It may not come as much of a surprise to many in our midst, but there is a strange phenomenon occurring in America. And the problem is that it has to one degree or another affected the thought process of some very fine people including some who are ordained priests, pro-life leaders and reputable professionals.
My recent experiences with this fact came by way of several different but equally unsettling news items. The first was sent to me by a friend, and the title of the article is "Obama's Promise to Pro-lifers." The author of the editorial is E.J. Dionne, Jr., who has written some very good pro-life commentary in the past. Not so with this piece. It would seem that Dionne has bought in to the concept that pro-life Americans can find "common ground" with those who favor murdering preborn children. His editorial is in defense of Obama's comment, "There surely is some common ground."
He argued that "those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, 'We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.' "Obama added: "Nobody's pro-abortion."
Once he assumes office, Obama might be tempted to forget that moment, issue the pro-choice executive orders that the abortion rights movement expects and move back to the sagging economy. But doing this would be both politically foolish and a breach of faith with the pro-life progressives who came to Obama's defense during the campaign. They argued that Obama truly was committed to reducing the number of abortions. He shouldn't turn them into liars.
Note how Dionne accepts the assertion that there is some mythical difference between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice. Not only that, but Dionne clearly perceives the likes of Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio as a "pro-life progressive" who deserves a seat at the table, though I am not quite sure what such a person will be serving other than compromise and more death.
A few days after Dionne's commentary, Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director, Pro-life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote a commentary for USA Today entitled "Promoting abortions won't reduce the practice," enumerating certain ways that President-elect Obama and the new Congress "can promote bipartisan solutions" to the abortion problem. He tells the readers, "[w]e can find common ground across ideological lines, as long as we agree on the obvious fact that promoting abortions is no way to reduce them."
Shortly after the Doerflinger piece appeared, Catholic News Agency provided a summary of an experience Bishop Robert Hermann, administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, had during the recent USCCB meeting in Washington, D.C.
It seems that during his remarks to his fellow bishops, Bishop Hermann said, "I think any bishop here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow to bring about an end to abortion. … If we are willing to die tomorrow, then we should be willing to, until the end of our lives, to take all kinds of criticism for opposing this horrible infanticide."
And in response, do you think that the room went wild with a standing ovation that continued for so long that many prelates got tired and had to sit down? Well, if you think that is what happened, you are sadly mistaken. Quite the contrary, as the report tells us:
Bishop Hermann reported that after he made his comments one or two bishops started clapping, but the meeting then moved on to other business. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, along with other bishops, personally thanked him afterwards.
He reported that about 95 percent of the popular responses to his remarks have been positive, with some people consulting him about how they ought to deal with past voting habits. Bishop Hermann said many people have been conditioned to act as if God does not exist.
It is those final few words about the way in which people have been conditioned that sums up the thread that runs throughout the three examples I have provided: secularization of the nation. It is apparently no longer politically correct to be an absolutist, to say without apologizing that every single abortion is an act of murder, and there can be no common ground with anyone who thinks otherwise.
A Catholic bishop had the audacity to suggest to his brother bishops that he would choose death if he thought that by doing so he would win a reprieve for children scheduled to die by abortion. And then he is met with faint praise from the very men who should stand with him and speak the same way, walking the same walk.
This entire post-election melt down of pro-life principle in so many quarters reminds me of an absolutely prophetic message I read from an incredible priest, Father Anthony Brankin. In April of 2007, he gave a speech to a group of concerned Catholics in Chicago, and during that speech, entitled "Americanism as our own little heresy still burrows its way into our hearts," he said
We are cooperating with a genuinely godless secular state - a world regime of people who are not like us and who do not like us and this state grows bigger and more sinister with each passing day. And it is this entity that has given birth to the global Culture of Death under which we groan and which we try to ignore.
And every time we play nice - every time we cooperate and say nothing for fear of being divisive or judgmental, every time we vote for the lesser of two evils, every time we boast about spreading American values, which for us is democracy and fair-play we forget there is someone else who is intent on spreading - abortion, contraception, pornography, sexual license, feminism and homosexualism. How are we complicit in the crimes and depredations of those we have put in power? By ignoring their crimes, making excuses for them, and by saying nothing of any substance.
We play nice because we are trying to be good Americans - good Republicans and good Democrats. But that does not make us necessarily good Catholics.
Father Brankin gets it, and he attempts in his speech to help others come to a realization that this pro-life struggle is not about politics, or common ground, or quiet withdrawal from a challenge meant to invigorate. It is about serving God in the world without ever becoming part of it.
I ask you to consider the action items Father Brankin gave his audience that day. Please join with me in making a sincere effort to make them an integral part of our prayer life, our private life and most of all, our public life.
What we must do is to be sharply aware of everything that happens in this country and to us. We must be aware of every piece of information that floods our eyes and brains and hearts every day - the cultural things, the entertainment things, the news things, the political things. We must pierce those things to see what is inside or what is behind. To ask of everything we see or read or hear: Who put that there and why?
And the day we discover that we have become a little cynical - the day we first catch ourselves judging everything they tell us and everything they reveal to us and judging it in the balance of the traditional Catholic teaching that comes down to us from the popes - well, that's the day we will know that we are on the way to being good Americans precisely because we have been good Catholics.
Send your words of gratitude to Bishop Robert Joseph Herman and to Father Anthony Brankin.