Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Pope Francis’ Holy Land Triumph by Michael Sean Winters: “When he was introduced to six victims of the Shoah, he bent down and kissed their hands. We are accustomed to the negative of that image, of people great and small bending over to kiss the pope’s ring. Here, he reversed the image and the significance: It was they, the victims of the worst atrocity in history, who merited the veneration of a kiss.”

An Older Definition of the American Dream by Anna Sutherland: “Reviving civic involvement and widening access to good education may be more difficult tasks than improving the material situation of the poor, but they are just as crucial to the formation of an egalitarian, democratic society.”

Myanmar’s Appalling Apartheid by Nicholas Kristof: “Myanmar seeks American investment and approval. We must make clear that it will get neither unless it treats Rohingya as human beings.”

A Tidal Wave of Trauma by Lauren Wolfe: “Right now, there are about 9 million Syrians who have fled their homes, 2.7 million of whom have taken refuge in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq. And, of course, there are millions of Syrians still suffering inside their country. Do the math, and it’s easy to see the enormity of the mental health crisis this war has created. But amid a litany of humanitarian needs that aren’t even remotely being met, can this crisis possibly be addressed? Can its long-term effects — illnesses that could tear apart families and reduce quality of life — be mitigated in a meaningful way?”

On the science of abortion, liberals are in serious denial by Michael Brendan Dougherty: “When anti-abortion activists say that human life begins at conception, they are not trying to confuse people about whether legal personhood and a viable conceptus are actually the same thing. They are trying to reinforce and build on the common intuition that society’s notions about human life should have some correspondence to observable reality, and that legal personhood should have a relationship to when we know a new individual of the species comes into existence.”

Too High a Cost to be Pro-Life? by Teaghan Grayson: “Helping Americans understand that unborn children are actually children and that we ought to secure their right to life is not sufficient to combat support for legal abortion. Instead, we must go further, to convince our country that the cost that comes with this population increase is a cost worth bearing.”

‘Allowed to Hope’? by Kevin Clarke: “It is hard to overestimate the need and the complexity of the problems challenging the Central African Republic.”

Paul Ryan’s letter to the poor by Kevin Clarke: “Like Rep. Ryan, the church has also worried about the soul-crushing potential of a suffocating social welfare bureaucracy. But in Catholic social teaching, our encyclicals’ authors probably had more the Soviet model of social suppression in mind than cheerful Swedish day care centers for working parents or programs that deliver daily bread to struggling families.”


Robert Christian in Time: Why Pro-lifers Should Join Forces with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article in Time, in which he argues that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Opportunity Plan can help pro-choice and pro-life advocates find common ground. He writes:

The plan calls for a fully self-sustaining paid family and medical leave program, an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, universal pre-K, measures to make childcare more affordable, and equal pay for equal work. These measures are good in and of themselves. They would benefit the economy, strengthen families, increase opportunity, and empower women. They are just measures that would promote the common good. But they would also address the concerns and further the goals of both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. If pro-choice advocates are serious about choice, they should be working hard to ensure that no woman seeks an abortion because she feels it is an economic necessity, as this is incompatible with authentic choice. For pro-life advocates, this same goal will save the lives of many unborn children. Increased economic security and opportunity, greater flexibility at the workplace, and greater access to quality childcare and education for their children will lead many women to choose life.

Read the full article here.


Around the Web (Part 1)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Who cares about the value of work? by EJ Dionne: “One of last week’s most important and least noted political events was the introduction of the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Murray favors a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour, but she also has other ideas that would help Americans at the bottom of the income structure to earn more.”

Chinese parents, trapped in one-child web, give babies away on Internet by Reuters: “Baby trafficking has been encouraged by the one-child policy and a traditional bias for sons, who support elderly parents and continue the family name, leading to the abandonment of girls. Even as China starts to relax the one-child policy, allowing millions of families to have a second child, it still penalizes people who flout the rules.”

The Christian Penumbra by Ross Douthat: “For believers, meanwhile, the Christian penumbra’s pathologies could just be seen as a kind of theological vindication — proof, perhaps, of the New Testament admonition that it’s much worse to be lukewarm than hot or cold. But it’s better to regard these problems as a partial indictment of America’s churches: Not only because their failure to reach the working class and the younger generation is making the penumbra steadily bigger, but because a truly healthy religious community should be capable of influencing even the loosely attached somewhat for the better.”

Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: 25 Years of Image by Dan Wakefield: “Though I pray in some form or other every day I had not for a while thought of doing what Henri had asked—no words, simply sitting quietly and asking to be in the presence of Jesus. I did that yesterday, and I felt a great peace.”

Paul Ryan + Immoral Budgets = Public Service Award from a Catholic university? by John Gehring: “Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals have been challenged in recent years by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prominent Catholic theologians, a “Nuns on the Bus” tour and respected anti-poverty experts. When your guiding ideology seems to be making life harder for the working poor and coddling the super rich with more tax breaks, you better expect some moral scrutiny along the way.”

Icons of faith who said ‘yes’ by OSV Newsweekly: “OSV staff highlights four saints who answered God’s call no matter what.”

To the Edges by Erin Cline: “My grandmother taught me that God’s love is made visible in the world not in grand pronouncements, but in the simplest things done out of love.”

Catholic Church blasts Venezuela for ‘brutal repression’ of protesters by Reuters: “Venezuela’s Roman Catholic Church accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government on Wednesday of ‘totalitarian’ tendencies and ‘brutal repression’ of demonstrators during two months of political unrest that has killed several dozen people.”

The Faces of Food Stamps by Maya Rhodan: “These people could be your neighbors, your co-workers, or the person standing behind you at the supermarket.”


A Look into the Mind of a Pro-Choice Fanatic

For pro-life progressives, the mainstream pro-life movement is often viewed with a certain amount of ambivalence. We respect the passion of many in the movement, but are often troubled by the tactics they employ, the rhetoric that is used, the inconsistent commitment to life by many in the movement, and the support and promotion too often given to those who are profoundly ignorant about the real lives of pregnant women and young mothers. Yet if the mainstream movement is so bad, why are millennials not moving to the pro-choice side?

There are a number of reasons why this is the case, but an obvious one is that the leadership of the pro-choice movement is also dominated by awful leaders and spokespersons. I personally know supporters of abortion rights who believe abortion is a necessary evil in a flawed world. While we disagree on the need to secure legal rights for unborn children, I do not consider them to be even remotely malicious or sadistic. One can be a compassionate person and nevertheless have that compassion misplaced, sometimes with devastating consequences.

But there are also people like abortion activist Amanda Marcotte, an atheist writer who champions abortion on demand. She has no understanding whatsoever of why people are pro-life, seems blissfully unaware that tens of millions of Americans on the political left and center are pro-life, and roots her arguments in the glorification of hedonism and autonomy. Many supporters of legal abortion do not share her views, but she does offer a look into the mindset of many who dominate the movement and favor virtually no restrictions on abortion, something overwhelmingly opposed by the American people.

Here is what she thinks the real anti-abortion argument is:

I strongly believe in gender essentialism, and people who violate my beliefs about what women and men should do and be like scare me. In particular, I find the notion that women might be lascivious and/or non-nurturing at times to be frightening, because those qualities belong to men, and so I am eager to punish women and force nurturance on them to restore order to the world.

In her mind, there is no concern for unborn children, the human beings (scientifically speaking) that pro-lifers talk so much about. She thinks the real issue is that pro-lifers are actually scared that women will have too much sex. While there are pro-lifers who believe in traditional gender roles (some of whom hold double standards about sex), the idea that this is what really drives opposition to abortion is patently absurd.

Why does she think access to abortion is essential? Is it about compassion for poor women or some other humanitarian or progressive motive?

I like my life how it is, with my ability to do what I want when I want without having to arrange for a babysitter. I like being able to watch True Detective right now and not wait until baby is in bed. I like sex in any room of the house I please. I don’t want a baby.

Seriously.

Surely she must have some reasonable, nuanced thoughts on adoption, once again motivated by a humanistic impulse.

And don’t float “adoption” as an answer. Adoption? Fuck you, seriously. I am not turning my body over for nine months of gaining weight and puking and being tired and suffering and not being able to sleep on my side and going to the hospital for a bout of misery and pain so that some couple I don’t know and probably don’t even like can have a baby.

Perhaps she speaks nobly on why the sacrifices of bearing a child and giving him or her up for adoption is too much to ask.

I like drinking alcohol and eating soft cheese. I like not having a giant growth protruding out of my stomach. I hate hospitals and like not having stretch marks.

Why would we require anyone to give up soft cheese just to save a human life? We didn’t make the soldiers that were drafted to serve (and sometimes sacrifice their lives) in WWII give up soft cheese, did we?

Surely she can’t just be motivated by a desire to do whatever she feels like doing whenever she wants, regardless of any notion of morality.

Given the choice between living my life how I please and having my body within my control and the fate of a lentil-sized, brainless embryo that has half a chance of dying on its own anyway, I choose me.

Oh. Nevermind.

She seems to think that all men suffer from Peter Pan syndrome, which she evidently would also like to embrace as part of a heroic overturning of patriarchy, ushering in the noble equality of selfishness:

Don’t I sound selfish? Hedonistic? Isn’t there something very unfeminine about my bluntness here? Hell, I’m performing against gender norms so hard that even I recoil a little. This is actually what I think, and I feel zero guilt about it, but I know that saying so out loud will cause people to want to hit me with the Bad Woman ruler, and that causes a little dread.

I don’t know many people who think men should be free to be as selfish and hedonistic as they would like, while women should conform to a strict system of morality, but if I did, I would find their viewpoint repulsive. Yet I do not take a much brighter view of those who believe the quest for women’s rights and justice should center around the freedom to be selfish and enjoy all vices. Pretty much anyone with any ethical system of beliefs would find that form of feminism problematic.

The pro-life movement is flawed and has made grave mistakes supporting people who favor bombastic rhetoric over a comprehensive set of policies that would truly address the causes of abortion and improve the lives of pregnant women, mothers, and their children. Thankfully, the pro-choice movement has also suffered from poor leadership. Amanda Marcotte may be an extreme example, but the elites that control the pro-choice movement and shape its messaging are far more individualistic, hedonistic, and materialistic than the vast majority of the American people (an impressive feat). The pro-life movement needs to take advantage of this, fix its approach, and broaden its ranks before the pro-choice movement realizes how out of touch it really is.


Truly Scandalous: Fired for Choosing Life

In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul is concerned with what causes scandal within the Christian community. Today we are not so concerned with eating meat prepared in connection with Roman sacrifice; instead, sex is the primary preoccupation of the day.

Sex is often at the heart of the aptly named TV show Scandal, and it is sex that many fear is the greatest cause of scandal within the Catholic community.

This week’s scandal: A Catholic middle school teacher in Helena, MT was fired because she was pregnant.

The Diocese defends its position by arguing that she violated the morals clause of her contract. For them, it is that simple. Because she is an unwed mother, she cannot be living a Catholic lifestyle and cannot be a proper role model to students – despite being an excellent teacher.

And so I ask, what causes scandal? Is the diocese right – an unwed mother on the faculty would cause irreparable scandal to the community? Will it weaken and put at risk the faith of the children and families in this school? Or does her firing cause scandal? Does firing a pregnant woman within a community that claims to value human dignity and life above all cause the greater scandal?

To answer, we have to first uncover what we most value, what our highest commitment is. It seems to me there are two options.

First, the primary value could be upholding the law, which is understood in an uncompromising and absolute way. It is the law that structures and protects us.  It offers us strong protection against uncertainty as long as we hold on to it tightly. The teacher signed a contract and therefore she knew that by having sex she was violating that contract. Here sexual morality becomes one of the primary ways in which fidelity to Catholicism and our commitment to our Catholic values are to be measured. Concern for the poor, the  Beatitudes, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, The Parable of the Last Judgment…none of these are deal breakers because fidelity is not measurable in terms of clear contractual rules and obligations. Repeated violations of the Beatitudes do not cause irrevocable scandal but a single violation of Catholic sexual moral standards in public – that is scandal. Pregnancy is then reduced to publicly flaunting one’s sexual act and not the welcoming of new life.

However, there is another way to interpret scandal within the community and this begins with recognizing the centrality of human dignity. If our starting point is the inherent and inviolable value of every human person, then we interpret scandal a little differently. Beginning with human dignity does not discard law—but it does demand that we look at questions of sexual transgression and pregnancy differently. When one begins with human dignity, then pregnancy itself can never be reduced to sin. The inherent value of the imago dei, equally present in all human persons, is not dependent upon the circumstances of conception. Neither is the dignity of the woman.

If we begin with human dignity, then this teacher’s status as an unwed mother is not her primary identity—she is simply a mother. Without embracing or condoning premarital sex, beginning with human dignity means refusing to denigrate the life and dignity of either the child or the mother because of the circumstances of conception. If we begin with human dignity, then the expulsion and abandonment of a pregnant woman and her child causes deep and profound scandal in the community. Who are we as a Catholic community if we do not welcome and support life?

As a Catholic community, we need to think long and hard—because we can either hold that human dignity and life are what is most important or we can hold that the letter of the  law and sexual purity are what matter most. They cannot value both equally, because when they come into conflict, we must choose one over the other. If we are a pro-life church, then how do we justify expelling a pregnant woman from the community? Think about the message it sends to expel a pregnant woman from the community, claiming she cannot model living Catholicism to our children. It is hard to square this action with Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel or Cardinal O’Malley’s homily on the occasion of the March for Life.

To those who truly believe she cannot model discipleship – I pose two questions.

  1. If this woman had procured a quick abortion upon learning she was pregnant, no one would have known and she would have been able to keep her job. She chose life at considerable personal risk and yet you claim she cannot model discipleship and a commitment to the Gospel to our children?
  2. If what is most important is her marital status—she is an unwed pregnant woman—would you have welcomed another unwed pregnant woman, Mary of Nazareth?

There is great scandal in these events in Helena, Montana but it is not being caused by an unwed pregnant teacher.


Top 10 Quotes from Cardinal O’Malley’s Whole Life Homily

Pope Francis has made a conscious shift in the Church’s language on abortion, one that places the issue within the context of human rights and social justice, while recognizing the difficult situations that lead many women to procure abortions. When it comes to addressing the issue in this way, Cardinal Sean O’Malley is definitely on #TeamFrancis and embracing this “whole life” approach rather than one centered around combative language and an excessively narrow agenda. This is a big boost for pro-life feminists, pro-life Democrats, and all other pro-lifers who recognize that a singular focus on overturning Roe is woefully inadequate compared to a comprehensive approach to abortion that secures legal rights for unborn children, addresses the economic injustices that lead to higher abortion rates, and guarantees sufficient support for pregnant women and families after the birth of the child.

Anusia Dickow has already done a great job addressing Cardinal O’Malley’s homily at the Vigil for Life. But here are ten top quotes from his recent whole life homily:

  1. “The culture of death flows out of the extreme individualism of our age.  The Church’s antidote is community and solidarity.”
  2. “The Pro-Life Movement needs to be the merciful face of God to women facing a difficult pregnancy.  Being judgmental or condemnatory is not part of the Gospel of Life.”
  3. “The feelings of the woman in the Gospel must be like the young woman caught in a crisis situation of an unwanted pregnancy.  She feels overwhelmed, alone, afraid, confused. We must never allow that woman to perceive the Pro-Life movement as a bunch of angry self righteous Pharisees with stones in their hands, looking down on her and judging her.  We want the woman to experience the merciful love of Christ.”
  4. “The Pro Life Movement has to be about saving mothers.  We need to focus on the women to try to understand what they are suffering.”
  5. “At Lampedusa Pope Francis cast a wreath into the sea where thousands of poor immigrants lost their lives at sea.  He warned about the globalization of indifference. We face this in the Pro Life Movement.”
  6. “Just as with slavery in the past, today many Americans are repulsed by abortion but believe that it is a necessary evil.  Our task is to show them that it is not necessary.  It is an evil but it is not necessary.”
  7. “We need people to hear the good stories of adoptions of courageous birth mothers and generous adoptive families that have truly provided a loving family for an adopted child.”
  8. “The majority of women who succumb to abortion are poor.  Poverty is a dehumanizing force that leads people to feel trapped and to make this horrible choice.  The Gospel of Life demands that we work for economic justice in our country and in our world.  In a society where the rich are getting ever richer and the poor poorer, abortion looms ever larger.”
  9. “We can rescue unborn babies from abortion by rescuing their mothers from a life of poverty and hopelessness.  Pope Francis challenges our complacency and indifference to the oppressive poverty that spawns so many abortions.”
  10. “Yes, the Catholic Church’s consistent life ethic is a great service to society.  It is our task to witness to the truth that love, compassion and solidarity can build a just society that will be safer for the poor, the unborn and those on the periphery.”

Vigil for Life 2014 Opening Mass

A little over a week ago, I was at the opening Mass for the Vigil for Life at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. I find these events are often very high energy and are filled with the frequent use of phrases like “culture of death” and “save the babies.”

But this Mass had a different tone. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston pushed us to approach our opposition to abortion in a new way.

The Gospel we read was the story of the woman caught in adultery–a striking story of a guilty woman shown incredible mercy by Jesus, mercy that paralyzed the Pharisees who were poised to deliver the retribution due this woman. Cardinal O’Malley pushed us to approach mothers instead of trying to confront abortion.

He compared a woman caught in a crisis pregnancy to the woman in the story caught in adultery. Both women are likely overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, fear, and confusion. Both women have found themselves in a vulnerable state that has been made very public. And as Cardinal O’Malley continued:

We must never allow that woman to perceive the pro-life movement as a bunch of angry self righteous Pharisees with stones in their hands, looking down on her and judging her.

For those of us in the pro-life movement, we cannot forget to see the mother who is carrying the precious child in her womb. We can’t forget that yes, we want that child to be carried to term and born, given the right to live her life, but we also need the mother to know that she too is precious and loved. The mother needs to know that she is valued, protected, and supported.

This is not to negate the value of speaking out that abortion is wrong, and that life is sacred. Cardinal O’Malley’s homily was framed by the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” a story in which an Emperor is fooled into believing that his invisible suit given to him by clever swindlers is a marvelous set of clothing. Just as the child in the street cries out that his clothing is not real, exposing the lies of the swindlers, the Church must continue to witness that life is sacred, exposing the lies that the language of “reproductive rights” and “termination of pregnancy” use to cover up the brutality of abortion.

However, abortion does not happen in a vacuum. Outside factors influence and push mothers to make this choice. As Cardinal O’Malley continued: “We can rescue unborn babies from abortion by rescuing their mothers from a life of poverty and hopelessness.“

Cardinal O’Malley called us to shift the paradigm of the pro-life movement to one of accompaniment. To look at the mother who finds herself in a crisis pregnancy, not with stones in hand like the Pharisees, but with mercy and love, ready to encounter a person–a person who is suffering. As Pope Francis continually preaches a culture of encounter, Cardinal O’Malley preached that the antidote for the culture of death and individualism is community:

The truth is that we can save those babies only by saving the mothers.  When they experience God’s loving mercy then they will become capable of showing mercy to their children.  The Pro Life Movement has to be about saving mothers.  We need to focus on the women to try to understand what they are suffering…. The antidote of abortion is solidarity, community where people are willing to care for each other and for the most vulnerable.

We must learn to walk with mothers, especially mothers who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. A crisis is not the time to be preaching about evil and condemning, but it is a time to walk with and accompany; it is a time to encounter.

Cardinal O’Malley reminded us that God never gives up on us, will never stop forgiving us, will never tire of giving us second chances. And so the pro-life movement must continue as a movement of community and solidarity: recognizing how much God loves and forgives not only mothers who in crisis do not choose to keep their child, but also us, who when encountering crisis, do not choose to show mercy and compassion.

Our challenge from Cardinal O’Malley was to be that merciful and loving face of Christ. To defend life, to tell society that life is sacred, to save the babies, but more importantly to encounter, to accompany. To walk with our sisters who find themselves in crisis and speak their dignity through our love for them.

For the full text of the homily, click here..