The Politics of Abortion

Anecdotal evidence does not a universal make. (For those of you residing in Southeast Portland, that means just because there is evidence that an event has happened once, doesn’t mean that it will happen always.) That is one of the first things you learn if you have ever taken a course in Logic. And it remains true everywhere but the world of politics.

Politics is not about the truth but rather about marginalizing the truth in order to gain advantage with voting blocs. It happens in every election. The Democrats scream that the Republicans are going to take away Social Security and Medicare benefits even though it isn’t true. And the Republicans scream that the Democrats are going to raise your taxes even though — well, that one is true.

But this year hit a new low in marginalizing the truth and it involved the Catholic Church.

There were two persistent rumors that traveled the political circles regarding the presidential race. The first was that the Democrat platform was more “pro-life” than that of the Republicans. The second was that the Church had declared that it would be a mortal sin to vote for John McCain. Neither was true.

And that is what makes these rumors even the more pernicious. For years, the Catholic Church has condemned abortion privately but remained relatively silent when it comes to politics. There has always been reluctance on the part of the Church to engage in politics lest politicians respond by trying to compromise the Church. The result has been that there are now a whole host of prominent politicians who profess to be Catholics and who are among the nation’s most ardent supporters of abortion on demand, including taxpayer financed abortions. Let’s tick down some of those names: Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Chris Dodd, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and on and on and on.

For years, the Church not only remained publicly silent as these very visible Catholics flouted the teachings of the Church regarding abortion but routinely appeared publicly with them and thus gave them credence and stature. Most often that has been because many blue-collar Catholic families have been traditionally Democrat. The promotion of social justice by the Church coincided in many instances with goals of the Democrat Party.

But that has changed. As the Democrat Party moved ever further left, it began to leave the traditional mores of working men and women behind and embraced the agenda of the activists and extremists. Now, taxpayer financed abortion on demand is a litmus test for those who are allowed to run as Democrats. So today, more often we read about the Church publicly condemning those politicians who embrace abortion on demand. Among the stalwarts of these public stands are Archbishop Vlazny of Portland, Archbishop Chaput of Denver, and Bishop Bruskewitz of Nebraska.

Sure, there are instances in which a local priest has used his pulpit to promote his political beliefs rather than the Church’s teaching, but we have also had priests that have used their offices to promote their sexual perversions in spite of the Church’s teachings. In neither instance do the acts of these miscreants represent the position of the Catholic Church.

For those Catholics who have forgotten and those who are not Catholic but observe the Church, it is not the local priest that determines the teachings of the Church. It is the Pope in consultation with the Cardinals and the Bishops that determine the teachings of the Church. And when one looks to that appropriate power, there is no doubt about the position of the Church on abortion.

There are two critical elements to the Church’s position on politicians and abortion. First, the faithful may not support those who advocate abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research. There is a consistency in these positions — opposition to the taking of innocent human life. Second, that there is not proportionality in the Church’s opposition to these. In other words, there is not a balancing of a politician’s position on other matters of human rights — these are absolutes.

The Church has stated its position on any number of moral and human rights issues from war to the death penalty, from poverty to the protection of the environment, and from pornography to chastity. But what the Church has not endorsed is that there is any moral equivalency between these matters and the taking of innocent life.

This past election cycle has seen the Church more engaged than at any other time since the United States Supreme Court searched the penumbra of the Constitution and discovered (read made up) the right to an abortion. But its activism is too little and too late. The fact that these two rumors could gain any traction is proof positive that the Church has failed in its mission. The fact that Catholics for whom being a Democrat is more important than being a Catholic would use these as justification for supporting those politicians who advocate abortion on demand is embarrassing.

The election of Barack Obama has guaranteed that abortion on demand will remain the law of the land for at least another generation.

For those of us who are Catholic, we should hang our heads in shame.