The Weight of Effectiveness

I had started a post a few days ago on Austen Ivereigh’s commentary on the America blog. I deleted it. Then something at our parish’s Called and Gifted workshop this weekend struck me. I’ll get to that in a moment. Before I erased it, this quote from Archbishop Weakland’s memoir struck me earlier this weekend:

Many women who had been politically active in the pro-life cause were frustrated, their efforts having shown no clear results. I felt sympathy for them. Nonetheless, I had to ask if at times they were not their own worst enemies.

Judging one’s effectiveness is part of the spiritual discernment of gifts. It should be a careful judgment. Effectiveness, we should know, is not the same as success. In the pro-life movement, there has been precious little success on the legal front. There has been, on other fronts, a certain number of results in terms of changing minds, of helping women in need, and in creating a positive witness for the Gospel.

And yet, the churning over politicians continues. FOCA was a phantom. Notre Dame didn’t blink. Senator Kennedy’s family and admirers got the funeral. I get the sense that if millions go without adequate health insurance, that’s an acceptable pyrrhic victory. Conservative commentators concede it’s been a bad day, week, month, and even year.

What would a more effective pro-life movement look like, aside from the easy suggestion of total legal prohibition? Do pro-lifers go home with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? Do the letters of testimony surpass the negative input? Do they look forward to the next day, the next protest, the next encounter with opponents? The main reason why I think I perceive burnout, at least on the internet, is frustration.

Frustration overpowers a lot of what the politically-involved write and say, at least on the net. When there’s a ready condemnation of non-congruent pro-lifers (read: bishops and others who disagree) you can posit that there’s no contact whatsoever with the real opponents of pro-life. And if there’s not, where’s the effectiveness: reinforcing the old message, taking one’s frustrations out on those one does speak with, or even expecting the same emotional rush of conflict? Are some people their own worst enemies?

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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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2 Responses to The Weight of Effectiveness

  1. crystal says:

    What would a more effective pro-life movement look like, aside from the easy suggestion of total legal prohibition?

    From my pro-choice point of view, I think a more effective pro-life movement would be one that concentrated on reducing unintended pregnancies through education and contraception, thus reducing the number of people who felt they needed or wanted an abortion. This doesn’t seem to be a popular pov, though.

  2. Jim McK says:

    A more effective pro-life movement would not set the rights of a child against the rights of his mother. Mothers would be respected, rather than negated as possible murderers.

    In a Catholic context, this would mean exalting Mary’s Fiat, her choice to give birth to Jesus. It would mean embracing Sarah’s joy and Hagar’s pain as the fruit of their choices, and being committed to enhancing those choices.

    Though this is a pro-choice idea, it is already present to some extent on the pro-life side. It just gets overwhelmed by the people who are obsessed with the right of the child over any and all other issues.

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