Saturday, January 24, 2009

Is the Pro-life Movement Just Republican Stooges?

This is one of my rather longer posts so if you are interested in the pro-life movement and the nations politics skip on down.

Toby at Astonished Yet At Home had another powerful and Clear the Decks post at Thoughts on the Future of the Pro-Life Movement . He mentions that the purpose of the post is the future of the effort to end abortion. In the process he hits and cast judgment on on all sort of organizations and people by name in the process.

As I said in the post below I agree very strongly with him and also disagree very strongly with him.

Before I get into the substance of his post I think there are side issues here that colors things. What is it to be an authentic Catholic in the Public Square? What is it for a Catholic to in effect adopt the seamless garment that adopts the whole aspect of Catholic thinking.

To often, and I think I am guilty of this too at times, Catholics are very quick to declare position x to be the Catholic position and all that disagree are wrong and there is no room for debate. I saw this as to Catholics arguing in good faith over the Iraq war and very recently as everyone was pontificating if the Israeli's were going according to just war principles. Everyone is a expert and too often we are a tad to quick on the ORTHODOX left and right to pronounce others outside the fold. In my view the political left Catholics have a tendency to this a good bit in what quickly becomes just name calling- Like the term I now see lately the Bush Torture Lobby.

Now for sure on many issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage there are quite clear guidelines and boundaries. However in many other areas , such as if war is just, if social policy x is just or "Catholic" , if Foreign Policy postion z is "Catholic" well there is room for debate.

There has been a interesting debate over at Mirrors of Justice that is being watched by many of what direction that blog of Catholic Legal thought should go in. That is if more "Catholic progressives" should be brought in. Now the meaning of Catholic Progressives is DISSENTERS not those that perhaps have more for the lack of a better word "liberal" view on various programs relating to Catholic Social Justice.

I sent a letter to the contributors asking that they do not go in that direction. A observer of that blog also gave similar thoughts to mine. He says in part:

"Prof. Shiffrin seems to be less concerned about drawing in progressives than he is more heterodox Catholics. His concern is not about getting more Catholics who think within the Magisterium in progressive ways, but about more Catholics who dissent from the Magisterium. These are, of course, two very different things; depending on the mission of MOJ the former ought to be more welcome than the latter.
If MOJ is attempting to develop Catholic legal theory -- and by that I mean a legal theory informed by the teachings of the Catholic Church -- it makes little sense to intentionally develop dissent around those teachings: you would be carving away at the very foundation you're trying to build upon. I cannot agree with Prof. Shiffrin that doing this would add anything to the richness of the site, either; the site is already a rich vein of thought. I love to watch the tension within orthodoxy that plays out between the (political) conservatives and progressives. Prof. Uelman's posts, for example, which are informed by the Focolare movement (which is aligned with the Magisterium), are fascinating, orthodox, and something that I don't find elsewhere

That real tension "within orthodoxy" between political conservatives and progressives is very real and both are very real authentic Catholic. We are a Church where Pacifist like Day are Saints and We are the Church that have Military Archdioceses around the world. We are the Church of the Catholic Worker movement and the Church where Catholics are exploring Catholic Social teaching in the Action Inst.

I guess my main objection to Toby's post (Full disclosure I am Republican) is that perhaps as to the Catholic Right and to Catholics in the Republican party it is a tad simplistic and perhaps too rash of dismissing individuals, and people in the party into some caricature.

Life is never like that and political coalitions are very complicated. The Catholic Right has several fissure points for instance. Those tensions can be seen in Toby's past posts. For instance in the past Toby, like I do ,quotes and links the former Catholic now Orthodox Rod Dreher.

Rod I think shares Toby's views on such issues as the war, sexual morality, and in particular as being a spokesman for the "Crunchy Con" movement that voixes very much of Toby's Catholic concerns toward materialism. Yet Rod also seems to share some of the more distasteful (in my view) views of the whole paleo conservative movement which Crunchy Con (ism) is sort of a cousin. Needless to say Rod's past post on the immigration and immigration reform have not been exactly in praise of immigrant. The tension is seen there in the whole Ron Paul movement in which in the past Toby has linked too when in agreement with. I know he is , because of past conversations, in disagreement with the before mentioned people on many other things. That is why I would never accuse him of "whoring" around and compromising his principles

Let me hit a little of his post:
Pro-life leaders have been misleading, as they have attached the cause of the defense of life with a conservative movement that is too often warmongering, blind to the poor, hostile to the immigrant, increasingly silent on the damaging effects of promiscuity in society, and overwhelmingly materialistic in their approach to values. Do not mention to me how a maverick Republican broke ranks and that this proves such attacks on republicans are untrue. Exceptions prove rules. And that many pro-life Catholics have grown silent on social justice issues that appeal more to the political left than the right and in the process merged an opposition to abortion with a right wing agenda that rips the seamless garment of life is scandalous. Our faith teaches a consistent life ethic.

Pro-Life Leaders of course gather in a large net. I agree that some Pro-Life leaders and Republicans have been blind to these concerns. Others have not. I am a tad perplexed that Toby is seeing that Pro-Life Leaders are "Increasing silent on the damaging effects of promiscuity" in society".

In fact I have seen the opposite. In another part of his post he comments in a sweeping way on a number of Republican leaders that he declares are anti abortion but not pro-life. These people run from Jindal to Gov Palin. As to Jindal sure there are a few areas I wish he would become more enlightened on. But in a recent interview where he talked about his faith and way of governing he said

"Second, viewing the sanctity of life, I believe the reason people are valuable is that they are created in the image of God and there's a dignity there. And that leads me to believe people should have access to health care, not because of policy reasons, but because they're valuable because we are created by God in His image."

Is this not a pro-life statement? Now one might disagree with Bobby's proposed solutions to this matter but again it shows the problem of sweeping declarations against individuals and groups. More on this later

One final word on Pro-life leaders. I am not sure exactly what Toby means by a "Pro-Life" leader. Is the movement against abortion really served by all anti abortion leaders taking all sort of positions on the complex web of social programs that relate to social justice and thus imply that to be pro-life one needs to take the same postion.

To put it another way if Toby was one of these pro-life leaders would we need be fully pro-life and anti abortion have to take the same postions as Toby? Could we disagree on some issues? What happens if I thought the Iraq war was correct? Am I booted out of the Coalition? These are matters of real nuts and bolts politics that have to be considered. What if I was for the current level of Military funding for Israel, or disagreed with the Bishop's decades old short statement on Gun Control?

Believe it or not at VOX NOVA there have been several debates that PRO-LIFE Catholics cannot be be pro-life if they take a traditional conservative view on the 2nd Amendment. In fact the never ending list of poltical positions that one must sign up on issues from a to z to prove your pro-life bona fides is becoming breathtaking. At some point we are way past the seamless Garment into something else.


Pro-life leaders have misled on abortion. An example nationally was the endorsement of Fred Thompson by the National Right to Life Committee. Thompson had indicated he was states rights on abortion and would oppose restricting abortion in his state. An example of this in Louisiana was the rigged caucus where Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul lost to a supposedly uncommitted unconditional pro-life ticket, the members of which were running on behalf of John McCain against more authentic pro-life candidates. Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for president is as firm a proof I can offer that money offered to the movement, to the GOP, and to candidates comes from similar sources. Our leaders too often pander and whore to secure their funding and positions of influence.

I am not sure how "rigged" that Louisiana caucus was though there was some controversy. Speaking as a Huckabee supporter we HAD NO organization in the state or at the Caucus. Fred Thompson dropped out if memory serves me right the day before. His people made a coalition with the McCain people. To say it was rigged well this sounds like Sean Hannity;s whining on Super Tuesday when the McCain people made a WV Coaltion with the Huckabee folks thus making sure Huckaee won and Romney did not.

As to Pat Robertson ,Toby uses some logic that seems to go against what he said in his point one. That is in point one "Do not mention to me how a maverick Republican broke ranks and that this proves such attacks on republicans are untrue. Exceptions prove rules. " Here Toby is offering as firm proof that Pat Robertson backing Rudy shows that the Republican pro-lifers are basically whores. Now of course what is not mentioned is hardly no one is listening to Pat Robertson anymore and as was commented on a thousand times his influence is not that significant anymore. I guess we can see that because of how Rudy was crashing and burning all over the place and kept having to withdraw out of primaries. Pat Robertson marches to his own drummer and I think even Toby realizes that.

4.) Republican Supreme Court justices have not proved a reliable ally to end abortion, and no Democrat appointed justice has been a friend to the unborn since Byron White.

This is often a complaint I hear often. This claim above is slightly overreaching . For instance we know as to overturning ROE we have all good indications that Scalia and Thomas are likely very reliable allies. The former Chief Justice was also in that camp. We think that perhaps Roberts and Alito can go down that path. Who Toby is talking about is Souter(who has been a disaster on many more things than abortion) O Conner, and Kennedy. Though both Kennedy and O Conner did make some moves to restrict.

Here Toby is reaching a a truth that he hits elsewhere. That is abortions cannot be totally ended by politics or hope in poltical parties. There must be a conversion of the American people. But there is something going unsaid here. Presidents cannot ask potential nominess if they would vote to overturn ROE? They can't get a 100 percent answer. Why? Because under oath the proposed justice would have to answer that question and they would likely not get confirmed. If they answered "yes" would the Catholic masses arise to get him confirmed? I doubt it.That is the reality. That is an indictment of us Catholics and other pro-lifers and not the GOP. It is much like all those GOPERS that supported immigration reform and werer attacked non stop. Where were the Catholics coming in their defense either left or right?

5.) The non-negotiable approach to voting always for the candidate who would do less harm on abortion has produced most frequently a lock-step vote for the Republican party by pro-lifers. In the process, the pro-life vote has been guaranteed to a party whose leadership realizes they only need candidates and office holders who minimally satisfy the agenda of pro-lifers. Pro-lifers became kept women to the GOP, unable to move elsewhere and unable to enjoy the fruitfulness of a happy marriage.

Is this true? I am still I think young and I have voted for many pro-life democrats. I think there needs to be a active pro-life movement in the Democrat party. However those of us on the right or the Republican party are really not in a position to go into Democrat local meetings and to take over leadership positons to make sure this happens.

As to GOP leadership. The leadership of the GOP on the state, local , and national level is one huge operation. I am not sure at all that the GOP leadership had a concerted plan to "minimally" satisfy the agenda of pro-lifers. There are factions there and in politics such behind the scenes pulling the levers rarely happens in such an amazing efficient way.

6.) This pro-life base showed some cracks in the last election, in large part due to the number of pro-life Democrats who made the case you would have fewer abortions under an Obama presidency without getting the anti-life policies of Republicans, an argument based on Obama's policies of economic justice and refusing to consider his own proactive opposition to protecting life in the womb. Based on the GOP's inability to end abortion, the argument had merits.

One can debate and perhaps take happy refuge in the belief that many Pro-Life Democrats went to the Obama because they thought his polices would decrease abortion. However there is a more scary thought. What if nominally pro-lifers (both Republicans and Democrats) just didn't consider the matter of abortion at all that important? Also what was the anti Life policies of John McCain? Is the fact that there seemed to be an assumption that McCain viewpoints were more anti life point out a bigger problem. Again I will quote Prof Rick Garnett at Mirrors of Justice on this issue:

Kmiec's question, and other things . . ..

It seems to be a premise of many of these "for whom should Catholics vote?" discussions that "on every issue that matters, other than abortion, the election of Sen. Obama will actually yield meaningful policy actions that are edifyingly in concert with the Church's social teaching, while the election of Sen. McCain will actually yield meaningful policy actions that are distressingly in conflict with the Church's social teaching." But, this premise is false. It is false because it ignores, or at least downplays, the political, social, cultural and economic realities that will almost certainly prevent dramatic changes with respect to most matters, and so it overestimates the "good" stuff about an Obama administration that, it is proposed, outweighs the "bad" stuff. It is also false because Sen. McCain's views (or, more precisely, the policies likely to be pursued by his administration) on a number of matters -- not just abortion -- are, in terms of consonance with the Church's social teaching, preferable to Sen. Obama's. Or, so a faithful, reasonable, informed, non-duped, non-Republican-hack, Commonweal-and-First Things-reading Catholic could conclude. It's a sad thought, but . . . I'm not sure that productive conversations -- even among friends -- are possible so long as this false premise is assumed.

I guess Prof Garnett's comments echo sort of my problem with Toby's post . Not so much as to some valid specifc valid problems he has but as to tone and perhaps overbroad false assumptions.

.) The tragedy for authentic Catholic and consistent life ethic voters was a choice between a pro-abortion president who could perhaps limit abortions while increasing access to abortions and a supposedly pro-life candidate whose flirtations with pro-abortion running mates and previous unwillingness to overturn Roe made him untrustworthy. The debate continues in the Catholic blogosphere about how apostate these pro-Obama Catholics were, but the pro-life commitment to a system that gave us John McCain deserves questioning.

Well I might be apostate because for the record I never considered the possibility of a Pro Choice running mate a deal breaker. I know many did but as I argued before I would fight against it but a PRO CHOICE VP was not going to make me running from McCain. The system that gave us John McCain is basically just the average Republican primary where a million issues besides abortion came into play. It should be noted (and I hated this as a Huckabee Supporter) McCain for the large part got most of the Catholic vote. I think they trusted him on abortion, for the most part thought his position on immigration was reasonable (I Think Toby was arguing somewhere about being Consistent pro-life), and was very much helped by a Catholic Military vote that was apparent in some of these crucial early primaries.

8.) The idea that Obama is secretly pro-life is absurd..............

Oh that we agree 100 percent
and I have heard few people claiming as much. The question of whether a prudential vote for him decreased abortions will be told in statistical data in the years to come, assuming McCain was untrustworthy on abortion and that Roe would have remained law in the course of his presidency, albeit with more restrictions. The nomination of Sarah Palin may have meant a pro-life place at McCain's table, but it is doubtful that a politically ridiculed vice president could have kept McCain from compromising.

Lots of assuming there. I was of the theory that if there were retirements on the Bench (and lets recall it is not just the Supreme Court) that McCain would be very wary of angering the pro-life crowd. Some of what McCain was proposing had a very much divided reaction in the GOP. McCain to govern would have to keep as much the GOP with him as he could. Satifying the pro-lifers and keeping them happy I suspect would have been a crucial part of that alliance so they would not go off the reservation. Also lets recall that ROE does not operate in some alternative Universe. What keeps ROE on the books and at times reinforces it is a whole Judicial viewpoint that often has nothing to do with Abortion but has a side effect of being its ally.

9.) Of course, Sarah Palin is not pro-life but anti-abortion. The same can be said of other authentic abortion opponents like Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, David Vitter, and Mike Huckabee with different degrees of moderation on various life issues by some of these candidates, and downright hypocrisy on the parts of Santorum and Vitter in their endorsements of pro-abortion Republicans like Arlen Specter and Rudy Giuliani.

As I mentioned before I am not sure why all these people are all on the same list. Sam Brownback's name is a curious name to be on it since the Good Cardinal of Boston said Sam Brownback very much represented the full spectrum of Catholic Social Justice thought. If Sam Brownback is not "pro-life" then I am not sure what possible political creature we could make that would be. Perhaps Senator Brownback is on the list because he difers from Toby on recent applications of the just war doctrine. Again if the abortion orthodoxy and its cause is going to be linked to not the so clear cut Just War Doctrine then we shall just become a debating society. If Santorum or Vitter are hypocrites is up to debate. As to Santorum I have always been much forgiving as to this issue. The relationship between two Seantors of the same party in the same state is complex. What has largely gone unnoticed is that Spector besides being Pro- Choice has let most of more conservative Justices through the committee. This is never commented on.

10.) Apologetically, opposition to abortion loses ground because of pro-life Republican blindness when it comes to life issues like just war and living wages. How can you love the brother you can't see in the womb when you do not love the brother you cannot see outside the womb. Such hypocrisy is an obstacle for left wingers with a good moral compass generally but are blinded by the lies of the age on abortion.

Here we have differences. As I mentioned before I think there are some Catholics that assume others are blind to "just war" just because they disagree with them in practice what it means. As I posted in an earlier post there was quite a varied reaction all within the realm of orthodoxy of more right leaning Catholics as to the lastest Israeli conflict. The everyday Republican and pro-lifer I do not recognize in Toby's depiction..

11.) The Democrats for Life supposedly advocate a consistent life ethic, but they champion candidates like Charlie Melancon, Don Cazayoux, and Tim Kaine, who support clone and kill measures. Kaine also supports abortion rights, but is paraded as a pro-life Democrat.

Here we agree especially as to Tim Kaine that appears to be another version of Cuomo. Though I think the tow other he mentions are a hopeful development. The question and perhaps the more alarming questions that is sort of the elephant in the room here regardless of party. What if we put these life issues up for a direct vote in some districts? What would be the outcome?

He makes other points but this spost is already running way long. Let me hit a few others

14.) Pro-life Democrats need to work with Obama when he is right and oppose him vocally when he is wrong. And they need to challenge him for the party nomination in 2012. Otherwise, they can rightfully be assumed to be another group whoring for the big bosses of a party.

I so agree.

15.) I registered democrat out of a sense of some common ground with Democrats for Life. Where are Republicans for a Consistent Life Ethic? Would they be silenced for their lack of patriotism in an unjust war? I bet. Still, Catholics insisting on fighting for the pro-life cause in the GOP need to be authentic so that the faith is not misrepresented and that the unborn are adequately defended by a proper apologetic, let alone by candidates who actually care about the unborn child and his mother.

One can tell that the WAR or as Toby puts it unjust war is a big topic here and a major concern. Though I am not sure his viewpoint of Just War doctrine and what appears no recognition that reasonable minds could disagree in the realm of Catholic orthodoxy should be linked so closely to abortion. As I have pointed out the Second Bishop's statement on Iraq seemed to go completely ignored by the anti war Catholic left ( and right). What is a just war and the dicussion of what that entails seems to be in constant soundbites lately. I don't think Toby does this but the Just War Doctine seems to be used as a refuge to advocate a pacifist doctrine. If people wish to advocate Pacifism fine but the Just War Doctrine is not a very good vehicle to do it.

Also was anyone silenced?

18.) The better work of the pro-life movement still happens away from the halls of government, but in front of abortion mills, at crisis pregnancy centers, and in families who are faithfully transmitting Christian values to their children.

I totally agree with this and I have been yelling this for years. This is one reason why I don't blame the GOP so much for not delivering if well GOP Pro-lifers in primaries go no where because the voters are not there that have that outlook

19.) The demographical decline of the contracepting pro-abortion left will insure a pro-life victory in generations to come if both Christ and the American experiment tarry and if we can keep our children pro-life. Inauthenticity on life issues and materialist attachments will provoke their rebellion and subject our children to the faulty teaching of the left. Our great hope is our children and grandchildren. May we have many and keep them faithful through our steadfast witness.

Perhaps. We can hope.

Anyway Toby is a Catholic of Good will and Faith and may his attitude challenge us all on these questions


Pro Ecclesia said...

Thanks for the thorough fisking. I'm not sure what to think of anyone who would claim that Sam Brownback is not a true pro-lifer. Well, yes I do, but this isn't my blog and I'm not prone to using profanity at someone else's place.

Subvet said...

Excellent post. I admire the way you realize that being a faithful Catholic doesn't entail complete conformity on all issues.

The mindset that all must conform in lockstep fashion on all issues was a major factor in my leaving the Church some years ago, it was after I realized that "Catholic" implies a broad acceptance of various beliefs & persuasions that I came back. As long as I follow Rome I can't be kicked out. Sometimes that is exactly what I have to tell those who wish otherwise.

And to tell the truth, that is actually kind of enjoyable!

Keep up the good work, yours is a great blog.

Thomas Tobias D'Anna said...

I am sorry for Jay Anderson's confused thinking and temptation towards profanity, but when Brownback supported the preemptive strike against Iraq while Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger were speaking against the war and in favor of life, Brownback proved to have an area of weakness in defending a consistent life ethic. While I wish he spoke more forcefully and at times less hesitantly on capital punishment, Brownback is as close to a consistent life ethic politician as we can find on the national stage, and his departure from the Senate is regrettable.

Pro Ecclesia said...

I'm sorry for Mr. Danna's confused thinking, as I wasn't aware that Sen. Brownback had left the Senate. Perhaps Mr. Danna is confusing Sen. Brownback with Sen. Santorum.