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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Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

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Arguments don’t have genitals

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By Jonathon van Maren

“As soon as he grows his own uterus, he can have an opinion.”

That was a comment left on The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s Facebook page by a woman who presumably opposes men speaking out against misogyny, domestic abuse, rape culture, and female genital mutilation as well. Apparently, you see, male genitals disqualify people from speaking out on various human rights issues deemed by women who define themselves by their uteruses while protesting angrily against being defined by their uteruses as “women’s issues.”

Which abortion isn’t, by the way. It’s a human rights issue.

To break it down really simply for our confused “feminist” friends: Human beings have human rights. Human rights begin when the human being begins, or we are simply choosing some random and arbitrary point at which human beings get their human rights. If we do not grant human rights to all human beings, inevitably some sub-set of human beings gets denied protection by another group with conflicting interests. In this case, of course, it is the abortion crowd, who want to be able to kill pre-born children in the womb whenever they want, for any reason they want.

Science tells us when human life begins. Pro-abortion dogma is at worst a cynical manoeuvre to sacrifice the lives of pre-born human beings for self-interest, and at best an outdated view that collapsed feebly under the weight of new discoveries in science and embryology. But the abortion cabal wants to preserve their bloody status quo at all costs, and so they make ludicrous claims about needing a uterus to qualify for a discussion on science and human rights.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

In fact, feminists love it when men speak up on abortion, as long as we’re reading from their script, which is why the carnivorous feminists have such a support system among the Deadbeat Dads for Dead Babies set and the No Strings Attached Club.

Male abortion activists have even begun to complain about “forced fatherhood,” a new cultural injustice in which they are expected to bear some responsibility for fathering children with women they didn’t love enough to want to father children with, but did appreciate enough to use for sex. Casual fluid swaps, they whine, should not result in custody hearings.

This is not to mention a genuine social tragedy that has men forcing or pressuring women to have abortions or abandoning them when they discover that the woman is, indeed, pregnant.

Or the fact that abortion has assisted pimps, rapists, and misogynists in continuing the crimes of sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sex-selection abortion.

And coming against these disgusting trends are thousands of men in the pro-life movement who believe that shared humanity means shared responsibility, and that when the weak and vulnerable are robbed of their rights, we have to stand up and speak out.

We are not at all convinced by the feminist argument that people should think with their reproductive organs or genitals. We think that the number of people currently doing that has perhaps contributed to the problems we face. And we refuse to be told that protecting the human rights of all human beings is “none of our business” and “outside of our interests.”

Arguments don’t have genitals, feminists. It’s a stupid argument trying to protect a bloody ideology.

Reprinted with permission from CCBR.


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Rachel Daly

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Gvmt strikes UK Catholic school admission policy that prefers Mass attendees

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By Rachel Daly

St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Epsom, England, was ordered to change its admissions policy after it was ruled discriminatory by the nation's Office of Schools Adjudicator, according to Your Local Guardian. St. Joseph's reportedly had been granting preferred acceptance to students whose families attended Mass at the affiliated church.

St. Joseph’s School is for students from age 4 to 11 and describes itself as “enjoy[ing] a high level of academic success.” The school furthermore places high priority on its Catholic identity, affirming on its homepage that “We place prayer and worship at the center of everything we do.”

The school states in its current admissions policy that it was "set up primarily to serve the Catholic community in St Joseph’s Parish" and that when the applicant pool exceeds 60 students, its criteria for prioritizing students includes "the strength of evidence of practice of the faith as demonstrated by the level of the family's Mass attendance on Sundays." 

Opponents of this policy reportedly argue that since donations are asked for at Mass, it could allow donation amounts to influence acceptance, and that forcing non-accepted local students to seek education elsewhere imposes a financial burden upon their families. 

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As Your Local Guardian reports, the adjudicators dismissed claims that donation amounts were affecting school acceptance, given that it is impossible to track donations. Nonetheless, the adjudicators maintained that "discrimination ... potentially arises from requiring attendance at the church rather than residency in the parish."

The Office of Schools Adjudicators, according to its website, is appointed by the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State of Education, to perform such functions as mediating disputes over school acceptances. The Office's ruling on St. Joseph's will require the school to release a revised admissions policy, which is expected in the next few days.

Reprinted with permission from the Cardinal Newman Society.


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Carolyn Moynihan

African women at risk of HIV, hostages to birth control

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By Carolyn Moynihan

Which should be the priority for a health organisation: preventing an incurable disease, or preventing a natural function that might have adverse physical consequences?

Preventing the disease, you would think. But the World Health Organisation would rather expose African women to HIV-AIDS than withdraw its support from a suspect method of birth control, arguing that childbirth is also risky in Africa. Riskier, apparently, than the said contraceptive. And at least one of WHO’s major partners agrees.

This is one of the stories you will not have read in coverage of the International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne last week, despite the fact that WHO made an announcement about it during the conference and the findings of a highly relevant study were presented there.

The story is this: there is increasing evidence that the method of contraception preferred by family planning organisations working in Africa (and elsewhere) facilitates the transmission of HIV. The method is the progesterone injection in the form of either DMPA (Depo Provera, the most common) or NET-En (Noristerat).

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa receive the injection every three months. The method overcomes problems of access. It can be given by nurses or health workers. A wife need not bother her husband for any special consideration; the teenage girl need not remember to take a pill.

But for 30 years evidence has been accumulating that, for all its “effectiveness” in controlling the number of births, the jab may also be very effective in increasing the number of people with HIV.

Three years ago at another AIDS conference in Rome, researchers who had analysed data from a number of previous studies delivered the disturbing news that injectables at least doubled the risk of infection with HIV for women and their male partners.

That study had its weaknesses but one of the experts present in Rome, Charles Morrison of FHI 360 (formerly Family Health International, a family planning organisation that also works in AIDS prevention), considered it a “good study” and subsequently led another meta-analysis that addressed some of the issues with previous research.

Last week at the Melbourne conference he presented the results. His team had re-analysed raw data on the contraceptive use of more than 37,000 women in 18 prospective observational studies. Of these women, 28 percent reported using DMPA, 8 percent NET-En, 19 percent a combined oral contraceptive pill, and 43 percent no form of hormonal contraception. A total of 1830 women had acquired HIV while in a study.

The analysis showed that both injectables raised the risk of infection by 50 percent:

Compared to non-users [of any hormonal contraceptive], women using DMPA had an elevated risk of infection (hazard ratio 1.56, 95% CI 1.31-1.86), as did women using NET-En (1.51, 95% CI 1.21-1.90). There was no increased risk for women using oral contraceptives.

Similarly, comparing women using injections with those using oral contraceptives, there was an elevated risk associated with DMPA (1.43, 95% CI 1.23-1.67) and NET-En (1.30, 95% CI 0.99-1.71).

Morrison also noted:

The results were consistent in several subgroup and sensitivity analyses. However, when only studies which were judged to be methodologically more reliable were included, the increased risk appeared smaller.

Morrison acknowledged that observational studies such as the FHI analysis depended on have their limitations. He is looking for funding to conduct a randomised controlled study – something that, after 30 years of suspicions and evidence, still has not been done.

So what is his advice to the birth control industry? Stop using this stuff in regions with a high prevalence of HIV until we are sure that we are not feeding an epidemic?

No.

One reason is that FHI is at least as interested in contraception as it is in HIV prevention. Though its website reflects a broad range of development activities, its core business is integrating birth control programmes with HIV prevention. The WHO – one of its partners -- describes the US based, 83 percent US government funded non-profit as “a global health and development organization working on family planning, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.”

Another reason is that FHI 360 has a vital stake in precisely the kind of contraceptives that are under suspicion. Its annual report refers to:

Our trailblazing work in contraceptive research and development continues, as we develop and introduce high-quality and affordable long-acting contraceptives for women in low-income countries. Research is under way to develop a new biodegradable contraceptive implant that would eliminate the need for removal services. We are also working with partners to develop an injectable contraceptive that would last for up to six months. Currently available injectables require reinjections monthly or quarterly, which can be challenging where health services are limited.

That project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

So Morrison did not argue in Melbourne for restrictions on the use of injectables, and neither did the WHO, whose representative at the conference outlined the UN body’s new guidelines on contraception and HIV. Mary Lyn Gaffield said a review of studies up to – but not including Morrison’s – did not warrant a change to WHO’s policy that DMPA and NET-En should be available, without restriction, in areas of high HIV prevalence.

The most WHO will advise is that women should be informed of the risk:

“Women at high risk of HIV infection should be informed that progestogen-only injectables may or may not increase their risk of HIV acquisition. Women and couples at high risk of HIV acquisition considering progestogen-only injectables should also be informed about and have access to HIV preventive measures, including male and female condoms.”

Condoms? How do they defend such cynicism? By equating the risk of HIV with the risks of motherhood – complications of pregnancy or childbirth, maternal death and the effect on infants... And yet motherhood remains risky precisely because 90 percent of the world’s effort is going into contraception!

Seven years ago a meeting of technical experts convened by WHO to study the injectables-HIV link showed the reproductive health establishment worried about that issue, to be sure, but also concerned that funding was flowing disproportionately to HIV-AIDS programmes, setting back the cause of birth control. The integration of family planning and HIV prevention spearheaded by FHI 360 looks like they have found an answer to that problem.

Whether African women are any better off is very doubtful. They remain pawns in a game that is, above all, about controlling their fertility. They and their partners are encouraged to take risks with their health, if not their lives, while researchers scout for funds to do the definitive study.

FHI had an income of $674 million last year, most of it from the US government. Couldn’t it give Charles Morrison the money to do his research today?

Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com.


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