Pro-Life Pugilists

There have been a couple of really quite serious disagreements in the Pro-Life movement over the last few days. First of all, John Smeaton, Director of SPUC.

On his personal blog, he asserted that Bishops everywhere should follow the Nigerian bishop's lead in defense of families.

Smeaton stated that, as a Catholic, a parent, and a pro-life leader "Standing up against the worldwide homosexual agenda is crucial for the protection of children."  

Smeaton goes on to explain that SPUC have produced a paper about the impact that same-sex marriage will have on schools, yet he fears that many Catholic schools are also likely to be open to the homosexual agenda. I have to concur, most people are really struggling to understand why there is a problem with SSM, indeed, in America, it is said that Catholics are the greatest supporters of SSM!

Why? Well, I think the first reason is that we all want to live and let live. Our first disposition is to charity, and should always be. The second reason is the fallacy that "it's all about love". In other words, if two consenting adults love each other, whose business is it? I certainly thought that way for a long while.

However, I wonder if this ideology is primarily born out of a culturally built disordered desire for illicit sex? Our culture tells us to do what ever we want to make us feel good. It's nobody else's business, right? However the reality is that this is not true love, because true love is selfless and giving and life affirming, it is not about doing things to people for sexual gratification, it can not be reduced merely to the validity of a genital transaction. Replicated time and again in society, we wind up with selfish individuals who only care about themselves and their own gratification.

Michael Voris' Vortex yesterday seemed particularly apposite to all this, albeit in an insular way, looking mainly at the issue within the Church. He joins the connecting dots in such a plain a way as to make me squirm somewhat:

Increasingly I find myself in a dilemma with regard to a position which can affirm homosexual behavior in any way. Whilst holding a true idea of charity foremost in my mind, there is such a push for this agenda, which seems to have such power and sway in society, I can't help but want to push back. But to start to resolve the issue requires us to foster a proper theology of the body, one which holds to the same standards for all of us. Thus what has led to Catholic acceptance of same-sex marriage more than a Catholic acceptance of contraception? Fornication? Adultery? Even abortion?

This is clearly defined by the Magisterium in Persona Humana § VIII, which states:
no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. [18] This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.
Squirming, I find myself wondering: why do I squirm? Why do I find Michael's plain speaking difficult to hear? Because it is the truth? Because it lacks charity? If it is true, and our secular society is working so hard against it, is it not charity to speak it? I suppose I have a bit of an issue with his use of the term "sodomy", as if all homosexual relationships involve it, as the Anglican Peter Ould goes into in his widely applauded blog post here. Although Peter's blog was considered excellent by very many people, I could not help but feel equally as squirmy about it as Michael's video above. There's something not quite right about it, perhaps best expressed in this quote from Pope St. Pius X's encyclical, Our Apostolic Mandate:
True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realisation of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock, that we must accept His doctrine, that we must practice virtue, and that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors.

Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them. Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality. Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience. Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them.

He was as strong as he was gentle. He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body. Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in Heaven: the royal way of the Cross. These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one's personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.
[emphasis mine].
You see, we are each called to personal holiness. The Christian "process" was termed theosis by the Greek Fathers, that is literally "Goddening" Our challenge, each one of us, is to attain sainthood, and that journey into God, must start with each one of us changing our hearts and seeking God and personal holiness.

John Smeaton's position came in for a great deal of criticism because it is considered by many to be reactionary and homophobic, supporting a draconian law that will lead to the persecution of people with same-sex attraction. It is also seen as "mission-creep", insofar as marriage re-definition is seen by many as having no connection with pro-life issues. Of course, if you listen to Michael Voris, you may be able to draw a clear connection between the two in the way that John Smeaton obviously can.

Secondly, The Telegraph reported yesterday that 'Abortion will make women child sex abusers' Independent clinics warn. There's a film of a conversation held between a reporter and a counsellor at a pregnancy crisis centre. Beneath the deliberate attempt at sensationalism, the argument is that this advice is not objective.

What struck me about this was that, listening to the counsellor, I didn't find what she was saying THAT outrageous. The spin put on it would certainly lead one to feel it WAS outrageous, but, for example, what she did not say was that sex abuse is caused by abortion. Those words were put into her mouth by the reporter, and the worst that could be said is that she made the error of not immediately disavowing them.

She was actually talking about the affect that abortion appears to have on maternal bonding with subsequent born children, and the statistically increased likelihood of abuse and/ or neglect. I take no issue with that at all & feel it is both reasonable and sensible for a counsellor to invite a woman to consider this issue. The link is not mere fabrication, but born of research, which makes sense if you think about the necessary psychological disconnection one must make in order to undergo an abortion. In fact there are various studies on this issue.

Ironically given the criticism noted in my first point, John Smeaton blogged some excellent comments about this article: which he attributes to Paul Tully, SPUC's General Secretary:
The counselling centres are helping hundreds of women to avoid abortion, and playing a significant part in reducing the abortion rate. Many of them not only provide counselling but practical support - something which none of the abortion agencies do. Also, unlike abortionists, these counselling centres do not receive NHS funding contingent on the outcome of the services they provide.
Doctors falsify statutory abortion forms on a routine basis, with the connivance of the RCOG and the Department of Health. This enriches abortion merchants such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), out of the deaths of over 500 babies every day. Dishonest doctors are raking in huge fees, and are jealous of those groups who are snatching potential victims away from them.
Dr Kate Guthrie of the RCOG told The Telegraph that there is 'absolutely no evidence that abortions lead to an increased risk of breast cancer'. Dr Guthrie's statement is simply not true. Although the evidence is not conclusive, it is voluminous. For example, in November last year a meta-analysis of 36 studies of the possible abortion-breast cancer link among Chinese females found a 44% increased risk of breast cancer after one or more abortions, 76% increased risk after two abortions or more, and 89% increased risk after 3 or more abortions. Although this does not prove that abortion causes breast cancer, for a doctor to deny that such evidence exists is irresponsible, and to try to stop women finding out about suggests a profound commitment to promoting abortion."
There is more information on the spin and misrepresentation in the Telegraph report from Caroline Farrow here. I would encourage you to read her post if you are concerned by what the counsellor in the article said, I always find Caroline reports thoroughly and with great integrity on these matters.

Of course the links to breast cancer and abuse appear harsh (particularly to those who consider abortion legitimate to any degree), and I can understand why no one would want to make the connection between a legalised medical procedure, and the potential, serious, psychological ramifications of such a decision, but ask yourself, is that because we are desperate to sanitise what is objectively something truly awful?

There is constant pressure in our society to be calm and rational about such issues. Of course, if we scream and shout, no one will listen to us. But with regard to such an extraordinary evil as abortion, I find it hard not to scream and shout. The counter argument is reasonable insofar as it states that revelations like this do nothing to convince pro-abortionists that their position is problematic. Rather it paints pro-life advocates as disingenuous and agenda driven, in short, not to be trusted to consider the welfare of the woman objectively.

I'm squirming again...Can we "pretend" to be objective about abortion? If we say we can in order to save the lives of the unborn, how do we reconcile Church teaching vis a vis CCC 1759 "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

These are just my own thoughts as I struggle to make sense of what's going on here. What I can never do is dismiss Church teaching, or relativise it. Neither can I dismiss either side's arguments easily without careful consideration. This is because I know both sides of the argument are ingenuous and intelligent, doing what they consider to be the best they can in support of a worthy cause they are passionate about. I do consider motives however, especially where those motives might result in a subversion of Church teaching (however subtle such a subversion may appear). This is especially pertinent in an environment which is quick to assert anyone who questions a liberal pro-gay agenda is suffering from terminal homophobia. Being Catholic means having humility before Church teaching we may not always fully understand, humility which may cause us sometimes to take stock of our position and quietly reflect and pray in order to properly discern the way in which our actions might reflect Christ.

I would suggest that, although it is important to have robust and frank internal conversations which recognise mistakes and work to make sure they are not repeated, one should always try and back one's colleagues and present a united front in instances such as this, based on the things we agree on and are working together to achieve.

When asked what the three most important virtues are, St. Bernard replied...

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