Isn't this picture here a lovely image of unborn twins? I linked to a blogger who had posted it a couple of years ago, but I don't think it was originally hers, either--if anyone knows the original source I'll be glad to add a link to it.
On January 25, thousands of people will gather in our nation's capitol for the annual March for Life (the date is changed this year due to the difficulty of securing hotel rooms the day after the presidential inauguration). They will march to remind our fellow Americans that unborn human beings deserve to be treated with love and respect, and have an innate dignity that is theirs from conception to natural death. They will march against the practice of abortion, the slaughter of unborn children that takes the lives of more than 3,500 unborn Americans every day. It is right and fitting for the marchers to protest in this way, and I have participated myself in this March for Life in the past.
Catholics, in particular, are called to build a culture of life. We are called to foster and encourage a respect for all human life, born and unborn. We are called to reject the attitude that pits a woman against her unborn child in a struggle for power or security. We are called to give women real choices instead of contributing to the pressure they feel to choose to kill a child via abortion in the event of an unplanned, unwed, or crisis pregnancy.
And based on the story in my blog post earlier this week and some of the comments left there by my fellow Catholics, the Catholic Church in America isn't doing the best job right now of building up that culture of life.
I understand the need a Catholic organization has to stand firmly against our relativistic culture's acceptance and even promotion of sins, especially sins against chastity. I am not opposed to requiring and expecting the employees of Catholic schools, parishes, and ministries to be committed to avoiding sin and living virtuous lives. I am not against such employers retaining the right to fire an employee whose behavior is causing scandal under most circumstances.
But to fire an unmarried pregnant woman in the middle of her pregnancy, depriving her both of her income and her health insurance, is simply wrong when measured against the yardstick of the culture of life. It is wrong because it is not pro-life; in fact, it is about the most pro-death thing I can imagine.
Picture a fictional Catholic female colleague of Ms. Quinlan's. Pretend that this colleague, too, is unmarried, and after a foolish dating experience in which alcohol consumption lowered her inhibitions and blunted her judgment, she, too, discovers that she is pregnant (a not uncommon scenario). She knows full well because of what happened to Ms. Quinlan that if she admits to her pregnancy she will lose her livelihood and her insurance. She knows that abortion is a grave sin, just like the grave sin of fornication she has already committed...and yet, if she loses her job over this she will also lose her rent money and her car payment and may default on her student loans and...
If she's a strongly committed pro-life Catholic and she has a community of support (family, friends, etc.) around her, she may be brave enough to choose life anyway. But if her family is likely to urge her to have the abortion to spare them the embarrassment of having their daughter pregnant out of wedlock, and if her friends are nominal Catholics or not believers at all who think she'd be crazy to lose her job over a baby, or if her economic situation is such that she will soon be homeless and without transportation as well as pregnant, then what?
The real problem here is that even in our pro-life Catholic leanings we sometimes betray a strangely uneven reaction to the sin of fornication depending on whether we're talking about a man's sin or a woman's. If a man "struggles with chastity," we tend to look rather benignly on him. We tend to talk about his faults as if fornication is about like self-pleasuring: both gravely sinful things which are mortal sins under the usual conditions, but both requiring nothing more than a good confession and the real intention to reform to "fix" things. If he is known to have fathered a child out of wedlock and is paying support, we tend to applaud him for "stepping up to the plate" and doing the right thing--even if privately he gets a lot of sympathy for being on the hook for this obligation which most people think of as merely financial, and if many people, even Catholics, hint or openly say that it's really the woman's fault that he's in this position.
But if a woman "struggles with chastity," and becomes pregnant out of wedlock, then the baby is a fitting punishment, an instrument of the shame she deserves for her bad conduct. She might get a little sympathy if she places the baby for adoption, but otherwise, no: she, and the child, deserve any or all of the poverty or dysfunction their lives will have in the future because of her bad decision to have sex outside of marriage.
That is not a pro-life attitude to have. In fact, when President Obama used the phrase, "...punished with a baby..." to promote contraception, pro-life Catholics rightly repudiated that kind of attitude towards unborn human life. And yet our howls of protest over those words becomes nothing but the rankest sort of hypocrisy if we think a Catholic school was acting in the most merciful and right way to fire an unmarried pregnant teacher for the sin of visible pregnancy.
We are trying to reach a culture which does not even share our basic values. This culture thinks of artificial contraception as a good thing, is ambivalent about killing babies in abortion, and laughs to scorn the notion that chastity is a virtue, seeing it instead as a weird reluctance to take part in a harmless physical pastime of no transcendent value whatsoever, as if Christians were refusing on moral principles to belch or scratch an itch. When we say to them that unborn human life is valuable and that we want to help unwed mothers and other mothers in crisis pregnancies, we'd better be prepared to demonstrate love and concern for them in all our actions, not just in our marches and speeches. And nothing quite fails to demonstrate true Christian love or concern as much as a Catholic organization tossing them out of work and off of their health insurance for the sin of Showing Up Pregnant While Unmarried, does it?