Monthly Archives: April 2010
By Deal Hudson
“The President is not pro-abortion, the President is pro-choice. I think they are two very different things.” This is a mantra we often hear from Catholics who support pro-abortion politicians, but this time they were uttered in support of President Obama.
The words came from Sr. Anita Baird, the founding director of the Office of Racial Justice at the Archdiocese of Chicago. She was being interviewed by Kathleen Gilbert of LifeSiteNews.com on the upcoming event honoring Chicago priest, Fr. Michael Pfleger, who publicly announced Obama was “the best thing to come across the political scene since Bobby Kennedy.” He was serving, at the time, as a volunteer adviser to the Obama campaign and a member of the Catholics for Obama Committee.
Cardinal George, Pfleger’s ordinary in Chicago, suspended him from his parish for two weeks after his outburst praising Obama. Sr. Baird told LifeSiteNews.com Fr. Pfleger’s public support for Obama was “not an issue here,” since he had served a two-week suspension from his parish, St. Sabina’s.
One wonders whether Fr. Pfleger’s fondness for Obama “is not an issue” in the Archdiocese of Chicago simply because he accepted his punishment for endorsing a candidate publicly in violation of the Church’s non-profit status.
Kathleen Gilbert asked Sr. Baird to explain the difference between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice:
“To be pro-abortion is that you believe in abortion and you support it. And, I don’t think you’ll find that the President has ever said that.”
So you have to say you support abortion to be judged pro-abortion? What about Obama’s advocacy of infanticide as a state senator in Illinois, his termination of the Mexico City Policy on the first day of his presidency, his signing of a health care bill providing billions of federal dollars for abortion funding, and on and on?
Sr. Baird didn’t bring up anything Obama has done, only what he has said, for example, in his Notre Dame speech where he claimed, “his challenge was that we find ways to ensure that women – that would be their last choice, and that they would choose life.”
But then Sr. Baird says the most startling thing of all to Gilbert:
“I just think we need to be clear with our language.”
I’m sure, I am not the only one who will hear this and immediately think of Matthew 23:24, where Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” In other words, Sr. Baird wants to make sure we are “clear with our language” describing Obama’s stated view of abortion, but she ignores, completely, his actions as a politician. (This is not completely accurate since Sr. Baird is apparently not familiar with Obama’s speech in the Illinois state legislature justifying his support for partial-birth abortion.)
Speaking of Obama’s own utterances on the topic of abortion. Why do people like Sr. Baird think his words can be trusted? What about the public lie Obama told the Congress and the American people that there would be no federal funding for abortion in the health care bill?
Even if you judge Obama by his words, if you pay close attention to his promises, you will come to the conclusion his words cannot be trusted. Thus, attempting to be “clear with our language” about the President’s position on abortion is a waste of time.
What do we make of Sr. Baird’s defense of Obama as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion?”
First of all, we should remind ourselves that this distinction has been common among the media and Catholic “progressives” for years, so it is nothing new.
Second, it calls out for some sort of authoritative comment by Cardinal George showing that it is a distinction without a practical difference — both points of view, if they can be really distinguished, result in law and public policy of abortion on demand.
Finally, Sr. Baird’s defense of Fr. Pfleger’s support of Obama is a snapshot of how the Obama advocacy goes on inside the Catholic Church, through chanceries and parishes into the grassroots. Catholics who support Obama and work to convince other Catholics to vote for him, as Fr. Pfleger has done, ignore the myriad of evidence that Obama is pro-abortion. They parrot a handful of Obama speeches filled with promises his never intends to keep.
Whenever Congress is on recess, I always wonder what will catch the media’s eye in Washington, D.C. When there is no drama to cover, sometimes either something lands in their laps or they take something, create the drama, and help blow it out of proportion. The Washington, D.C. media and bobble-head chattering class on the cable shows received two such gifts in the past week allowing them to inflict further pain on two institutions some in the media take joy in beating like a piñata.
The first story was the total lack of judgment used by a Republican National Committee (RNC) staffer to organize (informally or not) a field trip to a Hollywood sex club. This was followed by a second lack of judgment by the RNC for approving the expense report. It must have been a rough week at the RNC because the story would just not go away. Donors are upset. Values Voters who traditionally align themselves with Republicans are upset. Voters are now questioning the values they thought the RNC stood for with another example of Washington, D.C. hypocrisy in a year with a vulnerable Democratic party.
The initial response from the RNC focused on the staffer being fired and promises of better stewardship of money. I am sure the leadership of the RNC is embarrassed by this episode. However, they missed the point that it highlights a larger, more serious cultural problem facing ascending generations – the “if it feels good do it, and if there are consequences blame someone else” philosophy.
The second “story of the week” was another round of sexual abuse news giving the media another opportunity to attack the Church. I was troubled to see the extensive coverage given to the members of SNAP on the local Washington, D.C. affiliate in the news. If your eyes were closed, the lead-in by the local reporter describing a protest held outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. made it sound like hundreds gathered. But, the visual of four angry and hurt individuals told a different story. It was even more troubling to hear the “man on the street” interviews after Easter Vigil Masses where faithful were stating their faith had been shaken. (I am guessing those were the comments chosen to be aired versus those who stood in solidarity with our priests.)
The over-attention the media is paying to the latest chapter in the sex abuse scandal is affecting their already biased credibility, but like sharks in chummed water they smell the blood of the wounded, and the responses have not helped the situation. Leaders in Rome protecting the institution of the Church, instead of recognizing the effect this is having on the faithful, miscommunicate that the Church is not taking these situations seriously.
Families are suffering in their wallets and also from having their values attacked each day. They are looking to institutions to help change these situations, not worsen them. Some are hoping to turn to elected officials; some are hoping to turn to ecclesiastical guidance by appealing to a higher power.
Both of these stories would not have been able to gain so much traction if there were not already credibility issues present. Institutions people have traditionally been able to rally behind have become contributors to a culture lacking self-accountability.
How can these two institutions rebuild credibility?
People are tired of excuses and deflection. They are sophisticated and see through it. People want an acknowledgment of the problem and an attempt at some form of contrition, even if the leadership of an institution is not responsible for the grievance.
RNC chairman Michael Steele, a Catholic, needs to stand up and point out that these activities were inappropriate, highlight them as an indication of greater problems in our society, and say so with contrition to begin rebuilding credibility with supporters.
Likewise, the Church needs to stop focusing its attention on a biased media that will never back off their attacks on the Holy Father. The Church needs to hear the advice from public relations professionals, and take back control of the story. They have an opportunity to make the distinction that things have changed by acknowledging there is still work to be done cleaning up the past, denouncing the unforgivable, and articulating all the Church is doing around the globe to prevent future abuse from occurring.
What can you do?
In regards to the Church…I remember being in an airport during the height of the Boston sexual abuse cases. A young gentleman sat down next to me at the gate, and I noticed his reading material. I asked him if he was a seminarian because he was in street clothing. He answered that he was a recently ordained priest returning to his parish from visiting his family. On his way to see his family, wearing his collar, he was attacked in the airport and thus made the move to street clothes. I was saddened to hear his account of the attack. We spent the next hour discussing his feelings of isolation. There are priests out there who have engaged in reprehensible behavior. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of our priests work hard every day ministering to those in need. During this Year for the Priest and these latest revelations, we need to do more to let faithful priests know their vocation is appreciated and they are supported. We need to speak in their defense and not let those who want to attack what the Church truly stands for be the only public voice.
In regards to political parties…some Democrats are disenfranchised because of their party’s stance on abortion and same-sex marriage. Republicans are upset with their party’s spending and values hypocrisy. The modern day political parties are supposed to be an organizing entity to turn out the vote. To those that are disenfranchised, I encourage you to find your own voice or some organizations who you agree with to speak for you in Washington. There is no substitute for you being able to join in the debate and let your voice be heard.
When people begin to realize that their own efficacy is the true genesis to change, our Church, our country, and our culture will begin to reflect our values.
By Matt Smith, Catholic Advocate Vice President
By Deal Hudson
Regular readers may be taken aback by my headline. But I didn’t raise the question in jest – I am repeating a question put to Cardinal George by a reporter for the Catholic News Service.
A March 23 story from CNS, written by Nancy Frazier O’Brien, featured an interview with Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, in the aftermath of the health care bill being passed by the House. Cardinal George registered his concern about the abortion funding in the bill and the inadequacy of an Executive Order to remove that funding.
O’Brien proposed a question to the cardinal about the USCCB’s motives with regards to the health care debate:
“Cardinal George also rejected claims by some that the USCCB had allied itself in the health reform debate with groups that were primarily interested in advancing the Republican agenda.”
Before we continue, it should be noted there was no parallel suggestion regarding the possibility the USCCB was trying to advance a Democratic Party agenda, given the visibility of support for universal coverage.
Indeed, given the visibility of the bishops’ overall support for the bill, I can only come to the conclusion that those who accuse the USCCB of advancing a “Republican agenda” must have abortion in mind. Why? The only parts of the bill they objected to were abortion funding and the lack of conscience protection for medical workers.
It’s ironic when it’s implied that the pro-life cause is being lead by the Republican Party rather than the Catholic bishops. Isn’t someone putting the cart before the horse?
Other than stifling a laugh when I read that question in the CNS story, my only other reaction was to recall the many times I warned people not to trust the GOP to make the life issue a priority – any political party should know it has “to earn your vote.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the question to Cardinal George. During the 2008 election a number of bishops who questioned the pro-life claims made by Obama and his Catholic surrogates were accused of being “partisan” or Republican.
This points to one aspect of the tragedy of Bart Stupak. Stupak could have carved out a proud place in the history of American politics as the man who broke the strangle hold of abortion advocates on the Democratic Party.
America would have once again had a two-party system, from a pro-life point of view.
But to return to how Cardinal George answered the question of purported support for the GOP’s agenda.
“I really don’t think that’s true,” he said. “The principles are twofold — everybody’s taken care of, nobody killed. And I think that moral voice, while it doesn’t correspond politically to either party, has been consistent.”
True, the principles don’t correspond to either political party, but the two principles are not equal in moral weight. The aim of universal health care does carry with it a non-negotiable obligation for Catholics — the protection of innocent life – both Cardinal George and the USCCB have been pointing to this throughout the health care debate.
As implied by the question posed by the reporter, the pro-life principle has become so identified with the Republican Party that some regard the bishops’ own pro-life effort as partisan rather than, simply, Christian.
The sad state of affairs seems to be this: When Catholics object to abortion funding in health care they are accused of being Republican shills. But, when Catholics ignore the presence of abortion funding in health care they are applauded for their commitment to universal coverage.
Nicholas Dunn, a student at The King’s College in Manhattan, will be coming into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Saturday night. Nick has written a thoughtful piece on what the Church really stands for, and why, he, during this time of scandal, has not been deterred from continuing his journey to Rome. We at Catholic Advocate thought it a most appropriate reflection during this Holy Week.
By Nick Dunn
Asked “why are you a Catholic?” Walker Percy answered, “The reason I am a Catholic is that I believe that what the Catholic Church proposes is true.” Likewise, at this Saturday’s Easter Vigil, where I will be received into the Catholic Church, I will say that “I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”
But joining the Catholic Church is much more than just affirming its doctrine—it’s accepting the invitation to fulfill one’s baptismal vows in a community of both saints and sinners. After my priest asks the Holy Spirit to strengthen and anoint me “to be more like Christ, the Son of God,” I will celebrate the Eucharist with my brothers and sisters together for the first time. This sacrament of unity is a reminder that we cannot go it alone; we need help, as a fellowship of sinners striving to become saints.
Among my evangelical family and friends, my decision to join the Catholic Church has caused confusion and provoked criticism. While most of the objection is theological in nature, the current sex abuse crisis seems to be just one more reason to reconsider. For the Catholic Church is perceived by many as corrupt—deliberately covering up the sexual abuse of priests, choosing not to protect children, and caring more about shielding themselves from bad publicity than caring for people’s souls.
The reality of sin reminds us that, while the Church is holy, it is made up of human and sinful people. On earth, the Church will never be what Christ intended it to be. In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that “being a Christian is a journey. It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ.” We are pilgrims on the road to holiness, but we often veer off course.
Lumen Gentium affirms this profound paradox: “The Church, embracing sinners to her bosom, is at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance and renewal.” As Christ’s Body, the Church has the Holy Spirit as a helper, to live in each member and accomplish God’s will in the world. Sacred Scripture is given as a guide, and the sacraments for our nourishment.
In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Pope John Paul II declared that: “The joy of every Jubilee is above all a joy based upon the forgiveness of sins.” Thus, he said, “it is appropriate…that the Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel.”
Right now, as the Church faces the crisis of sexual abuse and scandal, it must repent for its misdeeds. Abusive priests and negligent bishops must show contrition to the victims, their families, and all the faithful for the trust they have betrayed and the hurt that they have caused. For only after having been purified by penance can the Church be a witness to the truth and goodness of God.
We do not belong to the Church because we are good or holy, but rather because we are sinners. We are needy, weak and imperfect. Jesus reminds us that it isn’t healthy people who need a doctor, but sick people (Matthew 9:12-13). As Morton Kelsey wrote, “The Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”
At the Great Vigil of Easter, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection—victory over sin and death. As it is proclaimed in the Exsultet: “This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.”