A Pro-Life/Social-Justice Catholic: Imagine That

Over at the USCCB Media Blog Sister Mary Ann Walsh pens a nice review of Mark Shriver’s A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver

Writes Sister:

Two moments stand out in the book for me. One was mention of the Choice Program, an effort Mark Shriver started with small government and foundation grants for youthful offenders moving into the work force. As he struggled to keep Choice afloat, he met a priest who offered help from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Mark worried about separation of Church and State. Sarge told him the separation was not to keep the Church from the poor. Mark later found a speech his father gave on the subject in 1966. He recalled the words:

Just three or four years ago, it was practically impossible for a federal agency to give a direct grant to a religious group. People said there was that wall between church and state. But we said that wall was put there to keep government out of the pulpit, not to keep the clergy away from the poor! The wall protects belief and even disbelief. It does not exclude compassion, poverty, suffering, injustice. That is common territory – not exclusively yours or mine but everybody’s. With no wall between. And so we said, Reverend Mr. Jones, or Father Kelly, or Rabbi Hirsh, if you’re not afraid to be seen in our company, we’re not afraid to be seen in yours – because we are all about Our Father’s business.”

The words made me long for someone to deliver that message today when some would trample religious rights by requiring all employers, including religious institutions, to pay for services that violate Church teachings, such as female sterilization and contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs.

Read it all.

Shriver was perhaps the last great, ardently, unapologetically pro-life Democrat who never got silenced or ignored. He managed to embrace a pro-life stance while not distancing himself from other social justice issues, which these days would make him something of a rare fish outside the USCCB, itself. I admired Sr. Simone Campbell’s recent admission that there is sometimes an element of pride, or snobbism, connected with a “social justice” Catholic’s reluctance to proclaim a “pro-life” moniker. Shriver shows it was always possible to pronounce our commitments in a way that needn’t separate. It takes time, patience, good-faith and love. Do we still have access to that stuff? :-)

UPDATE: Shriver’s name comes up here!

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  • Andy

    I think that there are a lot more social-justice pro-life catholics out there. Speaking for myself I find the responses I receive from pro-life Catholics when I talk about other issues of social justice to put me off. I value all life, but I think we must teach the value of life and not rely on political remedies or politicians or rallies or marches to move people to a pro-life stance. Prayerful, respectful and supportive presence would seem to for me be one powerful way of being pro-life. Working with parents and children who are in need would seem to be another equally as important way to demonstrate a pro-life attitude. I think the possibilities are endless in how we demonstrate being pro-life. I agree with Sister Campbell’s statement that we must regain the entire spectrum of catholic social thought, and remember that for each of us it plays out differently and must be respected. Thanks for letting me ramble.

  • kevin

    I haven’t read the book but I’ve always wondered how much tension there was between his father (and mother) and his uncle Ted after Ted went over to the legalized abortion side, and later championed it so aggressively. I will have to pick up a copy. I went to college with Mark and he’s a great credit to Holy Cross.