Senator Scott Brown: The Political Problem With Abortion

The recent senate victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts has revealed yet again the ugly underbelly of the pro-life movement and those among us who are guided to some degree by the notion that abortion is a “political issue.” Shortly after the Massachusetts special senate election, one woman wrote, “Scott Brown is the only chance we have to save our country from the evils of Obamacare.” 

I was left wondering at that moment what role this woman thought Christ had in the equation of good versus evil within the U. S. government today, not to mention our entire world. Surely, He is the only one who can save our nation, not the pro-abortion Brown!

Yes, Brown is definitely pro-abortion. We knew it before the election. And many news reports have confirmed the commitment Brown has to abortion, including this Associated Press report:  

Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts says he opposes federal funding for abortions, but thinks women should have the right to choose whether to have one.

Brown told ABC's This Week that he disagrees with his party's position that the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion should be overturned. The incoming lawmaker says the abortion question is one that's best handled by a woman, her family and her doctor. He also says more effort needs to go into reducing the number of abortions in the U.S.

I realize that many within the larger pro-life community have purchased a ticket on the political train that left the station more than 30 years ago, headed down the track of incrementalism, pragmatism and moral relativism. They cringe when I suggest that this is a train headed directly toward a wreck, but frankly, I think we have to be honest about it.

First of all, where has this political practicality—if that is what you wish to call it—gotten the babies? Yes, the babies! I am not interested in where it has gotten certain political pro-life groups that spend their time on “the Hill” making friends with quasi-pro-abortion folks like Brown, but the babies. To be honest, I think we have invested our credibility in the wrong bank because politics is not where the victory resides. Here is why.

One fine gentleman wrote, “I've followed the sage counsel of our best prelates like the late Cardinal O'Connor to inform my conscience." Cardinal O'Connor's instruction to the faithful quoted in part: 

20. Suppose all candidates support "abortion rights"?

In good conscience one could refrain from voting altogether. In some instances, this might be best, even though voting is normally a moral obligation. Or one could try to determine whether the position of one candidate is less supportive of abortion than that of another. Other things being equal, one might then morally vote for a less supportive position.

If all candidates support "abortion rights" equally, one might vote for the candidate who seems best in regard to other issues, hoping that one day he or she could be persuaded to become pro-life.

To my friend, I say it is fine to read Cardinal O’Connor’s opinion on this in any way one chooses, including interpreting it to mean that a vote for Brown is a better thing than a vote for his opponent. My friend is not alone in his choice of apologetics that bolster his personal reasoning, but Cardinal O’Connor’s nuanced response should not become an excuse for voting for evil. By this, I mean that when someone articulates his or her clear support for child murder in specific cases, or as Scott Brown has done across the board, then Cardinal O’Connor’s answer to the rhetorical question takes on a different meaning.

By using words like “could” and “might be best” and “might,” his eminence was telling us that there is no black and white answer to the question because each case is unique and each voter weighs his options differently. Cardinal O’Connor understood that individuals have to use their God-given intelligence to examine all facets of a situation before casting a vote. 

For example, is there confidence beyond doubt that electing one instead of the other will result in a good outcome for the babies? Can we really know this when the decision we have to make is between two people who assign the act of murder to an mere item on a list of social issue positions that need to be addressed?

All the speculation and/or wishful thinking in the world is not going to chart the course of history. And as my friend wrote,

So the way I see it, the issue is not favoring the lesser of two evils between Coakley and Brown, but that Scott Brown's publicized views would lead voters to understand he would be less supportive of unrestricted abortion and as Cardinal O'Connor wrote, we hope he, the candidate, would be persuaded to become uncompromisingly pro-life. Two undesirable choices, one worse than the other. But I see no moral flaw in taking this position on Brown considering our good bishops' pastoral counsel. Call me naive, but I believe in the power of prayer and evangelization ("instruct the ignorant").

Naturally, I believe in the power of prayer and evangelization as well, but to the above comment—which is by no means naïve—I would respond that our role as pro-life Americans is not to be expert political strategists, or worse, to believe with all our hearts that a single senate race is going to turn the nation away from the barbarism and moral bankruptcy that protects murder of the innocent with unjust laws. Not to mention, of course, a perfect storm wherein 54 percent of Catholics voted for a man who is known as the most pro-abortion president in America’s history.

Being an evangelist requires that we preach the truth, in season and out, and that our actions set a standard for others who seek to imitate Christ, in the public square, in the voting booth and elsewhere. It is Christ alone Who is the truth, Who is the light that will lead our nation to a victory so the babies can live. This is why I am personally appalled at the declining scale of prerequisites that so many pro-lifers use as they measure for whom they should vote. It is almost as if justification for doing something has become more important than doing nothing, save praying, because the evil is so distasteful and the choices so depraved that one cannot bear the thought of voting at all. 

My friend closed his e-mail with these words, “Perhaps Brown, with counseling and mentoring by strongly pro-life Republicans in Congress could be turned around. There is that possibility where in Coakley's case within the abortion party, the likelihood is remote, if not impossible, to imagine. Call me naive, but that's my view and I don't believe I've strayed from Catholic moral precepts.”

Far be it from me to suggest that anyone, regardless of who they voted for in any election, has “strayed from Catholic moral precepts.” That is not a judgment call that anyone but God Himself can make. 

Not only that, but one of the reasons I love being Catholic is that the Catholic Church’s deposit of faith is grounded in her teachings which have, as their foundation, Biblical principles as defined by God Himself and treated in the light of right reason and a properly formed conscience. And as one wise priest once said to me, a properly formed conscience begins with knowing Christ and getting closer to Him every day, because we fall on our face every day! Only in that way can we absorb the truth that forms a conscience in the light of God’s laws.

The question of casting a vote for a pro-abort versus a lesser pro-abort is best addressed not by a moral theologian but by Ambassador Alan Keyes. Among other things, he is a student of rational thought and the history of this great nation. He wrote when addressing the 2008 McCain vs. Obama election:

The key flaw in all the arguments that call us in this election to embrace evil in order to fight or limit evil is that to do so we must surrender our single-minded reliance upon God. But once we let go of that reliance, what good is left to us? Once we take up the sword of evil to fend off or defend ourselves against it, what becomes of the faith whereby Christ fed the multitudes and which alone opens the way to life and hope and a future? These questions reveal the true import of this flawed moral reasoning. It seems to offer us a better hope for victory as the world understands the term, but only if we surrender the faith that alone leads to the victory that lies beyond the world's understanding. That faith is proved especially in those circumstances when we trust in God as the standard of truth though the whole light and reason of the world decries our trust as folly. Who is responsible for evil: those who persevere in faith despite the world's reproof, or those who say we must surrender perfect trust in God in order to limit evil? Don't the latter lure us into a place that is beyond redemption precisely because to reach it we must surrender our hold upon the key that opens the floodgates of God's saving grace? Rather on the day when evil seems to triumph over us, should we not hold fast and say, though it be with our last breath, as Jesus did, "Father into thy hands I commit my spirit" – and there leave will and choice, conscience and vote and all?