February 16-17, 2019

Feb 11, 2019

Someone asked me what I thought about the passage of the law in New York State that greatly expands access to abortion. The law, of course, is terrible in that it apparently removes most limits to abortion; expands who can perform abortions, and denies human rights and dignity to the unborn. The fear is that other states will follow New York’s lead. Apparently fearful that Roe vs. Wade could be reversed, states are considering ways to preserve access to abortion in their states. 

As Catholics, we want to promote a culture of life, respect, and human dignity for all, and culture is a very wide concept. What are effective strategies to accomplish this enormous task? I imagine some different strategies work for different people, and people with the same goal may disagree about what strategies should be used. Some think, for example, myself included, that displaying pictures of aborted children to show the horror of abortion, does not respect that child’s dignity. I have also seen some churches display hundreds of crosses on their grounds to symbolize the vast numbers of abortions. While understanding the goal, I do wonder if that strategy might have the unintended consequence of of keeping people from reconciliation, for example, because it feels to much like “running a gauntlet.” 

So what strategies should we use? Certainly praying, voting, and sharing our convictions. Speaking for myself, since we are trying to promote a change of culture, which includes all parts of our way of life, I find promoting the “seamless garment” approach very powerful: work on all the values at the same time. Respect for the sacredness of unborn children is most important, but if we at the same time promote the quality of life and rights of the born (caring for the poor and vulnerable, respecting the rights of immigrants, working against racism and prejudice, promoting health care, caring for the environment and concern for climate change, ending the use of torture, unjust war, and capital punishment, etc.) we help the cause of ending abortion as we promote a broad and consistent vision of respecting life. We don’t respect some lives, but all lives. When I hear someone speak against abortion but for the death penalty, or against some ethnic group, I don’t doubt their sincerity, but I do find myself a bit less convinced of the interest in promoting a culture of respect for all life. Ending abortion has a certain priority for us, but isolating it too much from other concerns of our Catholic Social Teaching, does not seem to me to the best strategy. While we all have different causes for which we feel passion, action on behalf of all our Catholic values seems to me a consistent, powerful, and effective witness and argument. Of course, given our political parties and their platforms this is often most challenging and difficult. Neither major party represents all Catholic values. We need to constantly pray for wisdom and prudence, and try to maintain a well formed conscience to promote all the values of the Gospel we love and profess. 

Fr. Jeff