Friday, January 16, 2009

(March for) Life News and Reflections

The American Papist is reporting that Holy Mass will be offered in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite during the MfL.

The Papist also has a wealth of valuable information and useful links to other web resources for the March.

Regarding the FOCA - nationally-known Catholic personalities such as Prof. Douglas Kmeic, and other lesser-known figures have recently argued that the FOCA has slim chance of passing, and therefore need not be contested as vehemently as, e.g., the USCCB has and would contest it, as concrete expressions of the Church's commitment to work for the real good of society, a commitment rooted in Her duty to proclaim, teach and advocate a rightly ordered understanding of the human person (Cf. CIC 1983 c.747.2)

It is true that the bishops' opposition to the FOCA, while rooted in their duty to teach truth and judge matters of basic concern to the good of society, is a prudential one - and therefore its opportunity is in principle open to criticism, in a way that the bishops' decision to teach the truth of Catholic faith is not.

The following remarks aretherefore designed to explain why the bishops' opposition to FOCA makes perfect political sense.

I begin from a few basic points of fact, points the bishops themselves have articulated, and about which I have written in these pages, to wit: the election was basically about the economy; Catholics' support of Obama on election day was, in the main, given not because of, but despite his position on abortion.

Given these facts, the Catholic bishops are right to say that to interpret the election as a referendum on abortion would be to risk permanently alienating millions of voters who are happy to support the bulk of his legislative agenda.

Still, in his campaign speech to Planned Parenthood, the president-elect promised to sign FOCA into law. He cannot really back away from this promise without exposing himself as an insincere political panderer. The terms of the promise, however, do not bind the president-elect to push for FOCA's passage. The president-elect will be less likely to press legislators for passage of FOCA if he sees the strength and breadth of opposition to it among the citizenry.

Principled, responsible, organized and vocal opposition will help the president-elect see which way the wind is blowing, so to speak, and make it more attractive for him to let the FOCA live or die in the legislature, without his influence.

The preceeding remarks point to another important group of people: legislators. The likelihood that lawmakers will support FOCA will decrease in direct proportion to Catholics' outspokenness on the issue. Lawmakers, no less than the president-elect, are anxious to keep their support base, and many lawmakers rely on, or benefit heavily from, the Catholic vote. No intelligent lawmaker can be indifferent to it.

Finally, in pressing their opposition to FOCA, the bishops create a situation in which the president-elect can stick to his guns insofar as his promise to sign the FOCA, letting the chips fall where they may in the legislature, and also offer some concrete gesture of good will to citizens who do not share his agenda. Concretely, the president-elect will be able to say to pro-lifers, "Look, I made a promise; when and if the time comes, I'll have to make good on it. I'll tell you what, though: remember the idea I had about releasing federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research? I'm beginning to think that I need to take time to get a better handle on all the issues involved, there. Get my drift?"

I am not saying the president-elect will behave this way. I do not have a crystal ball and I am just as concerned as the next pro-lifer over his agenda. I also know how the political game is played, and the bishops' opposition to FOCA, on this reading, looks like a good play.

Everything will depend on Catholics and others committed to the pro-life cause, though. We need to keep ratcheting up the pressure, not only on the president-elect, but also and perhaps even primarily on our Senators and Representatives.


Katherine said...

Let me first say that this is one of the most informed, thoughtful, level-headed and irenic commentaries on this issue I have read. Thank you for your thoughts.

I am one of those millions of faithful Catholics who did not vote for Obama because of his views on abortion legalization but because of the remaining bulk of his legislative agenda.

At the same time, I supported and campaigned for congressional candidates that oppose FOCA and are pro-life.

Having been on the winning side up and down the ballot, I take some comfort that we now have a president that will support the issues on the remaining "bulk of his legislative agenda" -- issues which mostly the Catholic bishops support -- while we enjoy a clear congressional majority to block FOCA.

But speaking for the above referenced element of the Catholic community, I have found that the bishops' strategy on FOCA is alienating to us millions of Catholic voters.

For secular Right-to-Life groups, I understand their activities. They have a single issue mission.

However, for the Catholic bishops, I found it very alienating that they never let a second pass after the election before attacking the new president. There is a long list of concerns the President Elect and the bishops see eye to eye on but the only comments we read in the press are rather strident comments against the President Elect (Cardinal Stafford being the worse case). And all over an issue that is politically dead in the water.

The bishops' behavior is counterproductive and helps rather than hurts the Democratic Party. However, as a Catholic, I am concerned that the Church's voice is increasingly identified with a strident, extremist, polarized, marginal element of society. I think that is sad.

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Katherine,

Thanks for your thanks. While I did not vote for the president-elect, and while I am not so sanguine about his agenda, he will be my president come January 20. I am filled with gratitude to heaven when I reflect on his election; it is an important fulfillment of the promise of our great nation.

That said, I would take issue with one thing you said, regarding the bishops' response to Obama's election. I do not think Cardinal George's November statement (I have addressed that statement in these pages) can rightly be considered an attack on the president-elect. The press, however, certainly presented his statement as such.

Cardinal Stafford is a sincerely dedicated Churchman. I know him and admire him. I do not share the sentiments he expressed at CUA, at least not as they have been reported - and to my knowledge, his full remarks have not appeared.

Thanks once more for your kind consideration, and please, continue to visit. I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful conversation.

Katherine said...

You make a fair point.

I expect many virtues and skills in our bishops and it is unfair to expect all bishops to have all of virtues and skills I hope for. Humanity is too diverse for that to be possible.

But among the skills (maybe not #1) I hope for in our bishops, particularly those who serve as national speakers, is an ability to handle the press.

It is a difficult task, but it is not impossible as I have seen it done.

Let us pray the press gets better in its reporting and the bishops get better at presenting their story.

Lazy Disciple said...

Both are good things to pray for.

Not to beleaguer the point, I do think Card. George did as well as anyone could have, and better than most, during the press conferences they held around their Nov. meeting. Also, the press does tend to pick what it will and leave the rest.

I remember when Deus Caritas Est came out; the Pope devoted one sentence to abortion, marriage and the family - one sentence in a document that ran to over 50 bound pages in the large format - and what do you think was in the headlines the very evening it was presented at the Sala Stampa?

"Pope Condemns Abortion, Gay Marriage in new Document"

When it comes to Press relations, no other major corporate group would suffer so much gross and often, I am sorry to say, deliberate misrepresentation at the hands of so many and for so long, and still make every effort to accomodate and to maintain good, even cordial relations.

Though I read the papers ex officio, I go to the source when I want to know what the bishops say. Simply put, the MSM is not a reliable source of information regarding the teaching and outreach efforts of the Church.