Patrick Craine

Pro-life vs. social justice: a false dichotomy

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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October 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The gruesome reality of abortion first struck me when I was 17. After going through the motions for years, I had finally recommitted to my Catholic faith. As I devoured the Catechism and other great works of the faith, I remember feeling as though I had been living in the cold, shadowy depths of a cave for years only to discover that a path to the warm, sunlit outside world was just around the bend.

The wall of silence around abortion got me particularly – how could I have gone so long with nary a hint of the genocide raging right under my nose? I knew I needed to learn more. So one afternoon, sitting in my parents’ basement, I decided to take the plunge and Google: abortion pictures. After beholding those tiny, bloody limbs, my life was never the same. Suddenly struck by the conviction that abortion is the gravest of affronts to justice, I vowed that I would not rest until the injustice ended.

So you can see why I get rather rankled over talk about some Great Division in the Church between “pro-life” Catholics and “social justice” Catholics. In the last few days some respectable Catholic pundits have warned of a grave split on these lines in the lead-up to America’s Nov. 6th election. But as far as I’m concerned we might as well be juxtaposing male and human, dog and animal, or chair and furniture. If the pro-life battle is not a part of “social justice,” then I don’t know what is.

The false division baffles me all the more because at the time that I was diving head-long into the pro-life cause at the age of 17, I was also falling in love with the witness of St. Francis of Assisi and the Church’s truly radical teachings on Gospel poverty. Consider this Patristic aphorism, quoted in Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes: “Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him.” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia puts it just as bluntly: “Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell.” The Church teaches that to follow Christ we must not only renounce worldly values but worldly things. For me, being both unshakably pro-life and ready to sacrifice for the sake of the less fortunate were basic demands of the faith, so it took me aback when I began to see them juxtaposed.

This supposed dichotomy arises from a fundamentally sociological theory of the Church that divides the faithful into “tribes”: “pro-life” vs. “social justice”; “traditional” vs. “progressive.” That theory in turn is based on the “seamless garment” doctrine of Chicago’s late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, which claims that the Church’s pro-life position should be applied as part of a “consistent life ethic” to a range of issues, including poverty, war, capital punishment, health care, and immigration. Whether stated or not, the takeaway is that the positions held by these various “tribes” are equally valid. And the result is that it is deemed acceptable for a Catholic to vote for a candidate like Barack Obama – despite his extreme support for intrinsic evils like abortion and same-sex “marriage” – because he is supposedly more focused on promoting the dignity of the poor.

But as the Vatican’s Cardinal Raymond Burke tells us, while the various public policy issues may be related, “they are not all of the same cloth.” Discussions around war, capital punishment and government programs for the poor involve prudential judgments in which people of good faith can legitimately disagree. But abortion, same-sex “marriage”, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia are intrinsically evil. Both poverty and abortion are “social justice” issues, but that doesn’t mean they are equally grave. Poverty is an extremely important issue, but it won’t be on a level with abortion until we have politicians and activists parading the country claiming a legal right to kill the poor.

This move to divide Catholics into “pro-life” and “social justice” tribes, whether intentionally or not, actually undermines the pro-life movement: if the fight for unborn rights is not part of the Church’s call to pursue justice, then the movement has no grounding in the Gospels. Obviously, Christ never mentions abortion. In the Beatitudes, He doesn’t say those who “hunger and thirst” after rights for the unborn will be “satisfied”; it’s those who “hunger and thirst after justice.” So if we cut off the pro-life cause from the work of justice, then we cut it off from the work of the Gospel. I don’t know if this is the explicit aim of any of the tribal theorists, but I dare say it’s part of the diabolic plan.

Along with this tribalist theory is the dichotomy that’s been imposed between the Church’s moral and social teachings, leading to the myth that the Church’s pro-life efforts are guided by Catholic moral teachings and the “social justice” efforts are guided by the social teachings. The truth is that all of the Church’s work in the social sphere is rooted in her moral outlook. The Church seeks the common good precisely because she deems it good. So when the Church labours to alleviate the plight of the poor, that mission stems from her moral conviction that it is wrong to leave others in destitution. Likewise, the Church teaches that abortion is morally wrong but then she urges the faithful to bring that truth into society and enshrine it in law. The sad consequence of reducing abortion to a strictly moral question, divorced from the Church’s social teachings, is that we downplay the need for social action to protect the unborn.

The modern Church’s most celebrated advocate for the poor knew better. Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, who dedicated her whole life to the destitute of India, declared in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize that the “greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.” Mother Teresa recognized that service to the poor is deeply pro-life – and not in some vague, seamless-garment sense. At the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, she revealed that her Missionaries of Charity had saved over 3,000 babies from abortion at their children’s home in Calcutta. “Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child,” she urged.

Embracing Catholic teaching necessitates a deep concern for all men and women who are vulnerable. But it also leads us to recognize that some are more vulnerable than others, and that if we cannot secure the most fundamental right to life, then there is no basis for the right to food or health care. Sadly, those so-called “social justice” Catholics who are stumping for Obama have had to twist the faith to make their case – by imposing a false equivalency on the issues, or claiming that the “truly pro-life” candidate is the rabidly pro-abortion incumbent whose policies on poverty will supposedly, somehow, reduce abortions. The fact is that President Obama has defined himself as a public figure by the promotion of abortion and other intrinsic evils; the same could not be said of his challenger, whatever problems we have with him. In this election, there can be no “Catholic argument” for Obama.

The division facing the Church heading into the election is not “pro-life” vs. “social justice”, or unborn rights vs. the dignity of the poor. In the end, it comes down to a much deeper division cutting right through the heart of our identity as Catholics in the modern world and pointing to the grave need for this Year of Faith: It’s a division between those Catholics who embrace the Magisterium and those who do not, between those who would have the world conform to Christ and those who would have Christ conform to the world, between those who would cling to the Cross amidst the blistering storm of the age and those who prefer to go along for the ride.

Patrick Craine is the Canadian Bureau Chief for LifeSiteNews.com and president of Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia.


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The Romanian Orthodox Church's Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest Wikimedia Commons
Bogdan Stanciu

Romanian news outlet sanctioned for discrimination in attacking pro-life initiative

Bogdan Stanciu
By Bogdan Stanciu

BUCHAREST, Romania -- A decision of CNCD, Romania's Council Against Discrimination, has recently become definitive, recognizing the right to dignity of all Orthodox Christians in the country.

Last year, PRO VITA Association - Bucharest branch, one of the main nonprofits in Romania defending life, family and religious liberty, filed an official complaint with the Council, showing that a blog post dated May 17, 2013 and hosted on the Adevarul.ro platform prejudiced the image of Christian Orthodox believers.

The article, signed "Alex Dumitriu," challenged the support given by the Romanian Orthodox Church to the “One of Us” European initiative, which required a ban on public funding for the destruction of embryos during research and medical procedures.

The blog post described the Romanian Orthodox Church as an “anti-human, criminal and anti-life organization, whose purpose is spreading suffering and abjectness, mysticism and ignorance for their own profit.”

The applicant argued that these allegations created a degrading and hostile atmosphere for Orthodox Christians in Romania, thus harming a whole community.

The Council agreed that the affirmations in the article referred to both the clerics and the simple believers and discriminated against the Christian Orthodox community. It concluded it was discrimination, infringing upon the right to dignity granted to persons of Christian Orthodox confession.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

The council cited the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that freedom of expression is not an absolute right in Europe, carrying with it duties and responsibilities. Also, the Adevarul.ro platform was fined a symbolic sum of 2,000 RON (approximately 445 EUR).

It is for the first time in Romania that a media institution is sanctioned for discriminating against Christians.

As a brand, the Adevarul newspaper has continued the tradition of a title established in the 19th century, but after 1989 it took over the infrastructure and human resources of the recently-deceased communist newspaper Scanteia, the official propaganda channel of the Romanian Communist Party. Today it has also developed Adevarul.ro, an online platform that is one of the most popular media channels in Romania.

Adevarul.ro has recently made it a habit of harassing the Romanian Orthodox Church with almost daily frequency, presenting negative aspects in the church and tendentious articles of opinion about this institution and about Creationism and Christianity in general, in what looks more and more like an ideological guerrilla warfare.


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Paul Russell

Nitschke heads a suicide cult that must be stopped

Paul Russell
By Paul Russell

Following The Australian's news story today about another young life lost that was related to Philip Nitschke and the Exit organisation, senior journalist, Angela Shanahan says that Nitschke and Exit must be stopped.

Shanahan opens: 

PHILIP Nitschke, contrary to his claims as an advocate of euthanasia for the terminally ill, is the chief mover of something resembling a suicide cult.

The case histories of Lucas Taylor, 26, and Joe Waterman, 25, who committed suicide after being in contact with Nitschke’s group, Exit, leave little doubt of that.

Lucas Taylor was the subject of the other article in today's paper while Joe Waterman's story was covered earlier in the ABCs 7:30 Report that created the original furore leading to the medical board suspending Nitschke's practicing licence today.

Covering the information Judi Taylor found on her son's computer after his death the story adds: 

His heartbroken mother realised that her son was not the only young person on this site. Nor was anyone on the site interested in the motivation for his thoughts of suicide, nor in helping Lucas to overcome his feelings.

“They were only interested in the ‘endgame’,” she said, including detailed advice about where and when and how to go about it.

Again, this destroys any pretence that Nitschke and Exit are only involved in advising sick and dying people about how to commit suicide. This is a macabre and clandestine death industry. Hope joins with Angela Shanahan in calling for this organisation to be stopped and is joined now in our call for a National Inquiry into Exit and other euthanasia organisations by the mothers of both of the young men mentioned in this article.

Shanahan closes by saying: Nitschke’s claim of political persecution is risible. He and his organisation must be stopped.

Reprinted with permission from NoEuthanasia.org.au.


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Leaving the Matrix: what is the cost of conversion?

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By Hilary White

What do you do when you decide to leave a sexually disordered lifestyle? What do you do, when all the people you have contact with, all your friends, even your family, have accepted and embraced a way of living and thinking about life that you have realized is harmful, psychologically and morally destructive, and which you know you must leave? What is the cost of conversion?

We can easily get caught up in the tumult of the ever-escalating legal, political, and cultural war against the traditional worldview and anthropology, so much that we forget that the “issue” is about real, individual human beings and how they should, concretely, order their lives. We culture warriors must remember that what we are asking people to do is difficult, that it can incur huge sacrifice and loss and will often require enormous upheaval and change. We are asking people to leave not only a “lifestyle” of sexual activity, but an entire world, populated with family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and an entire global culture that embraces and aggressively promotes it.

I include not only the experience of leaving the “gay lifestyle,” but of leaving a worldview, a cultural paradigm that accepts and promotes sexual license of any kind in general. It is more than the questions surrounding the so-called “ex-gay” movement, and more than the issue of living chastely in an increasingly sexually obsessed world.

How ought a person who experiences same-sex attraction react when it begins to dawn on him that, for whatever reason, he cannot continue to live according to the world’s paradigm? We know how the homosexualist movement says he ought to react, and we know that the secular world (nearly all the world, therefore) is in more or less complete agreement. He should reject such self-negating thoughts. He should embrace his “orientation” and start to seek out same-sex sexual relationships, and carry on in the way that they tell us life is now normally lived.

He should engage in sexual encounters with various people, sometimes setting up “relationships” for varying lengths of time, breaking up, moving on, finding someone else, perhaps cohabitating, and maybe, some day, “settling down” with one person, either in “marriage,” or not, as the mood strikes. This is what the world now presents to us as normal. Nearly every television show and movie set in our times says this is just how people live nowadays. 

It is only too easy for those of us who live out here in The Real to forget how totally different our lives are from that of the majority of our fellow men. We shout, “jump!” because we see a whole other lush, green and happy world, but they see nothing but the shadows on the cave wall.

But those few of us left who think this is not a very good way to live, that it is morally and psychologically destructive, have in large part to forge our own way in life, figure out a set of rules and standards to live by alone, all the while fighting the pressure to conform. Even for those of us not plagued by sexual feelings towards people of the same sex it isn’t easy.

It is particularly not easy for those of us who have decided later in life to try to embrace a different path, but who had previously followed the world’s advice, and who had never known any other way of living. What does it take to totally change a worldview, a method of organizing one’s life and all social relationships? How hard is it to reinvent a way of life that the world has not only abandoned, but aggressively rejected and condemned?

The cost will usually be, at least, the loss of nearly all one’s friends, sometimes even very close friends. Very often it will include alienating, sometimes permanently, one’s own family. Since the Sexual Revolution’s paradigm has now been embraced by three or four or more generations, it will often mean alienation from parents and siblings.

It will sometimes mean the loss of good relations with co-workers and colleagues, and sometimes even the loss of jobs and careers. I know a man, a previously highly respected author, who was totally rejected by the entire literary establishment of his home country, a heavily secular nation, when he embraced Catholicism, including its sexual moral teachings. He told me that he expected he would never be published again outside the Catholic niche press. None of his previous friends would speak to him and for the first two years his mother had refused to take his calls.

He had been asked again and again why, if he felt he had to become a Christian, he could not have become an Anglican. And why this “sudden obsession” with “outdated” and “retrograde” sexual morality? He said that, in essence, he was treated as he would have been in the 19th century had he “come out” as a homosexual. Chastity, in other words, is the new perversion.

It is a momentous decision to leave that world, and people who make that transition compare it to leaving the Matrix: a painful, shocking and revelatory experience of a totally new and previously unguessed-at world that can leave the person disoriented, feeling as though he is now living in a kind of “parallel universe” in which he is alone and alienated from friends and family and fellow citizens.

There is an increasing number of us “converts” to a more morally sane life, who often find that once we have made the transition we are alone again. And even when we find others, a new community and friends – usually in a church – we learn that we must keep the door to the past closed. It’s not that we fear rejection, far from it, and it is not even a matter of shame.

But we understand that in a civilized society, no one wants to hear about barbarity, and we learn that to keep our past life closely in mind is to allow it to continue to rule the present. Close friends will know about our past, but, outside the most intimate circles it is passed over silently. We have reinvented ourselves and moved on, but the price is sometimes to become people with no past. To be wholly remade, it is necessary to leave behind the person we were.

It works. I can say that it is possible to be radically morally rebuilt, that one can reconstruct an entire personality, consciously dismantle past habits of thought and approach to life and replace them with better ones. The damage from the previous life, whether physical or psychological, can be permanent, but it is possible to construct a way of living that is morally and psychologically and physically healthy, and reorder a life in such a way that the damage does not rule your present. 

But it’s expensive. For me, it started when I was still living in British Columbia. I felt something new beginning in my mind and felt a yearning spring up that could not be satisfied by anything I’d experienced… the usual convert’s tale.

I’d been aware all my life that the kind of world we lived in, and the kind of life we lived in it, was somehow just not right. I loved old films and television shows that depicted a totally different way of living. I was close to my grandparents and wondered why we no longer lived that way. When I moved to the mainland in my early 20s, I somehow started going to Mass again, and that was when the real struggle began. I knew full well that the way I lived and thought about life was deeply at odds with the Church.

But I was alone. None of my friends were Catholic and none of them could begin to understand what it was I had begun to talk about. And I had made no friends at the large inner city parish I attended. I had tried to join a few things, and had volunteered a bit, but I could see that I had nothing in common with them. It seemed as though these people lived in another universe, one I could not even want to enter. A priest suggested I get involved in the pro-life movement, and I rejected this idea out of hand as totally absurd.

I thought I could only ask God for help. I prayed for “Catholic friends.” This brought no change, so I scaled down and said, “All right then, just one. Just one Catholic friend.” In the end, I simply got up and left one day. I’ve written elsewhere that I just got in a car and went “on holiday” out east, and never returned. When I landed in the far-eastern Canadian town where I was to undertake my own radical conversion, I only stopped there because I had run out of continent.

And it was there I discovered a whole new world, a moral universe of whose existence I had been previously totally ignorant. I met my “Catholic friends,” and was able to start the painful task of first deconstructing and then rebuilding my entire worldview, my character, my beliefs, my total understanding of life, the universe, and everything.

“Painful”? I barely survived. It took a year but I emerged a new kind of person in a new kind of world that I had never suspected existed. I met a group of other people who had undergone the same experience and we traded war stories. We agreed that it was like living in a parallel universe, and we bonded over the loss of previous friendships and family relationships. We helped each other, this little group of Catholic refugees on the rain-washed East Coast, to figure out a way to live in a world to which we no longer belonged. 

We talk about the programs set up by various individuals and groups that propose to help people, (mainly men) leave the homosexual lifestyle. We defend the right of psychotherapists to offer healing and help for people who have been damaged by their own choices and by the violence and sins of others. We lobby our Parliaments, we write articles, we even argue in comment boxes on the internet. We sometimes get brave and give talks and engage in public debates where we confront our ideological opponents in public venues. In all this, we rightly speak against the New Paradigm that the world has embraced and we urge people to reject it. It’s a form of evangelization.

But I think we need to keep in mind, while we are doing this good work, that what we are asking people to do, concretely, is momentous. Indeed, from the point of view of heaven, it is of cosmic significance. In less exalted terms, however, we are asking something almost unimaginably difficult of people ensnared in a way of living and thinking that they may not even completely understand themselves.

So much of our anti-culture, our death-culture, has been simply absorbed unconsciously, so much of it has been fed to us with our Fruit Loops and Saturday Morning Cartoons from earliest childhood, that we often have no way of knowing anything else exists. We have become people trapped in Plato’s Cave, knowing only the vaguest shadows of reality.

It is only too easy for those of us who live out here in The Real to forget how totally different our lives are from that of the majority of our fellow men. We shout, “jump!” because we see a whole other lush, green and happy world, but they see nothing but the shadows on the cave wall.

Ultimately, the Matrix is not only unreal, it is designed to make men miserable, but in such a way that they are hardly aware of being miserable. It not only enslaves, but tortures its victims. There is a reason that suicide, divorce, drug use, violent crime, self-harm, eating disorders, depression, … misery, in short, have grown to such colossal proportions in our societies.

If I may make a suggestion, maybe we could start writing and talking about how much better it is to live in The Real. How much happier it is possible to be when living a morally integrated life of self-control, not being pushed around either by lust or by the merciless demands of a lust-worshipping culture...a life of real freedom, in other words. It might help make the jump less frightening.


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