More Than One Way of Being Pro-Life?
Ono Ekeh, who was recently relieved of his position at the Bishop's Conference for running a pro-John Kerry e-mail list on the Conference's time and using its resources, has published an apologia of sorts for himself and other "Catholics for Kerry" over at the National Catholic Reporter. There's been a lot of good discussion of Ekeh's article over at Amy Welborn's blog.
Now, I would certainly grant that there is more than one way of being pro-life. Some are good at sidewalk counseling, some at political activism, and some have the very important mission of reaching out to and helping women who have been exploited by abortion. But some things are simply incompatible with the designation "pro-life". Some positions, no matter how sincerely or deeply held, just aren't consonant with a real commitment to protecting the dignity of human life. And Ono Ekeh's position, and that of like-minded "Catholics for Kerry", is, in reality, one of those incompatible with being pro-life. It is erroneous, and destructively so.
Firstly, Ekeh is correct in pointing out the problem that Catholic Democrats have:
When bishops call on Kerry to not present himself to receive Holy Communion because he is pro-choice, or when Catholic legislators are said to be engaged in “formal cooperation” if they “do not oppose” gay civil unions, many of us Catholic Democrats are left defending the fact that being a Catholic and a Democrat are not mutually exclusive.
Yes, Ono, being a Catholic and a Democrat is something requiring defense today. The Democratic Party, at the national level, has arrayed itself against Catholic teaching in two of the most fundamental areas: the sanctity of human life and the divinely constituted nature of the family. As a matter of policy, the Democratic Party will countenance no restriction whatsoever on abortion, and actively agitates for the expansion of abortion "rights" in the US and abroad. Furthermore, the Democratic party wants to enshrine in law protection of behavior which Scripture and Tradition condemn as intrinsically disordered. For a Catholic to ally oneself with these agendas requires some sort of explanation and/or defense. That's not the fault of the Church, that's the Democratic Party's fault. "Catholic Democrats", if they want to be taken seriously, should be devoting their energies to breaking the absolute lockstep conformity on abortion, and acquiescence to the Gay agenda, required by their Party. Unless and until they do so, they deservedly incur the suspicion that they are Democrats first and Catholics second (or even further down...).
Catholics are called on to promote a culture of life. Reducing the number of abortions is not the sole determinant of the pro-life platform, even though it is a vital component.
While reducing the number of abortions may not be the "sole determinant of the pro-life platform", surely it should be one of the determinants. A policy that tolerates the same number of abortions or even an increase in them cannot, in any meaningful way, be called a "pro-life" policy. Again, if "Catholic" Democrats were really "pro-life" but just in a "different way", they would not be so rabidly opposed to even the slightest and most reasonable restrictions, such as parental notification, or a ban on partial-birth abortion, which every responsible medical organization has agreed is completely unneccesary by any reasonable standard. In their support for things like partial-birth abortion, so-called Catholic politicians demonstrate that they are really about abortion, not "personally opposed...but."
Life does begin at conception but does not end at birth. Our goal is to fight for the dignity of life in all its manifestations, from conception to death. With a goal as complex as this, does it not stand to reason that there could be more than one way of reasonably promoting a culture of life?
Yes, as I mentioned above, there is more than one way to promote a culture of life. But, as our Holy Father and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have made clear, and as Archbishop Chaput of Denver just reiterated, "The right to life comes first. It precedes and undergirds every other social issue or group of issues." The Bishops of the U.S.. stressed in their 1998 pastoral letter "Living the Gospel of Life" that "the right to life is the foundation of every other right." No other social or political issue is equivalent in gravity and importance.
Because this right is so fundamental, and offenses against it so grievous, it is incumbent upon Catholics to make the protection of the right to life the first priority. That means that it must be of immediate and direct concern, and the subject of immediate and direct action. And this is where Ekeh's reasoning fails: For under his rationale, the solution to the problem of abortion is something not for immediate and direct action, but something to be hoped for and achieved eventually, without direct action.
An analogy may be helpful: The Church teaches that I have an obligation to help the poor. Now some would say that my duty to help the poor means that I must give directly to the poor, or to organizations that directly aid the poor, such as the Society of St. Vincent dePaul, or Catholic Relief Services, and the like. But surely, I might say, isn't there more than one way to help the poor? After all, the underlying causes of poverty are unemployment and lack of economic development. So I will help the poor by doing my part to stimulate economic development and employment. I'm not going to give to the poor directly, because I'm more concerned about those "underlying issues". I'll do it by spending all my money on consumer goods of every kind. My new washer and dryer are really "helping the poor". Having dinner out at that fancy restaurant is really "helping the poor". Buying that new 2.0 gigahertz computer is really "helping the poor". Buying clothes produced in a third-world sweatshop is really "helping the poor". Why give money to the poor when I can help to provide them jobs by stimulating the economy?
One would rightly say that our duty to the poor consists in actually giving to them directly, to help them immediately, out of our own substance. The kind of thinking in my analogy could quickly turn into a convenient dodge of one's moral responsibility. So too with the "Ono position": My agitating for an increase in the minimum wage is really "pro-life". Union organizing is really "pro-life". Supporting federally-funded day care is really "pro-life". Increasing taxes is really "pro-life." Voting for John Kerry, since he is in favor of all those things, is really "pro-life."
The Ono Ekeh position effectively removes the actual work of protecting the unborn to some unknown and nebulous future, after all these supposed "underlying causes" are eliminated. These underlying causes are "health care, child care, family leave, wage inequity, domestic violence and other women’s issues..." Once all those things are fixed, then, and only then, we can get to the business of protecting the unborn. I will not bother to address the dubious cause-and-effect relationship between those supposed issues and the problem of abortion. I will leave untreated the fact that this cause-and-effect relationship is only asserted and never demonstrated. I will even turn aside from the at-least-questionable underlying assumption that the "correct" solutions to all those problems are those advanced by liberal Democrats.
But by removing the protection of unborn life to an undefined Democratic utopian future, one might as well say "come the Parousia, then we'll do something about abortion." It turns protecting unborn human life into a meaningless abstraction. It puts defending innocent unborn life on the back burner.
Since some commenters on Amy's blog have affirmed that Ekeh does truly assent to the Church's teaching on the immorality of abortion, I won't question it. But I believe that he, and those of like mind, have been duped by the Kerrys and the Kennedys.
I think there is nothing that Kerry and Kennedy would like better than to have abortion eternally "tabled" for discussion, as we await the fulfillment of all their ideological fantasies. For while I am willing to grant to Ono and some of his fellow travelers the benefit of the doubt regarding their good will, I make no such concession for Kerry and Kennedy and the other leaders of the "CINO Pro-Abort Caucus". John Kerry can't even pretend to be "personally opposed...but". Kerry has a 100 % voting record for NARAL and NOW. In other words, he has identified himself completely with the NARAL and NOW agenda. Since NARAL and NOW both assert that abortion is a woman's fundamental right, Kerry has attached himself to that position. There is nothing of reluctance or reservation in Kerry's support of abortion. One cannot claim that he is supportive of something that is a "fundamental right" in a half-hearted or reluctant manner. One cannnot support a "fundamental right" as a tragic and temporary concession to the current social reality. And Kerry doesn't : He has vowed to do everything in his power to defend abortion-on-demand, with no limits or restrictions. If he had had the courage to actually vote for the ban on partial-birth abortion, his defenders might have a sliver of evidence in his favor, but, of course, he didn't do that.
Furthermore, it has now been revealed that Kerry, with Sen. Kennedy and some quisling priests such as Fr. Robert Drinan, has set out deliberately to obfuscate Catholic teaching on abortion, in order to create the appearance of a "pro-choice" loophole that he and other politicians could exploit. Kerry cannot claim some sort of well-intentioned "differing interpretation". He knew and knows exactly what he is about.
In short, there is nothing innocent about Senator Kerry's position on abortion, his defiance of Catholic teaching on the issue, and his abrogation of his responsibilities as a Catholic politician. He has chosen his position with knowledge and deliberation, and is cynically trying to play his position to advantage, by exploiting the anti-Catholic bias on the Left, and the confusion of well-intentioned "Catholics for Kerry."
Senator John Kerry has the blood of innocents on his hands, and to vote for him is to risk enabling the further slaughter of millions. For a Catholic to vote for him would be an act of either moral recklessness, or moral blindness.