So, I was logging in to check e-mail and the blog, and what popped up on my login screen, but an article teaser for “Pro-life Catholics for Obama” over at Newsweek.
“Oh, they are so going to botch this one,” I thought. Out of morbid curiosity, I went to see what it said. To my amazement, it was an excellent article… and then I finally read the byline: George Weigel. As in, the guy who wrote the authorized biography of Pope John Paul II. Well, no wonder.
I highly recommend you read the article; if you have any arguments with Catholics who think they should/can vote for Sen. Obama, this will answer their objections.
Granted, I don’t know that many people are looking to have a reasoned discussion. I know a person at our parish who practically foams at the mouth whenever he mentions our current president; I doubt he’ll be voting Republican, pro-life or not. People who want to take a pro-Obama position will pick the vaguest sections of bishops’ statements and justify their position.
Weigel did a fabulously thorough job, though, of demolishing those justifications.
To their credit, we have had more bishops making clearer statements about the necessity of voting pro-life. But why are there so few? And why only now?
Earlier would have been better. Remember the snit last presidential election when the few bishops who stood up to say, “Pro-abortion politicians will not be admitted to communion in my diocese,” were criticized by most of the USCCB for rocking the boat? The “discussion” with pro-abortion Catholic politicians has been going on for more than thirty years… there should have been a clear, unequivocal statement long ago.
Clearer would have been better. As Raymond Arroyo, the news anchor for EWTN commented on the newest USCCB document on Catholic voting responsibilities (my paraphrase), “Come on, racism? Why is it in the same sentence with abortion? Nobody’s running on a pro-racism platform. Doesn’t this open the door to misinterpretation of what, exactly, is a ‘non-negotiable issue’ again?” Abortion should clearly be explained as the ultimate issue facing our nation at this time, then re-explained… then get into the nuance of what to do in races that have two pro-life candidates or two pro-abortion candidates running, how to keep pushing for better laws on other life issues, etc.
Everywhere would have been better. My diocese ran some seminars on “faithful Catholic voting.” According to the paper, it seems most people walked away with their preconceptions enforced, as in, “Well, Obama is against the war and for health care, and McCain is only against abortion, so I really should vote for Obama.” Um, no. Candidate who promised to get the Freedom of Choice Act passed as his first priority in office, to use U.S. taxpayer money to encourage abortions in other countries, and to force doctors and hospitals to perform abortions… vs. the candidate who is mostly pro-life, except for embryonic stem cell research. The choice is clear; why aren’t all of the bishops speaking out clearly on this?
(And, I would note that opposition to embryonic stem cell research was added to the Republican platform this election cycle because a) it’s controversial; many Americans don’t want their tax dollars going towards research that kills embryos and b) it doesn’t work and adult stem cells do. Embryonic stem cell researchers have actually admitted that the embryonic lines aren’t as easy to manipulate as they thought they’d be and have all sorts of problems that they have not been able to overcome; several researchers have switched to adult stem cell work only. Besides which, adult stem cell researchers have been doing more and more, including discovering how to reprogram several kinds of cells into stem cells and producing actual cures.)
We had a great joint letter from the two Virginia bishops (Arlington and Richmond dioceses) a year or so back about embryonic stem cell research; it was required reading at every mass in the dioceses one weekend.
Where is the letter on abortion?
Why do I have to get what I should have gotten from the bishop’s offices from a layman writing in Newsweek?
Oh, wait… I found it, but I had to go looking for it; most people won’t. There is a four page election letter dated for October 2008 at the Virginia Catholic Conference. Maybe this means we’ll be hearing it from the pulpit soon. (We can only hope and pray.) It clearly states that:
Disregarding the right to life itself- the foundation upon which all other hunan rights are based and without which no other right could possibly exist- is more serious than any other human rights violation.
Granted, that’s at the bottom of page two, sandwiched in between language about “consistent life ethic” and the admonition that voting for a pro-abortion politician with the intent of promoting abortion is a grave sin. So members of Catholics for a Free Choice are in trouble, but all those Catholics who just like Obama’s health care plan are ok?
The paragraph that starts at the bottom of page three specifically addresses, “What if I don’t like the candidate’s abortion position, but want to vote for him for other reasons?” In spite of the promising beginning, however, the paragraph is rather muddled in its argument that abortion is the most grave evil in our society today. It quotes the statistics, but fails to draw a clear conclusion. Personally, I would’ve written the answer like this:
Let us be clear: abortion kills more than a million children a year in the U.S. alone. That’s about 4,000 children each day. There is no other issue facing the U.S. today that kills as many people and destroys as many lives as abortion. There are no counterbalancing social justice issues, no “proportionate reasons” that would justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate against a pro-life candidate in the election this year.
But then, that’s me, and I, as you know if you read my blog much, am rather blunt.
When I was a midshipman, I heard a speaker talking about communication. As a young, brand new Marine Corps second lieutenant, he stood up in front of his first platoon and gave his first orders. When he finished, the men dispersed, and the proud first lieutenant, feeling pretty good for successfully passing this first milestone in his career, asked his platoon sergeant what he thought.
“Well, sir,” the sergeant started, rubbing his forehead like he felt a headache coming on, “You gave an order that could be understood.”
“What on earth is wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong with that, sir, is that it could also be misunderstood,” replied the sergeant patiently.
And, as the speaker said, “I then found out that an order that can be misunderstood can be misunderstood by thirty Marines in at least forty different ways.”
I’m happy to say that the Virginia bishops’ letter could be understood to say that abortion is the critical issue.
But I have to add that there is also entirely too much room for misunderstanding in the letter.