Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are Pro-lifers Giving Lame Excuses in Not Being Fully Pro-life ?

An interesting back and forth between American Catholic and Michael Winters at NCR. See American Catholic's post The Canard that the Pro-Life Movement “Isn’t Really Pro-Life” and via NCR Lame Excuses Dept.

I actually see both sides of this argument here especially in a sense of the Catholic view of "Pro-life" meaning more than abortion.

But I think American Catholic is much more correct in the end.

First the word and meaning of pro-life. For better or for worse I cannot force the entire political /social culture of the United States into my box of a Catholic world view. Let's take a theological issue of some importance. That is the word Church. As a Roman Catholic I know that there are only "Two" things we can call Churches on this planet. That is the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. See Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church .

The whole basis of that is that if course that Catholics and Orthodox see Church very much linked to Bishops, Apostolic Succession, and Eucharist.

That needs to be maintained. However in the real world I cannot go around demanding that every Catholic call the Methodists, Baptists , Church of Christ, Episcopals, etc "Faith Communities".

I think Catholics need to be aware that we view there is a real difference here. However I am not sure it helps ecumenical relations by not at least addressing these "Faith Communities" in the terms they think of themselves. Even Vatican documents do that. So while yes the Lutherans are not a "Church", I don't see how productive it is of bringing that point out all the time when we mention the Lutherans. Words matter and they have both a specific Catholic context and then a general political/theological/cultural significance outside the Catholic Church.

So while Pro-life touches on issues other than abortion ,the term in in our political culture is very much associated on all sides as being very linked to the anti abortion movement. Though among Catholics ourselves we should challenge ourselves to realize it means more than that.

Second to the facts on the ground. The poster at American Catholic is correct that the mainstream Pro-life movement should not be going off into a million other issues. Strangely the pro-life movement is the only one this is demanded of to a great degree. More on that in a second. Darwin Catholic in the comment section makes this observation:

..In this context, the question, “Why doesn’t the pro-life movement get behind social spending that would reduce abortion,” the answer is as given: Because only a subset of those in favor of banning abortion are going to be in favor of any particular social spending priority, while all those in favor of banning abortion are in favor of banning abortion. If one exiles from one’s movement all the people who agree with you on banning abortion, but disagree with you on some other particular issue (say SCHIP funding of pregnancy) then you necessarily make your anti-abortion movement smaller and less likely to succeed in its aims.

Now, the other approach to all this (suspiciously, one that normally comes from people whose political affinities cause them to want to support pro-abortion politicians) is for people to assert that everything conducive to human thriving should be classed under the title “pro-life” and thus if the pro-life movement doesn’t advocate for everything one believes is conducive to human thriving, then the pro-life movement is being untrue to itself and one needn’t support it. This is a very handy way of rationalizing not supporting any given movement, but it’s not actually a good way of determining what a movement that wants to exist and succeed should support. (For instance, one could use this method of argumentation to claim that gun control groups should focus on legalizing drugs, since this would reduce organized crime and thus the market for guns and gun crime — but of course, this main result of the gun control movement doing this would be to reduce its strength.)

Michael Winters might think this is a "lame excuse" but I see the wisdom of it. People are called to different things. For instance it was quite vogue in some quarters to go after anti State execution advocate Sister Helen Prejean in a variation of this argument. Why is Sister Prejean not out there on the front lines vocally against abortion too!! I would hear. Well perhaps she is not called to that issue. No doubt Sister Prejean is against abortion. However is she being a traitor to the "pro-life" because she does not demand that all anti execution groups support anti abortion legislation. You can ask that same question of people that work in the "pro-life" causes of immigration , work with the poor, and foreign aid. For what ever reason Anti abortion pro-lifers are held to a standard of not being FULLY PRO-LIFE while many others are not.

I don't expect immigration reform folks to give equal time to abortion concerns. Therefore I am not sure why for instance "Pro life" anti abortion groups should be engaging the topic of foreign funding for malaria.

Third the side that calls Pro-lifers not fully pro-life have a bad track record as honest brokers. For whatever reason the main movers and shakers of Catholic Social Justice have come from lets say the more "political" left. That dominance has not allowed a very robust discussion of lets say of complexities of State, economic life, and helping the poor. From this segment if a group or a person does not support Govt program x he is declared not "pro-life" in the Catholic Social Justice sense.

Catholic among themselves should have the discussion that being "Pro-life" means more than just abortion. Catholics as "Church" and as a witness to the faith need to take this message beyond our own Church of course to others. However the National Right to Life is not a "Catholic" organization. It is a group that is focused on abortion. I see no reason why they now must branch out and take positions on a good many subjects to where there can be honest disagreement. The National Right to Life have enough problems with just keeping everyone on board as to the abortion issue and it's positions.

It should be noted that at least in two areas of Catholic Pro-life interest that is State Execution and abortion progress has been made by both groups. That is despite the fact the main groups that are advocates against both (excluding the Catholic Church of course) have not mixed the issues. We have seen that as abortion Americans on the whole have become more "pro-life/anti abortion. As to State execution we seem to be seeing that Americans are really starting to rethink their view on execution in many cases.

There is "politics" going on here. But I am not sure it coming from the "pro-life" anti abortion side.

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