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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Two Congressmen confirm: National 20-week ban on abortion will come up for a vote shortly

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A bill to end abortion in the United States after 20 weeks will move forward, and it will have the strong support of two leading pro-life Congressmen, the two Republicans told LifeSiteNews.com at the eighth annual Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Summit on Thursday.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, told LifeSiteNews and the National Catholic Register that ongoing House discussions on H.R. 36, the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," will result in a pro-life bill moving forward.

"Very good language" is being put together, Smith told The Register. He told LifeSiteNews that he fully anticipated being able to support the final bill, because the House Republican caucus "wouldn't have something that would be unsupportable. Our leadership is genuinely pro-life."

In 2013, the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" easily passed through the House of Representatives, only to be stalled by a Democratic-controlled Senate. This year, an identical bill was halted by Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-NC, and other Republicans -- surprising and angering pro-life leaders who thought its passage was assured. That bill, H.R. 36, is now being rewritten so it can be voted on by the full House, though its final wording remains uncertain.

Some fear that the House leadership will modify the bill to mollify Ellmers. She and others objected that the bill allows women to abort a child after 20 weeks in the case of rape – but only if they report that rape to the authorities.

Pro-life activists say removing the reporting requirement would take abortionists at their word that the women whose children they abort claimed to be raped. Congresswoman Ellmers has publicly stated the House leadership is considering such a proposal.

Jill Stanek, who was recently arrested on Capitol Hill as part of a protest to encourage Republicans to pass H.R. 36, said that would be "a loophole big enough for a Mack truck."

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Congressman Smith said the bill will come to the floor shortly. "The commitment to this bill is ironclad; we just have to work out some details," Smith said.

He also noted that, while a vote on the 20-week ban has been delayed for nearly three months, "we did get the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act passed, and that would have been in the queue now, so we just reversed" the order of the two bills.

Congressman Smith spoke to both outlets shortly after participating in a panel at the Summit.

Another speaker was Rep. Steve King, R-IA, who also supports the 20-week ban.

"I can't think of what” language that is actively under consideration could make him rethink his support for the bill, King said. He also told attendees that the nation was moving in a direction of supporting life.

The outspoken Congressman declined to answer further, noting "that's asking me to anticipate an unknown hypothetical."

The annual Campaign for Life Summit and its related gala drew other high-profile speakers, including presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul, potential presidential hopeful Senator Lindsay Graham, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.  

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"Someone who doesn’t flinch at the dismemberment of babies is not going to flinch at the dismemberment of some evangelical baker’s conscience."
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Pro-lifers are winning. So now they’re coming for our cupcakes?

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By Jonathon van Maren

As I travel across Canada (and at times the United States) speaking on abortion and various facets of the Culture of Death, one of the things I hear often is a hopelessness, a despair that the West is being flattened by the juggernaut of the Sexual Revolution. There is a feeling among many people that the restriction of religious liberty, the continued legality of abortion, and the redefinition of marriage are inevitable.

This is, of course, one of the most prominent and successful strategies of the Sexual Revolutionaries—create an aura of inevitability while concurrently demonizing all those who oppose their new and mangled “progress” as Neanderthals on the cusp of being left behind by History. That inevitability becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because many people don’t realize that the various battles in the Sexual Revolution actually all correlate to one another—that what we are seeing now is the end game of an incredibly vast and well-planned cultural project.

It is because we miss many of these connections that we often cannot see, with clarity, how the culture wars are actually unfolding. I read with great interest a recent column by Rev. Douglas Wilson, eloquently titled “With stirrups raised to Molech.”

“We are now much occupied with the issues swirling around same sex mirage,” he writes, “but we need to take great care not to get distracted. Why have the homosexual activists gone all in on this issue? Why is their prosecutorial zeal so adamant? We went, in just a matter of months, from ‘let’s let individual states’ decide on this, to federal judges striking down state statutes, followed up hard by official harassment of florists, bakers, and photographers. Why the anger, and why the savage over-reach? And do they really think we couldn’t remember all the things they were assuring us of this time last year?”

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It’s a compelling question, and one that I’ve heard many Christians puzzling over recently. Why do the advocates of the Sexual Revolution despise those who disagree with them so viciously? It is partly because their cultural project does not, as they claim, consist of “living and let live.” It is about compulsory acceptance of any and all sexual behaviors, with tax-payer funding for the rubbers and pills they need to ensure all such behaviors remain sterile, and extermination crews to suction, poison, and dismember any inconvenient fetuses that may come into being as the result of casual coitus.

The ancient mantra “the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” has long been abandoned—the emboldened Sexual Revolutionaries now demand that politicians show up at their exhibitionist parades of public indecency, force schools to impose their so-called “morally neutral” view of sexuality on children, and force into silence those who still hold to traditional values.

Rev. Wilson, however, thinks that this loud and vicious war on conscience may be about even more than that. The pro-life cause, he notes, has been very successful in the Unites States. The abortion rate is the lowest it has been since 1973. Hundreds of pro-life laws are passing on the state level. The abortion industry has been successfully stigmatized. True, the successes are, for pro-lifers, often too feeble and not nearly adequate enough in the face of such unrestrained bloodshed. Nevertheless, the momentum has turned against the Sexual Revolutionaries who have championed abortion for decades—their shock and anger at the strength of the pro-life movement evident in pro-abortion signs at rallies that read, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this s**t.”

It is because of the pro-life movement’s success, Wilson muses, that the Sexual Revolutionaries may be coming at us with such fury. “If a nation has slaughtered 50 million infants,” he writes, “they are not going to suddenly get a sense of decency over you and your cupcakes. Now this explains their lack of proportion, and their refusal to acknowledge the rights of florists. Someone who doesn’t flinch at the dismemberment of babies is not going to flinch at the dismemberment of some evangelical baker’s conscience. This reveals their distorted priorities, of course, but it also might be revealing a strategy. Is the homosexual lobby doing this because they are freaking out over their losses on the pro-life front? And are they doing so in a way intended to distract us away from an issue where we are slowly, gradually, inexorably, winning?”

It’s a fascinating perspective. It’s true—and has always been true historically—that when one group of human beings is classified as nonhuman by a society as nonhuman and subsequently butchered, the whole of society is degraded. No nation and no culture can collectively and systematically kill so many human beings without a correlating hardening of the conscience. But on the pro-life front, there has been decades of fierce resistance, hundreds of incremental victories, and a renewed energy among the upcoming generation of activists. For the Sexual Revolutionaries who thought the battle was over when Roe v. Wade was announced in 1973, this must be a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

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Lisa Bourne

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‘Prominent’ Catholics attacking Archbishop Cordileone are big donors to Pelosi and pro-abort Democrats

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By Lisa Bourne

Note: To sign a petition supporting Archbishop Cordileone, click here

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Big donors to the Democrat Party and pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi are among those publicly harassing San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for protecting Catholic identity in the area’s Catholic high schools.

A big-ticket full-page ad ran April 16 in the San Francisco Chronicle attacking the archbishop and calling Pope Francis to oust him for his efforts to reinforce Catholic principles in the schools.

A number of prominent San Francisco-area residents identifying as Catholic are signatories of the ad, and several are wealthy donors to Democrat entities and pro-abortion politicians, Catholic Vote reports.

Federal Election Commission records indicate Charles Geschke, Adobe Systems chairman and previous head of the Board of Trustees at the University of San Francisco, gave more than $240,000 to Democrat groups, as well as $2,300 to Nancy Pelosi and $4,000 to John Kerry, both politicians who claim to be Catholic but support abortion and homosexual “marriage.”

Also on the list is political consultant and businessman Clint Reilly, who gave nearly $60,000 to Democrat organizations, along with $5,000 to Barack Obama, whose administration vehemently promotes abortion and homosexual “marriage” and has continually opposed religious liberty. Reilly gave $4,600 to Pelosi as well.

Another individual in the ad attacking the archbishop who also gave big campaign donations to California pro-abort Democrats was Lou Giraudo, a former city commissioner and business executive who contributed more than $24,000 to Nancy Pelosi, $6,000 to Dianne Feinstein and $4,300 to Barbara Boxer.

Nancy Pelosi herself challenged the archbishop for his stance on Catholic teaching last year when she tried to pressure him out of speaking at the March for Marriage in Washington D.C., claiming the event was “venom masquerading as virtue.”

The archbishop responded in a letter that he was obliged “as a bishop, to proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing ... especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

The April 16 ad attacking Archbishop Cordileone was the latest in an ongoing assault since the archbishop took steps in February to strengthen Catholic identity in the schools and clarify for faculty and staff in handbooks and contract language the long-standing expectation that they uphold Church principles. 

It said Archbishop Cordileone has “fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance” and called on Pope Francis to remove him.

“Holy Father, Please Provide Us With a Leader True to Our Values and Your Namesake,” the ad said. “Please Replace Archbishop Cordileone.”

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (CCC), a national association for priests and deacons, condemned Archbishop Cordileone’s harassers in a statement, saying the archbishop “teaches in conformity to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

“The character assassination and uncharitable venom being cast upon a bishop merely defending the doctrines of his religion is appalling and repugnant,” the CCC said. 

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“It is totally inappropriate, improper and unjust for the media and others to vilify and brutally attack him when he is doing precisely what an ordained minister and pastor of souls is obligated to do,” the group stated, “namely, speak the truth in season and out of season.”

Those behind the attack ad said the proposed handbook language was mean-spirited, and that they were “committed Catholics inspired by Vatican II,” who “believe in the traditions of conscience, respect and inclusion upon which our Catholic faith was founded.”

The Archdiocese of San Francisco denounced the ad upon its release, saying it was a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching and the nature of the teacher contract, and a misrepresentation of the spirit of the Archbishop.

“The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for “the Catholic Community of San Francisco,” the archdiocese responded. “They do not.”

The CCC pointed out that just as physicians are expected to be faithful to the Hippocratic Oath, bishops, priests, and deacons are expected to be faithful to the Church, its teachings and its authority, “since their objective is the salvation of souls, not a popularity contest.” 

In openly declaring their support for Archbishop Cordileone, the group urged the media and others to show “prudence, civility, and fair-mindedness” toward those with whom they disagree.

“He took an oath to be faithful to the Gospel,” the Confraternity stated of Archbishop Cordileone, “and in the words of the disciples in the New Testament, ‘better to obey God than men.’”

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