Pro-Life, Bullet, Rifle, Foot: You Put the Pieces Together



Pardon the gun oriented image there.

Elections coming up soon. From what I’ve seen around the Church, it’s time once again for me to wince as many pro-lifers fall all over each other to shoot themselves in the foot. I think the Vatican missed the boat by insisting on a mandatum for theology professors. I think one is desperately needed for many pro-life activists. Allow me to explain and illustrate.

Case in point: Diocese of Duluth disinvites Helen Prejean and the open book posse goes ape (sorry, evolutionists) over it. It’s a predictable thread. It’s relatively easy to assess some facts, such as Prejean’s gaffe in signing on to an ad before looking at the final draft. But unlike some bishops, she promptly admitted her error and clarified her position on abortion and detailed her reason for signing on in the first place.

Personally, I think the whole idea of signing on to newspaper ads is dated, mainly for technological reasons. Number two because it’s so boring and like last week’s cause. The least you can do is be creative. I wouldn’t be caught dead signing this particular piece, as it came out, and I dislike Bush at least as much as any of the signatories. In a way, the sentiment is very much like what passes for pro-life fervor these days: frustrated, angry people who would like to make a difference, but they find that politics, time, and conversion happens too darned slowly. I can appreciate. I’m raising a pre-pubescent daughter.

Getting back to the predictable reaction from the St Blog’s commentariat, listen in:

“Promoters of the seamless garment theory have played no small role in distorting the Church’s teachings …”
“… (Prejean) is heterodox …”
“Sr. Prejean is just … another ‘useful idiot.’”
“Sr. Prejean doesn’t feel herself bound by Catholic teaching …”

Fascinating. It so resembles our president waging the war on terrorism. Can’t keep the focus on the real fight, so let’s hop on a bandwagon and pound away with the rest of the mob of your choice. If this isn’t ideological ADHD, I don’t know what is.

Almost as low on my list are bishops who seem intent on sabotaging the Gospel of Life. Duluth Bishop Schnurr could have explored the possibility of Prejean being misquoted; her advocacy of the seamless garment certainly includes opposition to abortion. I think it’s gotten way too easy on bishops, if all they think they need to do to be pro-life is to issue a fiat.

That said, let me state I know many fine pro-lifers who indeed manage to keep their peace, joy, and good humor after decades in the trenches. They are people one truly loves to associate with, be it at pro-life work, or socially, or at worship, or wherever. I knew a lady who was very active in Birthright. But she also visited the sick, she sang in the choir, was much loved by family and friends. And she always had a smile on her face. She was very earnest about Birthright and the work she did with them. But the plight of the unborn did not change her into a dour, sour person.

Many pro-lifers cannot comprehend why they seem to get so little support from their parish priests. My pastor nailed it in his bulletin column. Here’s what I posted on Monday:

I am not unaware – as some of you have noted to me and other priests – that those who serve on pro-life committees and who work for life causes in other arenas are among the saddest people in our parishes, looking dour, even angry, rarely smiling or reflecting the joy of life that they promote.

I wonder if these people see the harm they do. They leave the conversion of the hard-hearted entirely in the hands of some miracle of God. They underestimate the calm witness of a serene and peaceful person. A few people posted their positive personal experiences of Helen Prejean on that open book thread. Absolutely no comment on them.

Missouri is voting on a measure to permit funding of embryonic stem cell research. I’ve heard it’s favored in the polls and our state’s pro-lifers have an uphill battle ahead. I’ve been asked to include a petition in every Mass from now till Election Day for every Catholic to vote “no” on ESCR. We had a speaker draw over a hundred to a forum on ESCR earlier this year. Our pastor is sending out a letter to all parishioners in a few weeks. But aside from these examples, and weekly e-mailed suggestions for the bulletin and the prayers at Mass, I’ve seen nothing else. No presence at parish activities. No tables with information after Mass. No plans for another speaker or any outreach to school parents. Nothing public with nearby parishes.

I’m dismayed that some of our pro-lifers think the Mass and the Sunday bulletin are the only outlets for catechesis. I’m more dismayed at the lack of creativity generated in the face of this important ballot measure. I sure hope my parishioners aren’t like the ones cheering Bishop Schnurr of Duluth for “disinviting” Helen Prejean. When you’re facing the prospect of jobs, and life-saving cures for the elderly and children, you have to come up with something better than “All Catholics must vote no.”

Jesus told his disciples that he came that we might have life to the full. Let’s start acting in the interests of the fullness of life and decline to give in to sullen pettiness.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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