THE CHURCH’S BEST-KEPT SECRET is being read

Published February 11, 2021

Here’s a piece by Roberto Rivera in the Catholic Herald that make my author heart happy. It’s called “The Prolife Movement Goes Cheap” and it makes clear that folks are starting to get my point about the massive failure of the “prolife movement” as it is currently constituted. Here are a couple of tastes, but do read the whole thing:

In his recent primer on Catholic social teaching, The Church’s Best Kept Secret, Mark Shea writes that “the dignity of the Human Person” is the telos of a culture of life. That “is about the right to abundant life: the right to reach the full potential of who and what God created each person to be and do.”

A culture of life worthy of the name “is about the right to live, not merely the right to be born,” he writes. Honoring human dignity includes “not merely the right to the bare basics of human existence, but to sufficient food, shelter, health care, work, relations with other human beings, common respect, and love so that we meet our potential to the fullest.”

After more than four decades of attempted moral suasion, American attitudes towards the legality of abortion are almost exactly the same as they were in 1976.

The legislative strategy hasn’t fared any better. While abortion rates have dropped to pre-Roe levels, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found “no clear evidence” linking the decline in abortion rates to “Targeted Regulation on Abortion Providers” (TRAP) laws. The pro-life Personhood Alliance looked at the same data and concluded that these laws had “no significant bearing” on abortion rates.

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People with Down syndrome are the targets of an extermination campaign  in much of the West. Doctors “strongly suggest” prenatal testing for trisomy 21 for women 35 and older. When the tests come back positive, the result is an abortion between 70 and 97 percent of the time, depending on the country. (A recent study ominously suggests that we may be getting closer to adding autistic people to the “critically endangered” list.)

The “on the cheap” response to this atrocity is suasion via the sharing of memes — heart-warming stories and viral videos — and expressing horror over the statistics. When that inevitably fails, “pro-life” panjandrums call for unenforceable laws prohibiting abortion on account of trisomy 21. What’s not part of the response is providing people the kind of material and economic support needed to exercise heroic virtue and choose life.

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The Church Goes Big

Shea writes that the “Church’s teaching concerning the Dignity of the Human Person is maximalist, not minimalist. It seeks always to go big, not to skimp.” If that’s true, and he makes a compelling case that it is, then there’s very little about the pro-life movement that is worthy of the label “Catholic.”

Instead, it brings to mind what Jesus said about the Scribes and Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens . . . and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” Why? Sixty years ago, St. John XXIII published an encyclical “on the exigencies of man’s daily life . . . his livelihood and education, and his general, temporal welfare and prosperity,” called Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher). In response, William F. Buckley and National Review replied, “Mater simagistra, no.”

By the 1980s, the pro-life movement had become a wholly owned subsidiary of a conservative movement whose Randian-libertarian worldview regards Catholic social teaching as “socialism” with incense and holy water. That has left it with little to say worth hearing to parents contemplating a decision that will shape the rest of their lives. Instead of supporting policies that make it a bit easier to exercise heroic virtue, they settle for talk.

I am increasingly convinced the “prolife” movement needs to do a fundamental rethink of its entire approach–an approach that has failed for 50 straight years and succeeded in only one thing: turning it into a cult of death in love with racism and cruelty, at war with the Church and the Holy Father, and horny for raw nihilist power based on lies at any cost. Most of it is an antichrist sect now. Yes, there still remain 7000 who have not bent the knee to Baal and who affirm the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. But we are precisely the ones the “prolife” movement hates the most, because we threaten their real priority, the defense of the Cult of Trump at all costs.

At some point in the near future, I hope to try to sketch out my own ideas for the Great Rethink in the hope of sparking a new conversation about all this.

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