. Hopefully my opposition is the more valuable because I agree with my Congresswoman and Senators on many issues but disagree with them on this one.

But unlike the "pro-life" movement, and apparently the conservative Catholics that make up much of the readership of this blog, I personally (call me crazy) have the perverse belief that life does not end at birth.

Hector said...

Geoff G,

I didn't know you supported the Stupak amendment. Glad to hear it....so did I.

I also, like you, support the health care bill as it stands. It's not as good as I had hoped, but it does accomplish some good, by making health insurance more available, and is in that sense a pro-life law. I also don't think it will increase abortions.

I'd consider myself pro-life, in general, but I would absolutely support a right to abortion in the cases when the pregnancy threatened the life or serious health risks to the mother. I think the hospital in Arizona did absolutely the right thing.

I also disagree more broadly with Erin about some of the sexual morality issues she cited (homosexuality, contraception, and the like), but then again, I'm not Roman Catholic, and she may have a point that RC's who disagree with the teaching of their hierarchy should just leave, and find a church where they can worship Christ and stay faithful to their conscience at the same time.

romishgraffiti said...

The "pro-lifers aren't really pro-life is an old trope that has suckered even greats like Walker Percy. Dr. Daniel DeMarco answered this fallacy in Seven Deadly Fallacies in Suppor of Abortion under section 2, "Double Standard":

Howard Fast (d. 2003), prolific author of some 42 novels, has argued that pro-lifers are insincere because their concern for life does not continue beyond birth: “I have never heard a right-to-life voice raised in protest against 60,000 innocents murdered by the death squads of El Salvador.” Responding to this charge, William F. Buckley, Jr. had this to say: “The lifers are, by Mr. Fast and others who think as he does, encumbered by the responsibility for everything that happens to the fetus after it materializes into a human being in the eyes of the law. And if you aren’t around to see to it that at age 14 the kid is receiving the right education, ingesting the right food, leading a happy, prosperous life, why, you had no business bringing him into this world. You are a hypocrite to the extent that you support life for everyone who suffers in life. It is only left for Mr. Fast to close the logic of his own argument, which would involve him in a syllogistic attempt along the lines of: Everyone suffers. No one not living suffers. Therefore, no one should live.” Pro-lifers are responsible for everything. Pro-choicers are responsible for nothing.

Bathilda said...

All this talk is a reminder of my college days. When I would rally for pro choice, we sang a song about pro-life being "friends of the fetus...that is 'til the moment of birth." No, I don't think that no one should live if everyone suffers...that's just inflamitory talk from Romish... What I do think is that if nothing else, Pro Life has a lot of money and a lot of people to activate. They probably could make some meaningful change in many areas. Forced abortions in Tibet and other areas, Selective abortion in India and China for gender preference. These are happening now, and I don't see any big demostrations by the Pro-Lifers. Perhaps they aren't covered by the press? I think that the most serious cause of abortion is poverty. There are great groups out there to help struggling mothers such as birthline and the Gabriel Project just to name two. They help with clothes, diapers, even pay utility bills and help women find jobs and get educations. But the majority of pro lifers, at least the press that they are given, mostly shows them picketing and praying outside of clinics. Point is, this is the United States, and we are founded on freedom. It is categorically NOT a theocracy. I think that the odds of outlawing all abortion in this country is slim to none. So work with that. Help eliminate abortion not by getting it outlawed, but by eliminating it at its source. Education is vital. Poverty is a source. Young men are an important component of this education equation. So while I abhor abortion, and would be happy if it never happened again (I have mellowed on my stance since college), I have to call myself pro choice because I think that a woman has the right to live if it is a matter of her dying to save a fetus. I also think that it is up to an idividual to choose her own moral path. It's not up to the government. The Church can take whatever stance it will, but it doesn't have authority over the government of the united states, and it never will. It can only guide and advise.

romishgraffiti said...

No, I don't think that no one should live if everyone suffers...that's just inflamitory talk from Romish...

It's a syllogism used to demonstrate that the "pro-lifer's aren't really pro-life unless they also do x" meme is a turkey. I'm less interested in whether it is inflammatory than the fact that is, you know, valid; as is the argument that concludes that it is always wrong to directly and deliberately kill an innocent human being. If people wanting to make exceptions would interact with that instead of accusing its proponents of impure motives, we might get somewhere.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

romishgraffiti is exercising the mode of argument where a citation from a noted person is offered, particularly one which is by every technical or academic criterion, high quality rhetoric (in the old school sense of the term), and the individual offering the citation then declares all facts established, case closed. The only problem is... the citation does not speak to the content of the arguments offered by Geoff G and Bathilda, it merely characterizes a broad line of argument bearing some resemblance to what they said.

That's a potpourri of demagoguery, for anyone who wants to pat themselves on the back and say "See, I don't have to answer that." It is not, however, a convincing argument for winning over others.

We're not talking about El Salvador, we're talking about a hospital in Arizona. We are also not talking about the existence of suffering. We are talking about the imminent potential for a woman to die.

I regret that it may be a week before I can read whatever romishgraffiti offers in reply. He is a capable debating opponent, if, in my seldom humble opinion, often wrong. However, I will be on the road, in the real world, and may have little access to cyber space for a spell. Anyone's prayers for safe travel are earnestly appreciated in advance.

L. said...

I can address why RC's who disagree with the teaching of their hierarchy don't just leave, and find another church where we can worship and stay faithful to our consciences at the same time: It's because we are being faithful to our consciences by staying. For some of us, the Church is about more than the sum of its teachings on sexuality -- why reject the good along with what we see as bad? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Why not stay and be a "cafeteria Catholic," if we believe it makes us better people and helps us cope with the trials of our day-to-day lives?

Is it better to be a "cafeteria Catholic," or not Catholic at all? Orthodox Catholics insist on the latter, but many of us disagree.

Hector said...


Why don't you consider joining the Episcopal Church? (I'm Episcopalian, for the record). Some branches of the Episcopal Church have more or less anything you might seek in the Roman Catholic church (the Marian teachings; the belief in the Real Presence; the belief in individual confession; the belief in a purgatorial state, etc.) without most of the teachings that you disagree with.

You can really and genuinely be a cafeteria Catholic within the Episcopal church, without having to feel like you're breaking some rule. Our whole church is founded on the premise that 'as Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria have erred, so too Rome hath erred', and that it makes sense to choose what is good and true out of the beliefs of the Roman Catholic church, while leaving behind what isn't. You might be happier within my church then as a Roman Catholic.

Just a thought; best wishes!

L. said...

Thanks, Hector, but I honestly have never felt as if I am breaking any rules -- I am quite happy and at peace being a cafeteria Catholic.

And I am far from lonely in the cafeteria!

Christopher said...

I think these notions of liberal/conservative, orthodox/unorthodox, are just notions that have bled over from the larger society. Now that is not to say there aren't difference among Catholics, there are as this thread shows, but I'm not convinced it has to do with who is liberal/conservative.

I think what is at issue is an individual's sense of ecclesiology. If a person believes, I mean truly believes, the Catholic Church is what it claims to be (i.e. instituted by Christ, in possession of Christ's authority, infallible in matters pertaining to faith/morals, empowered to impose standards and define doctrines, etc.) then they wouldn't want to hold beliefs contrary to the Church teachings. To do so would mean the individual would be holding beliefs in opposition to God (not a good idea). However, if one's ecclesiology is broken and the Church is just viewed as one of many options in the Yellow Pages listed under "churches," then it’s easy to disagree with any and all of the Church's teaching.

I've always used the analogy of a student. If a child is failing tests, disrespecting the teacher, and not following classroom rules, can they claim to be a "good student?" And when that child is reprimanded by their parents, do you think the parent will be consoled if the child says, "Well, there are a lot of kids that act like me." I doubt it. Do you think the parent will be consoled if the child says, "Well, the teacher isn't a very good teacher" or "The school isn't a very good school?' I doubt that too. More than likely the parent will say, "I don't care what others are doing or even if the teacher isn't that good. You have a responsibility to follow the rules, work hard, and show respect. You don't get to act improperly because others are." And the reason the parent would likely hold such a position is because of what school is, what it is meant to be at its essence. Parents who have children who are not "good students" are right to stay on them, insisting they do better. It is also incumbent on the child to listen to that advice and apply it. If they persist in their refusal, then adults already know what is likely in store for the child who doesn't graduate. The outlook for their future is not good. Sure, something could happen years later where the child suddenly develops a desire for learning and goes back to school, graduates, and goes on to have a very successful career. It is something we can, and should, hope for, but the odds against it are pretty high.

So too, there are folks running around ignoring the rules, being disruptive, and disrespecting Church leadership and calling themselves "good Catholics." It just doesn't make sense. And just because the "cafeteria is full of people" doing it isn't justification. That type of argument is called argumentum ad populum (good Catholics know Latin, right?) It is a fallacious argument where people attempt to justify a position based on the number of people that believe it. For example, "Most Catholic women use some form of contraception so therefore the Church's teaching on it must be wrong." Things are not judged true or false based on how many people subscribe to the idea, but on its truthfulness and/or falseness. This comes back to the Church's ecclesiology - what it says about itself. If what the Church says about itself is true, and I believe it is, then it doesn't matter if there are 1.2B Catholics in the world, or 14. It is still true. And since people holding opposing views can't simultaneously be right, that means someone is wrong. Now I wouldn't want to stand before God trying to put forth an argumentum a poplum justification for why I didn't listen to the Church or why I thought "my way" was better. Ignorance breeds the first kind of argument and arrogance the second.

L. said...

" Now I wouldn't want to stand before God trying to put forth an argumentum a poplum justification for why I didn't listen to the Church or why I thought 'my way' was better." --> Ah -- you see, there's the key difference. I DO want to stand before God saying 'my way' is not incompatible with His way, and I don't believe the Catholic Church is the only way to live His way..

It is true that I have never believed the Church is what it claims to be, and I do in fact disrespect Church leadership -- I have much contempt for it, actually -- but then again, I don't go around calling myself a "good Catholic." I am thouroughly comfortable being a "bad" Catholic.

And when I say I'm not alone, I don't do so to justify any of my opinions. I do so only to point out that heck, for what it's worth, there are a lot of people like me. Stating the fact that there are a lot of us isn't intended to give credence to what we believe (and don't believe), just to remind the orthodox that there are many, many of us in sitting in the pews in their midst, keeping our mouths shut and going about our business -- except for a few blog comments here and there! Heh.

The arguments that we "bad Catholics" should all leave the Church seem to hinge on the insistence that we would be "happier" finding a new church in the yellow pages -- but I'm quite happy where I am, and have no intention of leaving. Gee, maybe it's the people making these arguments that would be "happier" if we all left, en masse?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I sympathize with L., but I think Christopher is correct on one point: if the church teaches that it is infallible on matters of faith and doctrine, and if you deny that, then you have put yourself outside that church. I do take comfort from the fact that there are many other churches in the yellow pages, including at least two where I am welcome at communion. I respect the right of churches which exclude me to do so.

L. said...

Siarlys, I have certainly put myself outside of communion with the Catholic Church -- no question there! No bishop has ever formally excommunicated me, but I think I am a prime candidate for "latae sententiae," if ever there was one.

But guess what? Anyone baptized a Catholic is still considred Catholic, even if excommunicated -- and excommunicated Catholics are still required to attend mass.

If ever the Church changed its rules, and said excommunication means they will start barring my access at the door, then I would certainly respect their right to do so.

I feel perfectly welcome at our current parish, and the last one, too, even though I have always been completely honest about my points of dissension (on the rare times they came up).

c matt said...

I'll bet dollars to donuts that there are lot less Orthodox Catholics out there.

I guess dollars are worth more than donuts, but I am not so sure. Will get back to you on that.

I doubt there are a lot less Orthodox Catholics than you. There may be a lot fewer Orthodox Catholics, however. Regardless of the numbers, the Church is where the orthodox are. So an orthodox Catholic could not leave the Church by definition any more than a heterodox Catholic could be the Church by definition. The Heterodox could keep the buildings and the vestments, but that does not make the Church. That is why it only makes sense to speak of the heterodox leaving. In a sense, if the orthodox "left" they would be taking the Church with them.

Regardless, if you do not believe the RCC is what it professes to be, then, in fact, you already have left in the only way that matters (that whole "I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church thing). But I can understand wanting to stay - being physically present in the true Church is probably better than being truly present in some other community or association. On some level, you may actually believe it is the true Church, otherwise your staying makes little sense.

How can an excommunicated Catholic still be Catholic? The whole point of being excommunicated means you are outside the communion of the Catholic Church - i.e., not Catholic. That makes no sense. You can't both be inside the Church and outside the Church at the same time.

L. said...

C Matt, you need to look into the subject of excommunication a little bit more. Being excommunicated -- removed from communion with the Church -- doesn't mean one is no longer Catholic (unless you believe that the sacrament of baptism can be "erased" by sin somehow).

Being a Catholic excommunicant doesn't mean "not Catholic." Here's a simple explanation -- http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/catholicism-excommunication-and-other-penalties.html

Why do I stay? Honestly, sometimes I do question why, but it always feels as if continuing to attend is the right thing to do.