Friday, January 25, 2013

We've been marching for 40 years. And we still have a long way to go.

Today, of course, is the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  I've been enjoying some of the posts and images from the March that I've seen so far today, and will look forward to hearing from those fortunate Catholic bloggers who got to be there today.

I know that many people will be focusing on the good news today, as they should--the good news that fewer and fewer people identify themselves with the most extreme pro-abortion positions; the good news that state legislatures have been doing what our cowardly Congress will not do and have been chipping away at abortion law, carving out more and more protection for the unborn; the good news that even the rabid pro-aborts out there have started to abandon the Schrodinger's Fetus fallacy (e.g., "That blob of cells is only a baby if her mother wants to give birth to her!") and come right out to admit that they know the unborn child is a living human being, and that they like killing living human beings or having the ability to kill living human beings stay legal.

The mask is being ripped off of the euphemism "choice," as the new young generation asks "Choice to do what, exactly?" and makes it clear that they don't buy the answer.

And truth about unborn human life has always been a benefit to the pro-life side of the abortion argument.  It's hard to make the "blob of tissue" or "clump of cells" argument to a woman who is seven weeks pregnant when she can visit a website like the one above and see many images and videos of what her developing child looks like at that age, watch such a child move or see her heartbeat, and read text descriptions of what her baby's current stage of development involves.  Sure, there are hard, broken, empty women who can still kill that child with seeming ease, just as there are women who would stomp on kittens or pull wings off of butterflies, but I hardly think that we should make our laws about animal cruelty based on those outliers, do you?

Nonetheless, even with all the good news out there today, I have been sad to realize how much more work we have to do to advance the pro-life cause, even among our own fellow Catholics.

I've always known that some liberal Catholics are ambiguous about abortion, or even openly in favor of it.  But people like Zippy Catholic and some of this blog's commenters are making me realize a new facet of this problem: there are some Catholics who think that a single woman who gets pregnant really is being "punished with a baby," and that it is perfectly fitting and merciful for her Catholic employer to fire her (because we can't employ sinners; why, what would people think of us?).  Oh, I know.  Zippy will say that's not his argument at all, and that this woman by having unmarried sex was metaphysically handing in her resignation because she knew that such conduct violated her employment agreement, but it's not really the school's job to go rooting out the private sins of the male and/or married employees; unmarried pregnancy is the visible sin unlike any other which must always be punished, and the fact that other people get away with sin is just like the fact that some people get away with speeding while others get tickets.  Because a speeding ticket is just exactly like losing your job and your health insurance, for reasons which I'm sure Zippy's commenters will explain.

And that her unborn children suffered along with her (especially given her loss of health insurance) was just too bad.  But we can't take the suffering of the children of sinners into consideration when we do what is right and fitting, because that is somehow being Christlike.  Besides, failing to fire this woman is just encouraging abortion, in that same way that letting women vote is.  Or something.

If I sound exasperated, it's because I am.  Because the simple truth that many people, many of them male, don't realize is that pregnancy is difficult, childbirth often excruciatingly so, and raising children a struggle even for a married stay-at-home mom whose husband pitches in whenever possible.  For an unmarried woman who becomes pregnant to chose life in our disposable culture of easy death for the unborn is already a noble and courageous thing to do; she is refusing to add vice to error, or even graver evil to already (putatively) grave sin.  Treating her coldly as a reprobate whose conduct deserves punishment is wrongheaded and may even be unjust--for if she has confessed the sin of fornication in a worthy sacramental confession, then God has forgiven her, and it's not our place to do less.  Her pregnancy is not, itself, a sin, and by treating it as if it is, we are not openly encouraging abortion?  In other words, if continuing the pregnancy is apparently so gravely sinful and scandalous that it is right and just to fire her from her job, are we not making it seem as if ending the pregnancy, while still gravely sinful, is at least a hidden sin that will let her save face and keep her job and her reputation?  Are we not simply saying to her, "Well, damned if you do, damned if you don't--but it's your own fault for creating this mess in the first place?"

Because if that's all we really have to say to women in crisis pregnancies, then I wonder how it is that we have the courage to call ourselves "pro-life" at all.  If we see an unmarried woman's pregnancy as her fault, her problem, her sin and her shame (forgetting that her partner in the sin may be an EMHC in her parish and a well-respected local businessman, married, even, but he won't lose anything), how do we reach out to women in these terrible situations without hypocrisy?  Seeing it all as her sin, are we not ignoring our own failures to love, or our own serious sins mercifully forgiven and washed away?

Luckily, most pro-life Americans don't think this way.  I've known pro-life families who have welcomed a woman in a crisis pregnancy into their own homes, helping her find employment and caring for her as a person and a beloved sister in Christ.  I've known pro-life people who have started crisis pregnancy centers using their own resources, and becoming beacons of light and hope in their communities.  I've known situations where employers, far from throwing unmarried pregnant employees out into the street, have thrown them baby showers and been generous in allowing them leave time.  I've seen the deep hearts and loving souls of many pro-life Americans, Catholic, Christian, and of other faiths, who have exhibited the warm light of merciful love in place of the coldness of "just deserts."

But even though we've been marching for Life for 40 years, we clearly have a long way to go, if we are to welcome both the unborn child and her mother with the kind of love Mother Teresa (among others) modeled for us.


L. said...

Odd, but none of the many post-abortive women I know are "hard, broken, empty women," even though many of them would agree with the sentiments expressed in the Salon article you linked (as I do -- I it on Facebook a few days ago, because it so perfectly describes my own views).

But I have found myself agreeing very strongly with your very eloquent and logical arguments about why firing an unwed pregnant teacher sets a bad example and works against the pro-life cause. Such terminations are likely legal, since teachers probably agree when she was hired to meet the conditions their employer set forth, but there is the letter of the law and then there is the spirit of the law.

Red Cardigan said...

L., you know I take the position that a woman who laughs about killing her unborn offspring is indeed hard, broken, and empty, even if she doesn't know it.

I mean, there were probably primitive women in frozen northlands who laughed as they tossed their infants off of the sleigh to quiet the baying wolves in pursuit, and who years later would joke around the fire at the spectacle of the screaming little wretch being torn to pieces and eaten, too, but they were just as broken as the post-abortive women who think abortion was a pretty good joke to play on their offspring.

Still, I appreciate your agreement with my discussion of the firing of this pregnant teacher, and the spirit in which it is offered.

L. said...

I don't know anyone who "laughs" at the idea of abortion (thoughgh I'm not saying these people don't exist, and surely it's possible to find ANY kind of people on the Internet these days). I've never had an abortion myself, but I have used abortifacient contraception, and I didn't "laugh" with sadistic glee, at the idea that it might be killing something.

I know most of your readers share your opinions, but demonizing all people who believe differently seems to me to be "hating the sinner, not the sin."

Surely, on such a divisive issue, not all people who are not pro-life are the kinds of sadists who pull the wings off butterflies?

Haven't you ever met any compassionate (though tragicly misguided, in your view) people who aren't pro-life?

Red Cardigan said...

Sure, L. But those sorts of people say that abortion is a tragedy, that even if they're not quite sure that a fetus is a human being they think its sad that fetuses have to die, etc.

But the only woman I've ever heard about who had the attitude that you have about abortion (e.g., that there's nothing sad about it at all, that fetuses are disposable humans, that we really shouldn't care if they're killed) did laugh in the face of the pro-life volunteer who tried to get her to reconsider. "I know it's a baby, dear," she sneered at this young woman. "And I can't wait to kill it. I don't want it."


Red Cardigan said...

It occurs to me, though, that there's a deeper level of honesty in that unholy glee exhibited by that woman than by people who say, "Oh, it's so sad the fetus has to die for the woman to be free, but bless it's little severed head, it probably wasn't going to amount to much anyway."

L. said...

"...there's nothing sad about it at all, that fetuses are disposable humans, that we really shouldn't care if they're killed."

Let me put it this way -- I do in fact strongly feel that way, about my own unwanted babies. I take aggressive measures to make sure none of them implant in my uterus, because I don't want to be pregnant again. Enough!

But you seem to imply that I feel that way about ALL babies, that I think EVERYONE, in every situation, "shouldn't care." The later implication is distorting my personal view, by insisting that I believe it applies to everyone else, too. It doesn't -- I always have said that abortion should NOT be the "default option," and I have upset some of my fellow "pro-aborts" by saying this. This is the distinction between being "pro-abortion" and "pro-choice."

But it's more fun for you to say that anyone who is willing to take aggressive steps to avoid another pregnancy must kill kittens, too, because surely "indifference" is exactly the same as "sadistic pleasure?"

I admit, I fit the stereotype of the baby-hating feminist. But there are lots of "those sorts of people say that abortion is a tragedy," and yet are NOT pro-life, and are fighting alongside me to keep abortion legal.

freddy said...

And so, L., you end up catching yourself in the same old trap. “I’m not so extreme, I’m only glad to get rid of my own children! I’m not like her over there, advocating forced abortions; or her over there, advocating sterilization of the ‘unfit.’”

“I’m not so bad,” says the bank robber, “at least I don’t beat my wife.”
“I’m not so bad,” says the wife-beater, “at least I’m not a pimp beating a string of prostitutes!”
“I’m not so bad,” says the pimp, “at least I’m not running a brothel filled with under aged Malaysian slaves!”

And you don’t see that it’s never about where we draw the line but how we treat the least of our brothers. Christ tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We immediately cavil; “who is our neighbor?” And the answer is always, “The one you do not wish to see. The one whose very existence pains you: the Samaritan.”

Anonymous said...

Oh, I know. Zippy will say that's not his argument at all, ...

I see. I thought we were having a conversation. As it turns out, though, what you are about here is deliberately misrepresenting my position and hoping it sticks anyway.


Red Cardigan said...

No, Zippy, I'm not about deliberately misrepresenting your position. I don't understand your position. More specifically, I don't understand how your position can in any way be thought to be consistent with what the Christian notion of mercy actually is.

You really do seem to be saying that Catholic employers must fire unmarried pregnant women because they have proved themselves to be immoral and therefore not deserving of employment in a Catholic school. Let me ask: do you think pregnancy out of wedlock itself is a sin, and that even if the woman has confessed her sin of fornication and received sacramental forgiveness for it, the pregnancy alone is sinful enough to be grounds for depriving her of her employment and her health insurance?

And if pregnancy out of wedlock is a sin and abortion is also a sin, then aren't we saying that every unwed pregnant woman is damned either way?

I have to wonder if you think that women working outside the home at all is sinful, and if employers ought not hire women, particularly single ones, since they are singularly able to "show off" their evil sins in a way nobody else can. Like female voting, wouldn't you agree that female employment just leads to abortion?

I am *hoping* that there is something other than rank chauvinism going on in the so-called "orthosphere," but what I've seen so far has been indistinguishable from it. Please, by all means, tell me why it is not bad to fire single pregnant women for the crime of being pregnant out of wedlock--because I just don't get it.

L. said...

Freddy, I admitted I AM extreme, when it comes to my own body. I am not a Good Samaritan when it comes to my womb.
I am saying that don't believe that my very personal views are what everyone else, in every situation, SHOULD believe.

Barbara C. said...

For any person to not to acknowledge the horror of killing another person, even if it was justified (as in war or self-defense) or by accident, that person must have a certain amount of cold and hardness within them.

For any person to purposely kill an innocent with absolutely no regret, they must be extremely hard, broken, and empty...or a sociopath. And under "broken" I include living a life of delusion where one pretends that it wasn't "really a baby" or that the killing is justified if it makes the mother's life less difficult.

Tony said...

Then there are those bloggers like Red Cardigan who think that fornication is no big deal. She conflates the concepts of sin, forgiveness and mercy with scandal, justice and temporal punishment.

She doesn't have a problem with children viewing an obviously pregnant single teacher when they've been taught that babies happen after you're married (first comes love, then comes marriage, then come Red Cardigan with a baby carriage!).

Here's the bottom line. If you have signed a morality clause in your employment contract, don't fornicate.

Red Cardigan said...

Tony, of course I think fornication is a big deal from a sin perspective, just like porn use, masturbation, contraception, and all other serious sins against the sixth commandment.

The problem here is not that I think that fornication isn't a grave sin, mortal under the usual conditions. The problem is that I think that treating a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock as if *her* sin of fornication is much more wrong, evil, and unforgivable than we treat any other sin/sinner (including those who commit other equally grave sins against the sixth commandment) is hypocritical and simply bolsters the false notion that Catholics only care about women in crisis pregnancies when it suits us to do so.

And you are being unjust to me when you say I don't have a problem with children viewing an obviously pregnant single teacher. I thought the merciful option would have been for the school to move her to a position that didn't keep her in the classroom; I've said so all along. Parents should have the right to discuss matters related to sex and pregnancy with their children when and how they choose.

But failing to treat unwed pregnant women mercifully means that we're only pro-life when it suits us. Heaven forbid that some skanky slut get pregnant--what a mess for us virtuous people to deal with! Is that how we really want to think about unwed mothers?

GK Chesterton said...

"The problem here is not that I think that fornication isn't a grave sin, mortal under the usual conditions. The problem is that I think that treating a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock as if *her* sin of fornication is much more wrong, evil, and unforgivable than we treat any other sin/sinner (including those who commit other equally grave sins against the sixth commandment) is hypocritical and simply bolsters the false notion that Catholics only care about women in crisis pregnancies when it suits us to do so."

Good I agree with you. So much like theft you would agree with firing them all then?

L. said...

Tony, let's say, an unwed Catholic school teacher makes a bad sexual choice, and has a one-night stand. She feels horrible about this and she goes to Confession immediately, tells her sin to the priest in full, duly performs her penance, and her sin is absolved through the sacrament.

But....she finds out later that she is pregnant. Wouldn't firing her AFTER her sin is absolved be like double jeopardy?

Another hypothetical: A Catholic school has a choice of hiring a qualified teacher with many years of experience, excellent references and glowing recommendation from her pastor. But wait: It turns out that years ago, she gave birth to an illegitimate child -- oh, but she confessed that sin, received absolution and went on to live a life of sterling character. Would you say, though, that the same rules should apply, and that the clear evidence of her past fornication (her living child, born out of wedlock) means she can never be employed in a classroom without causing scandal?

(Believe it or not, "pro-abort" though I am, I used to be on the board of my kids' Catholic school for years, so I know questions like these aren't always hypothetical.)

Red Cardigan said...

A commenter using two different pseudonyms is attempting to post comments directly attacking commenter "Tony" with specific allegations of misconduct against Tony.

It's against my policy to approve such comments. If the anonymous commenter has actual evidence of misconduct involving Tony, he or she should contact the appropriate authorities. In any case I won't publish such things, and if Tony wishes to contact me via email to find out what has been said I will let him know.

eulogos said...

I find it difficult to understand how one thinks that any first graders in our society would not know that some women get pregnant who aren't married. I think the majority of them will be related to someone who has been in that situation. After all, a third of white children, and half of black children in this country, are born out of wedlock. It is really really difficult for me to see what would be wrong with the issue's being addressed head on by the teacher with the students. But then, I have never lived in a Catholic bubble; I didn't come from a Catholic family and I wasn't able to raise my children in a Catholic family. I did keep TV out of my kids lives for a long time. I suppose if you have mostly observant Catholic family members, and don't have a TV, or are able to prevent small children from watching anything but children's shows, you might conceivably do this.

Ok, if you really want to fire the pregnant school teacher, (because I don't think the back office job thing will work, as there probably isn't such a job open and most Catholic schools are small enough that the big belly will be seen anyway) then I really think one has to apply the rules across the board. That means one would have to use less sterling proof than a big belly. If Mr. H is seen going into a motel room with a woman he is not married to, and this is reported to school authorities, he has to be interrogated about it. If he lies and says the person reporting this has mistaken his identity-well, the school isn't in a position to supoena security camera files. But should there be a second report from another person, that should be enough for him to be fired. If Mr. Z leaves his wallet in the school office, and the secretary, looking to see whose it is, finds a condom in it, that should be enough to end his job. Even if he never got to use it, he clearly intended to. Certainly any married person who mentions that they are going to be sterilized; or whose insurance bills the school for such a procedure if the school has that sort of insurance, should be fired. Similarly with IVF. I am afraid people will soon learn to be discreet, as a pregnant woman can't be. Also, if a male teacher in the school is the father, and everyone knows it, he should be out on his ear, and if he denies it he should be asked to prove it by DNA testing.
Anything less is clearly putting ALL the burden of such morality clauses on unmarried women.
And if you say this kind of investigation cannot be done, well, a woman can always say, "Oh, no, I'm not pregnant, I'm just getting fat." and then "Oops, I guess I was mistaken. But now no kids have to see my big belly, do they?"

Shades of the Scarlet Letter, folks!

Susan Peterson