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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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, speaks to Thomas McKenna of Catholic Action Insight. Catholic Action Insight
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Catholics shouldn’t sue one another: Cardinal Burke comments on Fr. Rosica’s lawsuit against blogger

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

ROME, March 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Citing Scripture, Cardinal Raymond Burke told an interviewer this week that Catholics should not sue each other: “Our Lord in the Gospel and St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians instruct us not to take our disputes to the civil forum, that we should be able, as Catholics, to resolve these matters among ourselves.”

The cardinal’s comments to the Traditionalist Catholic website Rorate Caeli follow an uproar in the Catholic media world last week when it was revealed that Vatican spokesman Father Thomas Rosica has threatened to sue a Canadian blogger for defamation in the civil courts.

Cardinal Burke, who served under Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis as the head of the Vatican’s highest court, is a noted expert on canon law. He told Rorate Caeli, “Unless the blogger has committed a calumny on someone's good name unjustly, I certainly don't think that that's the way we as Catholics should deal with these matters.”

“I think contact should be made. I presume that the Catholic blogger is in good faith, and if there’s someone in the hierarchy who is upset with him, the way to deal with it would be first to approach the person directly and try to resolve the matter in that way,” Burke added.

Fr. Rosica, a Canadian Basilian, is the English language press officer for the Vatican and founder of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Television network.

He sent the legal letter to David Domet, a Toronto music composer and part-time Catholic blogger who has long criticized what he says are Fr. Rosica’s departures from Catholic orthodoxy. The priest’s lawyer told Domet to remove nine separate items from his blog and apologize, but added that this would not necessarily remove the threat of the civil action.

The conflict was covered in a feature by Michael Voris’ Church Militant TV, and the internet’s Catholic blogger world exploded with indignation. So furious was the backlash that it got coverage by the US conservative news site, Breitbart. This followed dozens of blog posts, nearly unanimously calling the threatened legal action of a well-placed priest against a lay pensioner a “PR disaster” for Rosica. 

The uproar has launched Domet’s small blog, Vox Cantoris, into the international limelight, and has earned Fr. Rosica an avalanche of criticism. “Though Rosica publicly defends the right to freedom of speech and press, he is attempting to silence the blogger who has criticized him,” Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, wrote for Breitbart.

Among Domet’s criticisms of Fr. Rosica is his apparent support for the proposal by Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and others in “irregular” sexual unions, to receive Holy Communion.

Fr. Rosica has also recently come under fire for comments he made a year ago, in a lecture in Windsor, Ontario, in which he argued that Catholic doctrine could change. (See video below. Quotes can be found at 48:12.)

“Will this Pope re-write controversial Church doctrines?” Fr. Rosica said in the lecture, which was posted to Youtube. “No. But that isn't how doctrine changes. Doctrine changes when pastoral contexts shift and new insights emerge such that particularly doctrinal formulations no longer mediate the saving message of God's transforming love.”

Fr. Rosica continued: “Doctrine changes when the Church has leaders and teachers who are not afraid to take note of new contexts and emerging insights. It changes when the Church has pastors who do what Francis has been insisting: leave the securities of your chanceries, of your rectories, of your safe places, of your episcopal residences go set aside the small-minded rules that often keep you locked up and shielded from the world.”

In the Rorate Caeli interview, Cardinal Burke refuted the idea that the Church can change its “pastoral practice” without changing doctrine.

“I think it’s very important to address a false dichotomy that's been drawn by some who say, ‘Oh no, we’re just changing disciplines. We’re not touching the Church's doctrine.’ But if you change the Church’s discipline with regard to access to Holy Communion by those who are living in adultery, then surely you are changing the Church's doctrine on adultery.”

“You’re saying that, in some circumstances, adultery is permissible and even good, if people can live in adultery and still receive the sacraments. That is a very serious matter, and Catholics have to insist that the Church’s discipline not be changed in some way which would, in fact, weaken our teaching on one of the most fundamental truths, the truth about marriage and the family,” Cardinal Burke said.

Fr. Rosica recently criticized Cardinal Burke on his Twitter account by posting an article by Washington, DC’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl on “dissent” in the hierarchy, saying, “Cardinal Wuerl’s response to Burke (and dissenters).”

The priest has also had a confrontational relationship with the pro-life movement for years.

In 1996, Fr. Rosica called the police on pro-life advocates who were leafletting in protest at a lecture by famous dissident Gregory Baum at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre.

In 2009, Fr. Rosica wrote against objections to the lavish Catholic funeral for US Senator Ted Kennedy’s in Boston. He excoriated the pro-life movement for what he called their lack of “civility.”

“Civility, charity, mercy and politeness seem to have dropped out of the pro-life lexicon,” Fr. Rosica wrote. “To recognize and bring out the sin in others means also recognizing one’s self as a sinner and in need of God’s boundless mercy.

“Let us pray that we will become more and more a people, a church and a community overflowing with mercy.”

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Greg Rohrbough, J.D.

Duck Commander Phil Robertson’s CPAC speech was viral in so many ways

Greg Rohrbough, J.D.
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Last week, the winner of the 2015 Citizens United/CPAC Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award was “Duck Commander” Phil Robertson, paterfamilias of the Duck Dynasty Robertson family. In doing so, they were giving Phil the CPAC stage for a speech, knowing that he would speak his unvarnished thoughts. One doubts they expected his topic.

After bringing out his heavily-duct-taped Bible and telling politicians to keep theirs with them, Phil went on the offensive – against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). He quoted the federal Centers for Disease Control, which estimates that more than 100 million Americans now have a sexually transmitted infection.

“I don’t want you to become ill. I don’t want you to come down with a debilitating disease. I don’t want you to die early,” Robertson said.

Phil’s solution? One older than Christianity, as old as common sense itself. “If you’re disease-free, if she’s disease-free, you marry. You keep your sex right there. You won’t get sick from a sexually-transmitted disease!”

Logic and mathematics would seem to agree. According to Robertson, his goal was to show love to the listeners. But several left-wing websites didn’t see it that way.

“He certainly used his speech to hate very well. I guess that's the criteria. Who can say the sickest, most vile things about center-left Americans wins!” according to John Amato of Crooks & Liars.

The Huffington Post took offense at his attributing the rise in STDs to the beatniks and hippies.

To their credit, MSNBC acknowledged Phil’s numbers, saying, “For the record, Robertson’s [sic] has his numbers correct. A CDC report from February of 2013 estimated more than 110 [million] cases of sexually transmitted infections in America with about 20 billion [sic, MSNBC’s number] new infections each year at a cost of ‘nearly $16 billion in direct medical costs.’”

The network site then blasted him for comparing ISIS to the Nazis, Communists, and Imperial Japanese.

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Robertson clearly didn’t care what MSNBC thought, though. “You want a Godly, Biblical, medically safe option? One man, one woman, married, for life,” he said.

“What do you call the 110 million people who have sexually transmitted illnesses?” he continued. “It’s the revenge of the hippies! Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll have come back to haunt us in a bad way!”

But the big question is – is Phil right or wrong? According to the CDC’s website, “Almost every sexually active person will acquire HPV [Human Papillomavirus] at some point in their lives.”

“Sexually active” would seem to indicate activity with new or multiple partners, rather than this Duck Doctor Phil’s Prescription.

But still – “Almost every…person.” That’s quite a few – the website also says, “about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year.” While it is the most prevalent venereal disease, HPV is only one of many.

Generally, HPV’s symptoms are more a painful nuisance than life-threatening – genital warts, often only appearing years after the initial infection. But there are also life-threatening illnesses such as cervical cancer, which HPV causes.

Much more frightening, however, is the specter of HIV/AIDS. According to the CDC, there are about 1.2 million people currently living with HIV, and as many as 50,000 new cases a year, with 63 to 66 percent of those being “MSM,” or “Men who have Sex with Men.” Sadly, the lion’s share of new HIV infections is found in the 13-24 age group; despite being 16 percent of the nation’s population, they account for 26 percent of all new infections, with 72 percent of those being young MSM. While HIV is treatable, there is still no cure.

Although HIV, as well as the current increase in syphilis and hepatitis, are primarily targeting homosexual males, heterosexuals with multiple partners are by no means off the hook. As well as HPV, herpes, drug-resistant gonorrhea and chlamydia are on the rise, as well. The year 2013 saw 1.4 million cases of chlamydia and 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea, and the CDC estimates that one person in every six in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 49 has herpes.

Criticize Phil all you like, folks – he doesn’t mind. He’s only saying this because he cares.

Listen to him again: “I don’t want you to become ill. I don’t want you to come down with a debilitating disease. I don’t want you to die early.”

“And if you hate me because I told you that,” he said, “I told you, my love for you is not contingent on how you feel about me. I love you anyway. I don’t want you to see you die early or get sick. I’m trying to help you, for cryin’ out loud! America, if I didn’t care about you, why would I bring this up?”

From this CPAC attendee’s perspective, Phil’s speech was not only important from a physical health perspective, it also, along with that duct-taped Bible of his, reminds us of the words of Charles Spurgeon: “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

Greg Rohrbough, J.D., has been director of government relations for the Meredith Advocacy Group since 2006.

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Steve Weatherbe

Former abortionist who failed to kill unborn baby hit with $1 million lawsuit: baby was born with hole in heart

Steve Weatherbe
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OTTAWA, March 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Ontario mother of a baby born by mistake is suing the former doctor who botched her abortion for $1 million for his “gross negligence” and “medical malpractice.”

Tania Brown already had four children when she went to Dr. Michel Prevost in Almonte, Ontario in early 2011 for a medical (or pharmaceutical) abortion to prevent a fifth, which her doctor had advised might have birth defects. Several months later she suspected Prevost’s one-two punch of methotrexate (a poison to kill the baby) and misoprostol (to expel the corpse a week later) had not worked. An ultrasound confirmed a beating heart.

Too late for an abortion now, she gave birth, in May, to a baby with “a smaller brain; he had a hole in his heart; he had something wrong with his palate.” She gave him up for adoption.

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Dr. Prevost relinquished his medical licence earlier this month with the certainty that if he didn’t, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons would expel him after an investigation found him “incompetent in his practice of obstetrics and gynecology.”  They looked into 28 abortion cases, two so badly “botched” that the babies survived.

Small wonder the whole business sent Brown into a “debilitating depression,” but her lawyer Ralph Lee told the CBC the case “brings up larger issues…the issue of a woman’s access to abortion.”

Basically, Prevost couldn’t get the dosages right. Methotrexate, MedicineNet.com warns, “has infrequently caused serious (sometimes fatal) side effects.” These include severe azotemia (too much blood urea nitrogen), severe blood infection, stomach and intestinal bleeding, and perforation.

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