The National Catholic Review
Ronnie D. Rubit
A new Catholic wonders how to be pro-life.
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As a Christian only recently received into the Catholic Church, I am frequently invited by other parishioners to take part in pro-life activities. I have been asked to participate in pro-life rallies, organized protests in front of local Planned Parenthood clinics and processions through the city in “marches for life.” Before I even completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I was pressured to lend my signature to pro-life petitions and solicited to join the Respect Life committee. Often during discussion forums with other Catholics, the topic turned to abortion, a subject that superseded dialogue on all other important issues. The constant barrage of invitations to such ambitious activism was overwhelming—a little too much too soon.

At that time in my Catholic journey, I wanted to focus exclusively on personal piety and devotion to fundamental church teaching, history and Christology. There would be time for social action later.

My pre-Catholic religious life was deeply influenced in adolescence by Southern Baptist theology and conservative Bible teaching. While in college, I became a member of the Churches of Christ, a loving and rewarding affiliation. The Churches of Christ is an extremely conservative denomination, however, so much so that mechanical instruments are not allowed in the worship services, and women have few outlets for expression and service. The religious instruction included staunch opposition to abortion from the lectern.

I was affiliated with the Churches of Christ for almost 20 years. During these decades, I took part in evangelical and neoconservative politics in opposition to perceived “liberal” threats to Christian culture, like that embodied in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In defense against purported threats to our Judeo-Christian way of life, I was an enthusiastic soldier in the “culture wars.” In short, I can hardly be labeled “soft” on abortion.

Pro-Life Activism and Piety

Let me be clear: my visceral reaction to abortion is an emphatic no. Nevertheless, my personal opposition to the procedure is not what defines my virtue as a Christian. This is something that concerns me about my Catholic peers. It seems from where I sit (literally, in a wheelchair), that for many devoted Catholics and Protestants alike, the authenticity of a religious commitment is measured by the decibel level of one’s outrage over abortion.

I often get the impression that abortion politics permeates the religious devotion of many—and shame on anyone who does not share their enthusiasm for activism in pro-life causes. Unfortunately, many young people and new Catholics are subjected to an unwelcome kind of peer pressure to demonstrate their commitment as a Christian. For some, a willingness to join in the street activism against abortion is considered a litmus test for genuine Christian morality.

The nonconformist in me refuses to allow anyone to characterize me or scrutinize the legitimacy of my Christian experience. I refuse to have my “tires kicked” to prove my Catholic bona fides, and I place no such burden of proof on anyone else. The act of inducing shame to persuade someone to take part in a pro-life rally bears a strong resemblance to the practice in late antiquity of mandatory annual devotions to the local Roman deity—a public observance to which early Christians objected. Many embraced martyrdom in an effort to end it.

Are Catholics now required to produce public affidavits to verify their profession of faith? If so, must it address only the issue of abortion? Are depositions necessary to confirm my private fasting and almsgiving? Often peer pressure to engage in activism veils a particular political ideology. The holy Roman Catholic Church is no place for political factions or proselytizing for either political party.

A Distortion of Values?

In my short time as a Catholic, I have never been called upon to assemble on a cold Saturday morning to join in the distribution of blankets and hot soup with sandwiches to the homeless; I have never been urged to participate in weekend home repairs and yard cleaning for any disabled and elderly widows in the parish. Maybe that is because it takes more of a commitment to push a lawn mower than to hold up a sign.

This distortion of values among comfortable American Catholics is an aspect of my new faith that I find distressing. On the surface, it strikes me as superficial and self-righteous. I understand a desire not to stand idly by in the face of injustice, but I am concerned that many of my co-religionists channel their religious impulses more toward how they are publicly perceived and less toward personal piety.

I once heard, on a major cable television network, testimony from a well-known Washington, D.C., journalist and political pundit, who proudly stated that his personal religious renewal was informed by his late pro-life activism. While I applaud his newfound religious zeal, I believe faith should spring from a desire to know God through the fundamental teachings of Christ and the apostles, not from political impulses or a single act of merit.

True, our Scriptures and faith do teach that murder is sin. And the Didache, a widely circulated second-century Christian document, does specifically warn against aborting a fetus. But it is filled with additional wisdom and instruction: it charges Christians with the duties to keep the commandments and participate in the Eucharist. It calls them to engage in fasting and prayer, charity, virtuous behavior, caring for the afflicted and a host of other injunctions compatible with the New Testament.

Joining a Great Tradition

My disquiet about pro-life activism is not meant to indict the Catholic Church, of which I am now a part. On the contrary, one of the features that drew me to this church is its luminous history of social activism, from building homes and schools for orphans to openly supporting the civil rights movement to opposition to unjust wars and political oppression. The lives of the saints down through the ages speak loudly and help to shine the light of understanding on service. American Catholic luminaries also inspire me. Mother Katharine Drexel used her considerable fortune to finance over 60 schools and missions for poor African-Americans and American Indians around the country. Henriette DeLille devoted her life to nursing care and built homes and schools for orphans in Louisiana. The exemplary devotion of saints like these is not singular or exclusionary; it testifies to the all-inclusive love of Christ for the poor and the hungry, the orphan and the widow, the prisoner and the exploited, the unborn and the immigrant.

The church’s many worldwide charities have proved a powerful attraction; their importance to my conversion cannot be overstated. I am very proud to be a part now of that noble Catholic tradition. It is my goal to find my rightful place in the church and live out my faith profession by piety, service to society and the practice of good works—works that, the Scriptures teach, “God has prepared for us to walk in” (Eph 2:10).

That activity may include working toward a solution to the problem of abortion; but this will be a deliberate act of conscience on my part, not a surrender to the coercion of other parishioners. Those who confess faith in Christ must reconcile church teaching and their own conscience to determine their inclination to activity or inactivity with respect to the practice of true religion.

Since the pontificate of John Paul II, I witnessed as an outsider a revival in the American Catholic community. Catholics in the United States, unlike many elsewhere in the world, have the freedom and the means to minister to the needs of the afflicted. To limit ourselves and to focus so much energy on the single issue of abortion not only diminishes our efforts but also sets a poor precedent for new converts. Many of them are eager to engage their lives in service to God, humankind and local parish life. We ought not discourage their spiritual progress through excessive attention to one particular evil. Let’s show them and teach them to heal “all manner of sickness” in the human condition.

Ronnie D. Rubit, a former high school teacher, lives in Houston, Tex., where he is a parishioner of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Comments

PETER GUMMERE | 3/3/2012 - 2:03pm
To the Editor:

Ronnie Rubit's article "Peer Pressure" was insightful and a sober reminder to all of us to make sure that the full gospel is proclaimed, not just the "Gospel of Life", or the "gospel of social justice",  or the "gospel of the sacraments".  The same is true for the ministries within the parish for we need them all.

It has been my experience (as a lay person for 55 years and a deacon for 7 years) that healthy parishes have some diversity in demographics as well as ministries.  And it has been my experience that as one works in ministry (lay or clerical) one's interests and calling evolve, based upon the needs yet unmet within the parish and the broader community. 

It is also my experience that the pro-life movement needs a broader focus than just abortion.  Other assaults against human life are alive and well, among them is doctor-prescribed death (or assisted suicide), currently being actively pushed in Massachusetts and Vermont.



Jim Lein | 2/29/2012 - 3:26pm
Thanks Ronnie for your newcomer's take on the church.  Very well stated.  And welcome to our big tent.  You may have by now seen that almost all of us are cafeteria Catholics, picking and choosing which pro-life issues we support or get involved in.  There are a very few indeed who are pro-choice across the board.  Bless them.  Bless also the rest of us for our particular interest or gift.  We are all called and needed.  And we are not all called to march in lockstep.  

From my perspective as a cradle Catholic geezer who has strayed twice and returned twice (the last time in May 2001), the clinic marchers and picketers are unlikely to oppose welfare cuts even though these cuts sharply increase the number of abortions. Conversely, those speaking out for increasing welfare benefits are unlikely to picket clinics.  And neither position is more right or more wrong.  There are different gifts of the Spirit - and we need them all.  These two positions are not in opposition.  The Catholic church is a tent big enough for different perspectives and approaches - especially on abortion where it often seems as if one side sees only the fetus and the other side only the woman.  We don't all have to agree or march to the exact same drummer.  If we did we'd miss much of what the Spirit is calling us to do. 

Bless you for speaking out and giving us a fresh perspective. 
George Trejos | 2/23/2012 - 11:26am

Thank you for your insightful article. Even cradle Catholic wrestle with this issue. I long wonder how come the Pro-Life issue has become the identifier of Catholicism in this country. I certainly don't disagree with the pro-life position but it does seem to be the prominent message of the Church.




I subscribe to the "seamless garment of Life" reality (refferenced above). There are so many ways of stifling life apart from its inception phase. When perplexed I turn to Matthew 25:31- to draw hope that my salvation will come from my faith in the Lord and my flawed efforts to be responsive to the needs of my fellow neighbor.




It saddens me to see the Pro Life issue becoming a politcal hot potato following the recent Obama heath care expectation. I fear that the American Hierarchy will respond by subtly suggesting that good Catholics should aline ourselves with the political party that also waves the Pro Life banner but has a poor track record regarding responsiveness to the real needs of the poor and disadvantaged.

C Walter Mattingly | 2/23/2012 - 9:04am
Dear Ronnie,
Welcome to our Catholic Christian community, and thank you for your honest and heart-felt reaction to your experience with your faith community, especially your reaction to the fervent activism you have experienced from the pro-life advocates in your location. It can serve as an eye-opener for them. When another great civil rights issue was contested during another epoch of the American experience, especially slavery but also extending up to th civil rights movement, it was not the John Brown type abolitionists who necessarily had the most positive effects, nor the Black Panthers, but a more modulated, but no less insistent, path of non-violent objection that finally won the day (up to Fort Sumpter, at least).
My response, as an ardent opponent of elective abortion, is to suggest the enormity of both the issue itself and the problem. Take the size, the numbers, of deaths involved: in the US, over a million abortions a year. Compare that to all the deaths attributable to wars since the country was founded, and you will discover that total comes up short of the carnage involved in just one year of abortions here, the great majority of them elective, not issues of medical necessity.
This is not meant to imply that I am in agreement with the Church in all aspects of this issue. The unfortunate issue of a sister excommunicated because she oversaw a Catholic hospital which performed an abortion in a situation in which the alternative was either the child would die or child and likely the mother as well is an example of what I would take issue with. I learned from an America commentor here that I would be following a utilitarian rather than deontic line of thought.
Likewise, however, what is often called the immoral US war in Iraq, can be viewed similarly. Based on the historic carnage of its leader, who counted Hitler and Stalin among his role models, at least a half million more Iraqis could be projected to have died in excess of those who did as a result of the Us invasion. The argument of moral justification by utility can apply here also.
Perhaps you agree that there is moral justification for the Church's opposition to elective abortions. I would take that a step further. Considering the size of the problem and the enormity of the offense (extermination of the innocent unborn), it is the great American social justice issue of our time. You can't do anything for anyone you have killed off prior to being born. Other issues follow upon this one and are mute if the child is killed. This issue warrants not only the Church's emphasis, but all US citizens concerned with social justice. But similar to the slavery debate years ago, there are actions which will promote and actions which will harm this issue. Prolifers, the mainstream members of the Church, can benefit from reading your response to your experience.

Some points for all who oppose elective abortions to be mindful of:

1/ Time and the facts-truth, if you will-is on our side.
The number of bioethicists who argue that an abortion does not exterminate a human life has greatly diminished, to the poiint that it is closer to settled opinion than even the global warming argument. Even Peter Singer, a proponent of elective infanticide who may have influenced our president, does not deny this. Just as in its earlier years the slave was identified as less than a person, and subsequent knowledge made it obvious that this was false, so too the argument that exterminating a fetus does not end a human life, an embodied human career, has lost its moral and logical justification as the evidence developed.

2/ It will be a twilight, long-term battle.
Just as it took almost two centuries from the time Massachusetts was the first colony to accept the evil of slavery into what would become our country, it will take a long time until Roe vs Wade is overcome or severely modified. Probably not in our lifetime. Patience and consistency is required.

3/ Pick and choose the time and nature of principled opposition.
Our current president, tragically, is the most pro-abortion president you could encounter, perhaps even to the point of introducing infanticide into the equation. He is also socialistic, though not a socialist, in his orientation, and therefore the Church is by definition in his way, as anything that abrogates the assimilation of Government rule by bureaucrats interferes with his vision. To that end he has slyly played upon divisions in the Church in a divide and conquer strategy, not unlike his divide by class strategy, i.e. appointing proabortion Catholic womem to positons of power to administer his edicts. He has fought off even the parents of our inner city poor to deny them vouchers for their children to attend parochial and other schools, opposing church values and influence even at the expense of depriving disadvantaged children of a quality education. He is attempting to reduce the deductibility of charitable donations to undermine the resources and ability of the Church to run its hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and churches. And now this attempt to drive another wedge aimed not only at the birth control issue, but slipped in with it under the door, abortifacients. He may have produced a poor economic record on leadership, but President Obama is a bright man with plenty Ars Serpentia at his beck and call. Currently we need to be mindful of this and act accordingly. 
Yet making anything a "litmus test" for membership, as you experienced, is just totally the wrong approach. You are first of all welcome to a community of Christians. And points of view must be shared in constructive dialogue, as we do here. Thank you for the opportunty to benefit from your experience. 
Michael Barberi | 2/21/2012 - 9:57pm
Another greatful "thank you", Mr. Rubit:

I recently joined a new parish, after moving to a new location. This week's church bulletin contained a major "push" for Catholics to write their Congressperson, and protect our outrage over Obama's contraceptive mandate and the assault on religious liberty.

I agree with you Mr. Rubit for questioning the Catholic Church's priorities and teachings. Where is the teachings about personal spirituality and progress, and how people should deal with moral dilemma and conflict especially over sexual ethical teachings.

Direct abortion is a grave sin. However, Thomas Aquinas said that an evil is always evil, but an act of evil can be jusified. He often used examples such as the evil act of killing a person. Killing a person will always be evil, but killing a person to safeguard one's life is justified and licit. Abortion to save the life of the mother, threatened by a fetus, that will die under all circumstances, is a circumsance that may cause an act of evil, the termination of pregnancy in this case, to be justified and morally licit. Yet, the Church does not recognize the profound philosophical and theological arguments offered by many bishops and moral theologians, on both ends of the theological debate, that the so-called "Phoenix Case" is indirect abortion and not direct.

In the case of abortion and contraception, they are moral absolutes. No circumstance, end or intention can ever change these voluntary human acts to be other than intrinsically evil acts. There is no middle ground because what is taught is the absolute moral truth. Full stop, end of discussion. If we took this approach in past centuries, sex would have only one licit position, sex during menstruation would be a mortal sin, sex during pregnancy would be forbidden, the torture of heritics would be perfectly reasonable, usury would a sin against Divine Law revealed in Scripture, and slavery would not be permitted.

Perhaps a stronger emphasis on teaching how to live a moral life pleasing to God, based on the virtues and the New Testament, as Mr. Rubit implies, is what we should be demanding and protesting, not to secular authority, but to Magisterial authority.
Melody Evans | 2/21/2012 - 2:07pm
p.s. - I also wanted to add that I am very thankful to be a part of a parish who does seem to embrace the Seamless Garment philosophy. I do see many examples of people being truly pro-life and they are such an encouragement to me. :)
Melody Evans | 2/21/2012 - 1:03pm

Thank you, Mr. Rubit, for a wonderful article. I am new to the Catholic tradition as well and the social justice work of the Church was a big draw to me. And when I say "social justice" I mean the work of feeding, clothing, sheltering, etc...


Thank you also to Bill Collier for bringing up the Seamless Garment philosophy. I'm fine with people being anti-abortion, but the problem comes in the fact that so many other issues are either ignored or "pro-lifers" views are actually very much not pro-life. It is easy to be "for" an unborn baby who is cute and isn't using your precious tax dollars yet. But so many of the "pro-lifers" that I have met are... for pre-emptive military strikes (which definitely does not fit under the "just war" banner), they are for cutting programs to help the needy in our society because they see the needy as lazy and unworthy or they don't want to pay taxes to help them, they don't seem to have any problems with capital punishment, and the list goes on and on and on in how they are very definitely NOT pro-life. Like I said, it is easy to show your outrage over a cute little unborn baby that you don't need to take any responsibility for but what are you doing for all the babies that are born and grown up in this world who need help?


Also, I wanted to throw out an "AMEN" to Lyn for her comment. :)

Margaret NEWMARK | 2/21/2012 - 12:13pm

As a former RCIA team member for many years, I have never taken part or heard of anyone who pressures candidates or new members of the church to take part in organizations related to pro-life. s


I agree with most of this article as far as taking more of a part in social justice activities but feel it gives the wrong impression as to the peer pressure Mr. Reilly has experienced.

Michael Cremin | 2/18/2012 - 8:05pm
Abortion is a painful topic. I would suggest-gently-that the passion you are experiencing on the part of commited pro-life Catholics stems from the nature of the topic: babies are being killed, even as I type these words. The philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote about the 'banality of evil,' which is a perfect description of our nation's blind eye with regard to abortion. It is a grave moral evil; a literal holocaust of defenseless human beings. And it's happening right now.

God bless on your faith journey.
marygail ferris | 2/18/2012 - 7:17pm

You wish to focus on "fundamental church teaching".  Life begins at conception IS fundamental CHURCH DOCTRINE.  What some are teaching is not always Church Doctrine depending on who is doing the teaching.  As a new Catholic there may be alot or a little for you to lean but always remember PRAYER HELPS.  The Church does not exist for social activism as it is SPIRITUAL.  Be a social worker if that is ones choice but lets not try to remake the Church in the eyes of a social woker.  In keeping with this thinking have you yet been introduced to OUR LADY FATIMA? There is much to learnfor all of us from  her apparitions almost 100 yrs. ago.
We are here to save our souls by knowing, doing, and accepting God's Will.  Sounds so simple but the trick is to know and do it.  Have you asked yourself what it is that God wants of you?  He only wants our good so simply whatever he wants for us can only be for our good whether joy or sorrow.  Again the saints teach us the value of prayer.
Do we ask God if HE wants us to march for prolife or not. ?  If we can pray and truthfully answer that's not my place then forget it and move on with your journey.
Our first priority is to save our soul and not wait until we are dying to think about that.
Please don't become confussed and overwhelmed with your new faith as it is truly a beautiful spiritual guide to heaven.  You might find some help in reading St. Alphonsus Liguori's  ' UNIFORMITY WITH GOD'S WILL."

Dennis Thiel | 2/18/2012 - 5:45pm
Bravo, your point is well made. Fortunately not all Catholic Communities are like the one you are attending. I know Catholic Commmunities that have over fifty seperate Ministries and only two are pro life. This would seem to me to be a better balance then what you are experiencing. Maybe it's time to go community shopping, or when you are approached, ask them if they would be interested in joining the ministry to which you involved. You can watch them backpedal real fast. To each a gift is given and we all have different gifts, yours is writing, I'm sure. Keep us posted on your spiritual journey.
Lisa Weber | 2/18/2012 - 1:08am
Thank you for a thoughtful article.  A one-issue litmus test for present or potential Catholics makes for an uninviting Church.
Mary Celeste Brown | 2/17/2012 - 6:29pm

As a life-long Roman Catholic of over 50 years, I have run the gamut on my pro-life activity.  Like you it is not a question of my personal commitment to human life.  You express eloquently some of my feelings about the public face of the Church in the last decade or so.  Happily, this is not my personal experience.  My parish has a thriving pro-life component as part of larger thriving spiritual, liturgical and social justice ministries.  We are also blessed as a kind of microcosm of the cultural universality of the Catholic Church, with many parishioners from a broad swath of the Americas and Africa, particularly.

I don't even know where you are geographically, but it is my bet you won't have to look far to find some group working with the poor or doing prison ministry.  Thank you for this thoughtful discussion.  Stay with us, we're glad you're here!

Lyn Heffernan | 2/17/2012 - 4:56pm
 I am a Catholic and I personally oppose abortion but I don't believe that waving signs and harassing women is a rational answer.  As St James said: telling a poor person with no resources to keep warm and eat well does not demonstrate faith.   Study after study has shown that the leading reason women give for seeking an abortion is economic. If we stand outside clinics it should be with  signs telling desperate women that we can help them get food, a roof over their heads and medical care for themselves and their other children.  As a mother of four I can understand that a woman will risk the fires of hell itself for her children.    Catholics should be there telling her that is not her only choice. 
Bill Collier | 2/17/2012 - 4:28pm

Thank you to Mr. Rubit for sharing his interesting faith journey, and welcome to the RCC. His unique religious background will undoubtedly add to the richness of his new faith and to the vitality of his parish.


I suggest that Mr. Rubit may want to read about the consistent ethic of life philosophy of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. The evolution of the Cardinal’s thought about the CEL (a/k/a the "seamless garment") is set forth in speeches he gave in the 1980's and early 1990's before his untimely death. The speeches have been published by Orbis Books in a volume titled "The Seamless Garment: Writings on the Consistent Ethic of Life," which is available at amazon.com (ISBN 157075764X).


In my opinion, Cardinal Bernardin makes a compelling argument for the inter-related nature of all life issues (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, war) that adds increased meaning to the term "pro-life." I think Catholics in general need to become more familiar with CEL, though that is not to say that abortion is not a grave and profoundly important issue. (How can the loss of approximately 60 million aborted persons in the U.S. (i.e., about 20% of the country’s current population) since Roe v. Wade be anything but horrific?) Perhaps the most important thing about adoption of a CEL philosophy is that the biological term "web of life" becomes a powerful ethical framework for thinking about all of the pro-life issues. In such a context, the abortion issue becomes much more than just reversal of the Roe decision. Finding a solution to the issue will also require, for example, such remedies as pregnancy crisis counseling and economic aid for expectant mothers. There’s no getting around the fact that a comprehensive effort will have to be made if hearts and minds are to be changed about abortion.


 

NORMA NUNAG | 2/17/2012 - 3:26pm
Thank you so very much for writing this piece.  You did us a great service.   Sometimes, we Catholics are our own worst enemies.   Often,  the good that we purport to do,  such as advocating for pro-life , for social justice, for the poor, etc. are cancelled out by our negative, judgmental, unChristian behavior or approach.  As the saying goes,  you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. 
7380887 | 2/17/2012 - 2:01pm

Wow.. thanks. You've articulated so well what is causing part of my resistance to actually taking that next step and journeying along the path to join the Catholic Church. I am a firm believer in social action and that, combined with the tremendous theology, history and beauty of the Catholic faith - well, I'm hooked (almost). It was reading about Catholic social teaching that made me take an honest look at the Church. We are doing ourselves a big disservice by not talking about ALL of the incredible work that goes on in the church. And we have to honestly live out that - womb to tomb mantra. Otherwise, we become a very narrowly focused religion. We need to start telling a bigger story, from a wider perspective. I'd be willing to bet we'd engage a few more interested souls.

Des Farrell | 2/17/2012 - 1:55pm
I just want to say that the article above is simply a pleasure to read, as are the comments (up till mine!). It really is a relief to have a forum where such intelligent views are delivered in a moderate tone. On such a difficult personal subject, unwelcome peer pressure, this writer succeeds beautifully. 
Linda Rooney | 2/17/2012 - 1:15pm
Roonie, Thank you for your thoughts and your lived experience as a new(er) convert to Catholicism. Your letter was written beautifully and needs to be read by every Bishop and pastor. As you mentioned, living our Catholicism is not a matter of choosing which teachings of the Church to follow or drop; disciples of Christ are baptized into living the Way of Christ which is made clear through the teaching of the Church. As a lifelong Catholic, I have often heard and been engaged in conversations about the teachings of the church on sex-related issues vs. the other social teachings and it never fails to amaze me that those most verbal about pro-life issues re sexual teaching know little to nothing about the full gamut of Catholic social teaching. While Anne O'Briend makes a good point that abortion is a foundational issue, she fails to account for the perception (at least) that more energy, time and money is spent on this issue than on others, e.g., public outcry against an immoral war against Iraq, or the lack of equitable health care in this country, or unfair banking policies, and the list goes on. The Church's credibility as moral teacher within the local congregation and in the eyes of others has been and ontinues to be weakened by the inconsistency with which its leaders address the full range of social issues no matter which political party is in power; nor, whether those issues are connected to its own members.
Clare McGrath-Merkle | 2/17/2012 - 1:08pm

I am an ardent pro-lifer and former pro-life lobbyist but I have to agree that there has been some kind of shift happening. I attended Mass at a parish this weekend where the young, enthusiastic priest gave what amounted to a second 25-minute sermon before the final blessing: a comment about St. Valentine, who was a bishop martyred for defending marriage; an appeal to oppose same-sex legislation; a request to sign-up on the side wall to pray at an abortion center; an appeal to stay after Mass to hear another priest talk on marriage and intimacy, if I remember correctly; a notice about a lenten retreat series next week to be delivered by Dominicans from the Dominican House in Washington.


I am reminded of Calvinism in Geneva 500 years ago, where congregants needed to be helped to lead publicly holy lives by religious leaders challenging the secular order.


Etienne Gilson warned against a kind of moral essentialism, wherein to be (to exist), one must be good. In this new period of restorationism similar to the Counter-Reformation, we need to be careful not to absorb the same reformist errors. If a functional interpretation of sacerdotal identity and an overemphasis on social activism were wrong in the Vatican II priesthood, they are wrong in the John Paul II priesthood as well. It is this leadership that has been educating seminarians and youth in Catholic universities who are now entering parish life.


As someone said recently, Polish Romanticism is interesting but German Romanticism is very interesting. I would add American Romanticism tops both because it lacks the tried virtue of the former and the intelligence of the latter. American prelates are leading key posts at the Vatican with a moral essentialism that might go well with beer and baseball and some kind of prophesied martyrdom, but in the deep waters of an aggressive death-dealing secularism (they are not wrong about that), they are way over their heads.


 


 

anne o'brien | 2/17/2012 - 12:48pm
Ronnie, The Pro-Lifers might appear loud and in-your-face, but don't assume that these same people aren't feeding the poor and caring for the sick when they are not outside the abortion clinic. There are plenty of Catholics, and people of all faiths, doing all kinds of good works. It isn't one or the other. Mother Teresa spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in 1985 of hunger and poverty with an authority few in the room could challenge; but even she claimed the "greatest destroyer" of peace was abortion. With all our choices and freedoms we aren't a healthier or happier people - teenage suicides, drug use, depression, STDs, sexual abuse, single motherhood are all on the rise. More soulful issues silenced in the name of "choice" torment our country's health. Our country's obsession with sexual freedom without personal responsibility is the cause of so much suffering and poverty of spirit and dignity.
God bless us all!