Abortion or Religion? A Quandary

When I taught at Wabash College, there was a Protestant non-demoninational congregation down the road that had a strong presence on campus and was well-known for its anti-Catholicism. Rock Point Church. They were especially prominent among athletes—I personally know of two (former) Catholics whom they convinced to leave the Church. I didn’t mind the evangelical side. We do that too. It was their toxic pulpit, ringing with an aggressive, Jack Chick-style of  rhetoric, replete with the usual historical blunders and nonsensical arguments.

You know the sort, right? No? Really? Wow. Well here’s one, on the Eucharist:

Our quiet and mild-mannered local priest met with the pastor, but his request for mutual respect fell on deaf ears. I grew to really despise the smug sanctimony and cheery-faced passive aggression that hid behind those pious “hearts on fire.” Even though we could have seemed to share common ground, I felt more distant and different to them then to any other campus sect, religious or otherwise. To me they were cut from the same, cowardly clothe as the guilt-riddled white liberals who loved to wring their hands at news headlines, but had no idea how to engage authentically with radical and serious differences.

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This brings me the topic at hand—abortion—broached yesterday by fellow Patheosi, Katrina Fernandez. She writes at The Crescat:

Well this is awkward. Here I was endorsing a pro-life organization only to find out they’re staunchly anti-Catholic. Like Jack Chick anti-Catholic, only more cliche. I’m always amazed to learn the reasons some people give to hate the Catholic Church. They are always profoundly stupid. The reasons, not the people. Though if they weren’t, wouldn’t they be Catholic. But I digress.

The screen shot really tells the whole story. The the rest of the post and the comments are revealing and informative and do the trick. I would usually quibble with the claim that all reasons to hate the Catholic Church are stupid—I can think of some very intelligent and reasonable reasons to hate the Church, but none of these are it. In this context, I get the point and have nothing to add to, or detract from, it.

If you want to join a countermovement of sorts, you may want to “like” this Facebook group: Abolish Human Abortion is Anti Catholic. I’m not sure that it matters, but it does raises a classic philosophical quandary, an interesting hypothetical to say the least. I’ll be curious to hear what you have to say about it.

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First, a quick note on hypotheticals: they are among the more perverse of philosophical habits. I don’t like coming up with hypotheticals for the sake of coming up with hypotheticals. I also find that most “possible world” scenarios make the serious philosophical mistake of equivocating between descriptive and normative events. In this skeptical spirit, I want to raise a hypothetical that follows along the contours of the disputes cited above. I do not fully understand the scope of the issue, but I do think that the standard “oh, this is an artificial binary; this dualism is false; it’s not an either/or” doesn’t quite work either. Perhaps in certain respects it does, but in the aspect that I think is relevant, on grand display above, it doesn’t help to reject the dialectic altogether.

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Imagine a scenario where you must either (a) oppose a person or organization that supports a cause you deeply and fully support or (b) disregard insult and injury toward your religious faith for the sake of the cause you support.

This may seem unique, but I think it is quite normal. It may have implications for the present relationship (or lack thereof) between the Republican and Democratic parties— and the US nation-state– in relation to the religious faith of a Roman Catholic. At its core, it’s about what is most important and what we can and should be doing about it.

What do you think?

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  • Petro

    Is this not the very essence of Catholicism in the United States?

    As white Euro-Catholics have assimilated themselves into American society, they have assimilated themselves into a culture that views the foundations of our faith as antithetical to being American either of religious or secular grounds. Somehow, we either ignore these concerns or, even worse, adopt these views and practices while insisting that we maintain our Catholicism.

    While pundits from one side of the political spectrum would like to put the blame for this contradiction in values on another side of the political spectrum, the truth is that the United States has always been Anti-Catholic from the anticlerical writings of some of the founding fathers to Jack-Chick tracts, from Know-Nothing parties to the burning of crosses on the yards of Catholic churches in the South. Yet, at the same time, values such as individuality and self-reliance are held so tightly by some American Catholics when the communal nature of our faith and our dependence upon God are some of the fundamental values which distinguish us from the Protestants.

    It always humored me to see Fireproof being played in Catholic parishes. Kirk Cameron and his group are also unabashedly anti-Catholic. We should be wary of the culture in which we exist. We should be hesitant to accept the notions about God and Country that it puts forth. The United States is not now, nor will it ever be, a Catholic nation. Some of its values were adopted with the express desire to counter the nature of a Church such as ours. We do ourselves a great injustice to forget or ignore this.

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