Men and the “Right to Choose”

If liberals and libertarians sincerely believe that autonomy and choice should trump the protection of human life in the case of unwanted pregnancies, then the question has often arisen: why should men not be free to exercise their choice to terminate a pregnancy or opt out of an unwanted pregnancy in some other way? A regional branch of the youth wing of Sweden’s Liberal Party is now making the argument that they should have this “right”:

The idea, proposed by a regional branch of the youth wing of the centrist Liberal Party, would allow a potential father to legally abdicate his responsibility toward the child up to the 18th week of a woman’s pregnancy. The man would lose any rights to visit the child but also would not pay any child support he may otherwise be required to contribute.

If this seems horrifying, it should. But it is merely an extension of the disordered values that place autonomy above life, individualism above the common good, and choice above responsibility. Proponents of abortion-on-demand should not be shocked that other liberals are taking their arguments to their logical conclusions.


Quote of the Day

Pope Francis: “One easily forgets that the relations among human beings are always relations of reciprocal dependence, which manifest themselves according to different degrees throughout the life of a person and become indispensable in situations of old age, illness, disability and indeed suffering in general.”

Quote of the Day

Pope Francis: “The family teaches about not falling into an individualism that weighs oneself against the others. And it is here, in the family, that ‘taking care of you’ constitutes one of the fundamentals of human existence and a moral attitude that must be promoted.”

Around the Web: Articles on Pope Francis

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Our Populist Pope by RR Reno: “Now it’s certain. This will be a populist papacy. Denunciations of unfettered free market economics in Evangelii Gaudium—’an economy of exclusion and inequality’—attracted a great deal of attention in the secular press. But for the most part commentators ignore the fact that Francis’ populism has a very strong ecclesial dimension as well.”

The heart of Pope Francis’s mission by EJ Dionne: “But American liberals and conservatives alike might be discomfited by the pope’s criticism of “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era,” since each side defends its own favorite forms of individualism.”

Pope ramps up charity office to be near poor, sick by AP: “A few times a week, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski takes a few off-duty guards with him in his modest white Fiat to make the rounds at Rome’s train stations, where charities offer makeshift soup kitchens that feed 400-500 people a night. Often they bring the leftovers from the Vatican mess halls to share.”

Would Someone Just Shut That Pope Up? by Patrick Deneen: “Of course, all along Catholic teaching has seen a strong tie between the radical individualism and selfishness at the heart of capitalism and liberationist sexual practices, understanding them to be premised on the same anthropological assumptions.”

Pope tells theologians ‘sense of the faithful’ is not majority opinion by Francis Rocca, CNS: “Pope Francis said the church must pay attention to the ‘sense of the faithful’ (‘sensus fidelium’) when exercising its teaching authority, but never confuse that sense with popular opinion on matters of faith.”

Pope’s words and examples draw analysis and plaudits by Patricia Zapor, CNS: “Gerson, an evangelical, said he thinks the reason what the pope says and does is so powerful is that ‘he talks like Jesus and acts like Jesus.’”

Vatican announces new papal advisory commission on sex abuse by  Joshua McElwee, NCR: “Pope Francis has ordered the creation of a new commission in the church’s central bureaucracy tasked with advising the pontiff on safeguarding children from sex abuse and working pastorally with abuse victims, the Vatican said Thursday.”

The Domestication of Indifference by Michael Sean Winters, NCR: “Pope Francis has pricked the consciences of all who will listen. It is one thing to prick a conscience and another to shape it. May Pope Francis have a long life so that he can continue to challenge us all to look at those areas in our lives where, in the face of injustice and evil, we throw up our hands and turn away.”

The Joy of Evangelism by Robert Barron, RCR: “He knows that if Catholicism leads with its doctrines, it will devolve into an intellectual debating society, and that if it leads with its moral teaching, it will appear fussy and puritanical. It should lead today as it led two thousand years ago, with the stunning news that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and the joy of that proclamation should be as evident now as it was then.”

Accepting Love and Help: Lessons from the Good Samaritan

In the Prayer of Saint Francis we ask that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.  It’s one of my favorite prayers.  It is a prayer to be released from the chains of egotism and self-centeredness.

But the truth is that we can’t console if no one will allow themselves to be consoled; we cannot understand if no one will allow themselves to be understood; and sometimes we cannot express our love for others in concrete terms if others refuse to be loved.

In his homily on the Good Samaritan last weekend, Father Greg Schenden pointed out that we cannot follow the model of the Good Samaritan if the person we are trying to help refuses our assistance.  While we should be inspired by the model of the Good Samaritan, we should also be willing to accept help like the man the Good Samaritan aids.

And this isn’t always popular.  In our culture, being dependent on another person is viewed in a negative light.  It can be seen as a blow to one’s pride.  People stress about being a burden on others.  And we have elaborate rituals in which we feign that we don’t want assistance while expecting that the person offering assistance will re-offer, at which point accepting would become fine.

In my life, I have seen family members and close friends who have refused help when they really needed it.  I have seen them endure hellish experiences that could have been entirely avoided by making a phone call or simply accepting an offer of assistance.  I have sensed others suffering in silence when someone that loved them would have rushed to their aid at the drop of a hat if they could only build the courage to ask, to expose their need.

American individualism, which values autonomy, independence, and individual achievement, often clashes in a serious way with Catholic communitarianism and its commitment to solidarity, mutual dependence, and communal support.  For some, it may result in pride where the person is too proud to accept the help of others, sure that they can do anything worthwhile on their own.  For others, their refusal to seek or accept help may be the product of how they perceive cultural expectations and norms.  Being considerate or courteous might seem to preclude accepting the help of others.

For a faith centered around communion, these cultural currents present a major problem.  We cannot give if no one is willing to receive, and the lives of both are diminished as a result.  Those in need are denied assistance that would improve their lives and those willing to give are denied the love and joy of helping another.  Where people refuse to be vulnerable, real interpersonal connections are absent, as the person’s desire for autonomy leads to a more surface, artificial relationship.

Father Greg pointed out last Sunday one thing that is wonderful about children: they often lack these inhibitions, this reluctance to be dependent, to rely on others.  And he noted that to be childlike, as Jesus encourages us to be, we must be willing to be the object of service and love, not just the one giving each.

As a relatively new parent, this resonates deeply with me.  My three and a half months with my daughter, which include my time as the primary caretaker, have involved countless hours changing diapers, feeding her, calming her down, singing to her, kissing her, making faces, playing with her, and carrying out a variety of other tasks centered solely around her well-being.  These moments often come when I am trying to work or terribly in need of sleep.  But these months have been filled with an indescribable joy that I had not experienced before her birth and it has permeated every day of my life since the day she was born.

And a big part of that is getting to express my love for her without reserve.  She is never self-conscious about receiving that love.  She never rejects it out of the fear that I’m doing too much.  Her total willingness to receive love is the prerequisite for my ineffable joy.

Getting to love someone in this way is so wonderful and joyful.  This means that allowing yourself to be loved in this way is a profoundly loving, generous act.  The lesson for all of us is to try to shed those individualistic impulses that are ingrained in each of us by our cultural surroundings so that we might be more open to love.  A willingness to be vulnerable, to depend on others, or to simply accept a helping hand can bring more love and joy into the world.  Sometimes, it is in receiving that we give and in being loved that we love.

Is Social Liberalism Resurgent?

Same-sex marriage proponents are rejoicing today, as DOMA has been declared unconstitutional and the appeal of Prop 8 has been dismissed.  The war for same-sex marriage is not over, but a huge battle has been won.

Particularly giddy are the affluent liberals—entertainers, media members, Democratic party activists, and lesser-known members of the bourgeoisie—who were already riding high after yesterday’s pro-abortion rights filibuster by Texas state senator Wendy Davis.  They seem to be struck by the sentiment that liberalism (or at least social libertarianism) is on the march.

They better slow their roll.  Abortion and same-sex marriage are not inextricably linked.  In fact, the views of Millennial Catholics highlight how different these issues are.

Support for same-sex marriage has exploded in recent years, and the views of young Catholics have paralleled that trend.  Meanwhile, the pro-abortion rights movement has not gained ground.  Overall support has not increased nor has support among millennials or Millennial Catholics.  Why?

Support for unlimited access to legal abortion remains rooted in an individualistic mentality that is fundamentally incompatible with the Catholic faith.  Plenty of Catholics support legalized abortion, but among devout Catholics with a sophisticated understanding of the faith, support is low and often incoherent.  It often rests on an understanding of the role of government (the “I’m not going to impose my beliefs on others” mentality) that is entirely incompatible with Catholic social teaching.

Others have substituted values derived from the American cult of individualism for Catholic principles.  The preeminent value in this cult is autonomy.  Thus the argument is made: “I can do what I want with my body,” which noticeably ignores the indisputable fact that the life of another human being is involved.  The desire for autonomy is strong in America, particularly among economic and political elites on both the left and the right.  Both American liberalism and conservatism are infected by the cult of individualism.

But many Americans share values that override the desire to do whatever one wants.  These include a belief in justice (fairness, equality, human rights) and love.  Pro-life progressives have highlighted the importance of defending unborn lives as part of a larger commitment to human rights and social justice, a commitment rooted in the dignity, worth, and equality of every single person—born or unborn, healthy or sick, able-bodied or disabled, gay or straight.

For Catholics, community and communion create imperatives that conflict with the desires of those who value individualism and autonomy above all else.  The Church’s personalism leads to solidarity with both pregnant women and their children.  The proper response to poverty is not slaying the children of poor women, but ensuring that we create a society that allows for each of these women and their children to reach their full potential as persons.  And this requires robust government action.

One need not be Catholic to share these values.  And judging by the overwhelming support for various restrictions on abortion, including majority support for bans on late-term abortion, many non-Catholics do share these values.

It is peculiar to see liberals praising a filibuster as a true symbol of the resurgence of democracy when the majority of Texans and Texas legislators favor banning abortion after 20 weeks.  And it is sad that Wendy Davis has become a hero to affluent liberal elites for safeguarding late-term abortion at a time when programs are being slashed for the poor and vulnerable across the country and no similar hero has emerged on behalf of the poor.  At least we have been spared the chanting of “abortion now, abortion tomorrow, abortion forever.”

A commitment to social justice and other values that clash with a radical belief in individualism may or may not lead to support for same-sex marriage.  Many devout Catholics, including Millennial Catholics, have had a disheartening day.  They do not view same-sex marriage as necessary for fairness or equality.  They see it as a weakening of a core institution that promotes human flourishing.

Yet many other Millennial Catholics disagree.  And many do not support gay marriage because they believe the government should endorse any lifestyle under the sun, but because they believe that marriage is special and valuable and that it is fundamentally unjust to deny it to those born gay.

And love has played a role too.  Love for a poor, young, vulnerable woman does not inherently or commonly push one to support killing her child.  But growing up around brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, friends, teachers, and countless others who identify as homosexuals—seeing their fears, hopes, aspirations, and values—has undoubtedly influenced countless Millennial Catholics.  The concrete experience of loving these people, with the adjoining hope that they experience joy and human flourishing, has been decisive in increasing support for gay marriage, particularly among Millennial Catholics.

To lump these two issues together is therefore a mistake.  One may disagree with it, but there is a personalist, communitarian argument for same-sex marriage that has convinced many people.  On abortion, particularly on the matter of unrestricted access to abortion until birth, individualism and autonomy remain the dominant motives.  Liberal elites may believe that their bourgeois values and devotion to their cult of individualism are spreading, but the last two days provide no evidence of this.