Ignoring the issues does not resolve them

Father John A. Kiley

The vilification of the bishop of Providence in news items, through published letters and over the Internet for his untiring defense of unborn life has been fostered by inter-faith clergy and by so-called “faithful Catholics” alike. The bishop’s defense of life along with other candid statements on moral issues has drawn attention from the New England regional press as well. While the pro-life and the pro-traditional marriage constituencies have cheered his Excellency’s observations on social issues, a number of commentators on local Web pages have accused Bishop Tobin of being “obsessed” with the topic of abortion.

Clearly the bishop’s alarm over millions of deaths of pre-born children is neither obsessive nor misguided. Soon to be sainted Blessed Pope John Paul II referred to abortion as the “greatest burden” of his pontificate. The bishop’s anxiety over abortion is motivated by the sad indifference of many in the Catholic community and by the driven agenda of many in the secular world. For example, while Bishop Tobin was being locally challenged in large print above the fold on page one, another news item appeared in small print on page five well below the fold. Emily’s List, “a national political action group that supports pro-choice Democrat female candidates” according to the Providence Journal, chose to endorse a local candidate for governor. Emily’s List has put over $350,000,000 into its anti-life efforts. Apparently their zeal is not obsessive. Public officials who welcome endorsements from pro-abortion lobbies like Emily’s List or public officials who actually enact legislation to assure abortions, here or elsewhere, provide sufficient provocation for the bishop of Providence, or any bishop, to speak up and speak out. Any religious leader with apostolic zeal would certainly share the same frame of mind. As indeed Pope Francis does.

While clearly favoring the off-the-cuff remarks of Pope Francis, many commentators ignore his official attitude toward precious, pre-born life expressed in his recent apostolic exhortation: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays, efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations.” It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”

True to his compassionate public persona, Pope Francis adds pastorally and sympathetically: “On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”

Loyal Catholics must realize that modern society is very secular in its thinking, very selective in its publishing, very political in its decisions. Authentic religious leaders will appreciate that the “Good News” will sometimes demand the bad news of self-discipline, self-examination, even self-denial. American Catholics should have learned by now that ignoring issues does not resolve them.