Pope Francis: Solidly Pro-Life

A oft used joke is to respond to a question whose answer is obviously yes by asking, “Is the Pope Catholic?”    A variant of this would be to ask, “Is the Pope Pro-Life?”:  the answer should be equally obvious.  But it appears that this is not, or at least no longer the case.   The most recent issue of Columbia, the house magazine of the Knights of Columbus, contains an article entitled The Gospel of Life According to Pope Francis.  It is a compilation of pro-life sermons, speeches and essays by the Pope, mostly written during his tenure has archbishop of Buenos Aires.  The preface to the collection is worth quoting in full:

During his 15 years as archbishop of Buenos Aires and his 10 months as Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has consistently defended the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. In the face of what Pope Francis has called the “throwaway culture” of our times, a recurring theme in his teaching has been concern for the most vulnerable and defenseless human beings, including children — born and unborn — the disabled, and the elderly. While he made it clear in a widely publicized interview that “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” it is equally clear that Pope Francis has not hesitated to speak out time and again about the crucial task of building a culture of life.

I find this passage surprising simply because the author felt necessary to write it:  I think you would be hard pressed to find a bishop (at least in United States) who has not “consistently defended the dignity of human life.”   Or as my son Kiko trenchantly put it, why are they beating a dead horse?   Previously, the Pope has been criticized for not speaking enough about pro-life issues; this article is responding to these criticisms in a way that suggests that some people (perhaps even among the readers of the magazine) suspect that the Pope is not firmly committed to the cause.

The interview referred to in the article is, of course, the famous in-depth exchange from La Civilta Cattolica, published in English by America Magazine.  The money quote, endlessly reported in the press, was the observation by Pope Francis that

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

It is worth noting the context:  he was asked a question about difficult pastoral issues, and it immediately follows a discussion about abortion in the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This passage was endlessly dissected by both Catholic and secular commentators; a great deal was read into it, and it was misinterpreted to varying degrees.  The apotheosis of this was the Kansas abortion clinic which posted a redaction of this quote (omitting the pro-life assertions in the middle) in order to chastise the anti-abortion protestors who gathered outside.  Or, in a similar vein, see the “thank you note” from NARAL dissected by my colleague Brett.

Nevertheless, to respond to these misinterpretations it would seem sufficient to simply give the full quote, perhaps highlight some other occasion where Pope Francis has spoken firmly against abortion (cf. LifeSite News) and move on.  Why publish a long article whose only point is to drive home the already obvious fact that the Pope is solidly pro-life?  I think the answer lies, at least in part, in the totalizing ideology that dominates in many parts of the pro-life movement:  a belief that abortion is the single most important moral issue in the world today.  The evidence for this is legion; one quote should suffice.  In 2006, Bishop Michael Pfeifer wrote:

Abortion is not just one issue among many. Abortion is the central moral issue, the conflict issue, of this moment in our nation’s history. Abortion is separated from other important social issues like a just wage, affordable housing, and even the debate over war, by a difference in kind, not a difference in degree.

In saying this I want to be very clear:  I am not attempting to downplay the significance of abortion.  But what I do believe is that there are other equally pressing issues and I do not think I am “betraying the unborn”  by paying attention to them.   My point of view, however, puts me at odds with large parts of the pro-life movement.

My most jarring encounter with this attitude came during a short stint as the parish liaison for the Arhcdiocesan pro-life ministry.   In as part of an attempt to reinvigorate the ministry, I put up a display in the vestibule highlighting a consistent life ethic.  One of the issues I raised was world hunger, and to drive home the gravity of the problem I compared the number of children who die from hunger and malnutrition each year to the number of abortions performed each year.  (There are approximately 3.1 million deaths annually from hunger, roughly comparable to the number of abortions, though obviously both statistics incorporate a great deal of guesswork.  The numbers I found at the time put the number of abortions slightly lower than the number of deaths from hunger. *UPDATE SEE BELOW*)  Someone in the parish vandalized the poster, deleting this comparison.    Why?  I do not know for sure but I can only surmise that it was because by making this comparison I was seen as derogating the centrality of abortion.

In saying this I realize that I am eliding over many nuances and differences between individuals.  Many, if not most pro-life activists I have known (including many in my Franciscan fraternity) are willing to engage with other issues.  Indeed, when doing anti-death penalty work I often got a great deal of encouragement from pro-life activists:  they would sign petitions, take literature back to their parishes, a few even invited me to speak about the death penalty.      But in a lot of cases, this engagement  was, as it were, at the periphery.  Abortion remained the central axis of their moral universe, and they would cooperate on other issues only as long as I did not challenge this dominance.

Given this attitude, the over-reaction to the comments by Pope Francis is understandable.  Any totalizing ideology is grounded in the (unspoken) belief that it fully explains the universe—but no ideology can.  When gaps appear, when the ideology cannot explain something satisfactorily, the adherents must paper this fact over.   And what could be more threatening to a Catholic pro-life activist than the thought that the Pope himself does not share their ideological beliefs?    The response has been immediate and overwhelming:  to preserve their weltanschauung, they must re-establish not simply that the Pope is pro-life, but that he is “solidly” pro-life:  that he too believes abortion is the most pressing issue facing the world today.   This point of view was clearly expressed by Kevin Burke, a pro-life activist.  He concludes an analysis of the Civilta Cattolica interview by writing:

Don’t believe the media hype pro lifers.  The Pope’s message in this interview and elsewhere is clearly one of affirmation and support with some always welcome spiritual direction.  The primacy of our cause remains as an imperative flowing from the Annunciation and incarnation of Christ our savior in the womb of our Blessed Mother Mary.  The Pope and the Church have your back.  (emphasis in original)

I think Mr. Burke is both right and wrong.  The Pope has his back in the sense that he is firmly committed to opposing abortion.  But the glossed over “welcome spiritual direction” is an attempt by the Pope to break through to the members of the pro-life movement, to get them to recognize and accept that the gospel of life is about more than abortion, and they need to be as passionate about poverty, world hunger and the devastating effects of economic inequality.  This is not because there is some facile inequality, but because all of these issues are manifestations of a throw-away culture that devalues persons and worships material wealth.

And this brings me back to the Knights of Columbus and their attempt to reaffirm that Pope Francis is really pro-life.  At their 131 annual convention, the Knights passed a pro-life resolution, something they have done for years.    Their commitment to opposing abortion is clear:  it rings out in the opening sentence:

WHEREAS, the Knights of Columbus has a deep and historic commitment to oppose any governmental action or policy that promotes abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and other offenses against life….

But when it comes to other issues, such as the death penalty, their position is tepid at best.  The fifth paragraph of the resolution reads

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Knights of Columbus will continue to uphold the traditional teaching of the Church concerning the death penalty, as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and by the late Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae.

When I was active in the anti-death penalty movement, this resolution was a source of joy and despair for me.  Joy, because I could use it to point out that the largest Catholic organization in the state was on our side; despair, because the leadership reflected the spirit of this resolution.  They were against the death penalty because the Church told them to be against it, but there was no passion.  Their sole focus was on the “important” issues, such as abortion (or more recently, gay marriage).   As a Knight, I can only pray that the K of C will really listen to Pope Francis, and understand what he is calling us all to do:  to really be pro-life and not simply against abortion.

Postscript:  My discussion of the totalizing ideology of the pro-life movement is indebted to the political philosophy of Slavoj Zizek, whose ideas I have discussed in several posts (here and here).    Though not central to my argument I would be happy to further pursue his ideas in the commboxes.

Update (1/26/2014):  It was pointed out to me in the commboxes below that this comparison is off by an order of magnitude.  This incident happened almost 10 years ago, and I no longer have a copy of the poster I am referring to.  My memory is clear that I was comparing abortion and deaths from hunger and disease, but I am no longer certain about the exact comparison.  I apologize for the error.

About David Cruz-Uribe
  • Mike McG…

    David:

    I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with your conviction of Francis’ unstinting support for the unborn and their advocates while yet wondering how you seem to miss ‘why’ movement prolifers might ‘feel’ a level insecurity about Francis’ reframing that seeks reassurance. Instead of welcoming the reassurances the Knights of Columbus article offers, you seem to find it annoying that prolifers would need reassurance.

    But first a question: Do you find it equivalently annoying when the ‘spirit’ of some progressive Catholic pronouncements offers seemingly pro forma opposition to abortion (or none at all) but reserves its passion for more conventional peace and justice concerns? Passion cuts both ways, no? The stances of ‘totalizing’ groups are parallel across the ideological spectrum. Few of us embrace the seamless garment in all of its particulars with equivalent enthusiasm.

    I am convinced that many prolifers ‘feel’ that often peace and justice Catholics are nominally prolife but ignore/oppose any advocacy that challenges the legality of abortion. Such prolife perceptions are borne of real life experiences of rejection from no small number of their progressive brethren. They feel, not without reason, that the predominant response they elicit from progressives is exasperation. That stings, and it predisposes some to suspicion.

    I am a progressive Chicago Catholic who came up in the Bernardin era of consistent life advocacy. Most of my progressive Catholic friends have gradually migrated from a consistent ethic stance to one of fairly categorical, even harsh stereotyping of prolifers and of distancing themselves from the prolife message. Noteable is their characterization of prolifers; they once were ‘us,’ even when there were differences on tactics, but now they’re ‘them.’ I am amazed at how many of my friends are remarkably sanguine about abortion and comfortable identifying as prochoice. It is not for no reason that prolife Catholics feel insecure.

    Imagine the passion that most animates you. Now imagine that others, including your coreligionists, seems to be tacking away from that concern. Imagine that the papacy seemed supportive when other sectors of your tradition were not…but now the pope ‘seems’ to label your passion as an obsession without similarly critiquing those deeply devoted to women’s ordination or marriage equality or any number of passions more in tune with the zeitgeist. I am certain Francis is a kindred spirit to pro lifers but perhaps they can be forgiven their concerns, their fears of abandonment.

    Baruch Spinoza wrote, “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them.” I think that prolifers are entitled to such understanding. I wonder whether the scorn they provoke among progressive Catholics and the infrequency with which we come to their defense doesn’t say more about us than it says about them.

    • Melody

      “…they once were ‘us,’ even when there were differences on tactics, but now they’re ‘them.’ ”
      “Us and them” pretty well summarizes the whole problem, both in the Church and in society as a whole. I interpret Pope Francis’ words to be in part addressing this polarization; that somehow we have to get back to the Church being “us”.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        A useful insight, Melody. The question is, what led to this polarization? Can we sort this out with simply blaming one side or the other?

        • Melody

          One thing which I feel is a contributing factor to polarization is the ease with which people can self-sort now. I am referring of course to the internet. Not to demonize it; I am well aware that it is just a tool which can be used for good or ill. But there is the law of unintended consequences. People can pretty much move around inside their comfort zones without venturing outside them, to an extent which was not possible prior to the widespread availability of the internet. It is easy for people to revert to a type of tribalism without even realizing that this is what they are doing. To counter this, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable, at least enough to dialogue with those whom we consider “the others”. And hopefully maybe we could lose facile, throw-away characterizations of others, such as, “The pro-life movement is a war on women”, and “Pro-choice means you’re okay with killing babies.”

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Mike, you raise a lot of good questions. Let me tackle a couple of them; I hope others chime in. You explicitly ask:

    “But first a question: Do you find it equivalently annoying when the ‘spirit’ of some progressive Catholic pronouncements offers seemingly pro forma opposition to abortion (or none at all) but reserves its passion for more conventional peace and justice concerns?”

    Answer: yes and no. Some opposition really is pro forma, much in the same way that I interpret the K of C stance on capital punishment pro forma: we are against abortion because the Church told us we have to be. No, because a number of Catholics who focus on peace and justice issues are completely open to supporting anti-abortion efforts, but are devoted to raising the visibility of these other issues within the Church. I have felt the exasperation you mention: it arose directly from confronting the totalizing attitudes I was was talking about or from suggesting that the legal strategy adopted by the pro-life movement was not working.

    While I can understand the concerns you are raising about the “fears of abandonment” pro-lifers might feel, I think they are vastly overblown, and the existence of these fears points to (as Zizek would argue) a libidinal attachment at the seat of the ideology that is being threatened. When the vast majority of bishops in the US are firmly supportive, when the largest lay Catholic organization in the US (the K of C) gives millions of dollars to support their cause, when innumerable grass-roots pro-life organizations flourish, it is hard to sympathize with the view that they are embattled. I am not saying that they don’t feel embattled, and on a personal level I can feel sympathy for them. But on a global level I want to analyze the reasons they feel this way.

  • Paul Connors

    “There are approximately 3.1 million deaths annually from hunger, roughly comparable to the number of abortions”

    Where did you get those comparative statistics from?

    The 3.1 million deaths seems to come from a recent study in Lancet, which concluded that 3.1 millions deaths worldwide in children under five were attributable to hunger/malnutrition.

    For worldwide statistics on abortion, the Guttmacher Institute (quoting from another Lancet study) estimates that in 2008 there were about 44 million abortions.

    Someone in the parish vandalized the poster, deleting this comparison. Why?

    Because your comparison was way off.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Paul,

      thank you for calling this to my attention. This happened over 10 years ago, and it is clear that I do not remember the details correctly. I remember that the comparison involved world hunger, and that whatever statistic I cited about abortion they were comparable.
      I have updated the post to note this.

      I have a abhorrence for the misuse of statistics and I am pretty sure that whatever data I had was from a reliable source. Therefore, your explanation for the vandalism is not correct. They may have thought the numbers were wrong, but I believe it was the comparison they did not like.

    • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

      This is truly sobering. Is there a breakdown, regarding how many of these abortion-murders were in the Third World, and how many were in the undeveloped world? I’m betting that at least half were in Europe and North America. Am I correct?

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008 of 44 million abortions, 6 million were in the developed world and 38 million were in the developing world. They note that this reflects the distribution of population. Before jumping on these numbers it would be worth digging a little deeper to see what and how they count as an abortion.

        • Paul Connors

          “Before jumping on these numbers …”

          A full copy of the Lancet paper that the Guttmacher Institute refers to can be found here. It is clear that the abortion statistics refer to induced abortions, and exclude any kind of spontaneous abortion.

          “… it would be worth digging a little deeper to see what and how they count as an abortion.”

          Looking for what?

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Not everyone counts use of the various kinds of morning after pills as abortions. This will change statistics for some Western European countries significantly. And in some developing nations (Bangladesh comes to mind) they practice “late menstrual extraction” which is not always counted as an abortion by some folks.

            More generally, whenever using statistics it is always good practice to understand in detail what the numbers mean. This is really all I had in mind.

  • Mike McG…

    David:

    Thanks for engaging. If I get you, there are points on which we do agree, points on which we may agree, and point on on which we apparently disagree. And that’s OK.

    I think we do agree that…

    …it is legitimate to focus on raising the visibility of a specific constellation of issues and remain relatively silent on other constellations of issues and that, in fact, such is the MO for most of us;

    …many Catholics who emphasize one constellation of issues are fully on board with ‘other’ Catholic teachings even if they are less visibly associated with them;

    …some Catholics adopts postures that range from indifference to active opposition to the ‘other’ constellation of issues, with the dissonance sometimes disguised as pro forma agreement and sometimes fully evident for all to see.

    I think we may agree that…

    …we tend to be more indulgent of the selective enthusiasm of our teammates than those on the other team;

    …many of those of us who engage the neuralgic issues of the day have paid a price for standing up for our principles and felt the sting of disdain from those who strongly adhere to the ‘other’ point of view;

    …most of us are more attentive to the wounds we have sustained than the ones we’ve inflicted.

    I think we may disagree that…

    …peace and justice progressives are generally on the receiving end of such mistreatment and prolife conservatives are generally inflicting the pain; my experience is that disdain is an equal opportunity affliction and that all who engage in the fray have endured painful wounds;

    …Zizek is credible if he argues that libidinal attachment to an ideology is a uniquely conservative affliction; certainly there are any number of progressive causes (most of which I personally support) that attract a level of threat projection equivalent to that of the prolife movement;

    …that the prolife movement has any reason to be sanguine about its prospects in light of the money it now attracts when we progressives in fact actively *oppose* much of the very episcopal and K of C support that they seek.

    So, yes, I think that it is difficult to be sympathetic to those who sponsor an agenda deeply discordant with our own moral matrix. But also, yes, that it exactly what we are called to do.

    Aside: Sometimes we can find common ground in our shared psychological processes that eludes us when we focus on our differing ideological predispositions. For those unacquainted, Jon Haidt is a valuable resource. His The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religious is exceptional in helping us sort through our own confirmation bias.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Mike,

      you have well identified the places where we completely agree.

      On the “may agrees”, I would only add that I was first attracted to the consistent life ethic precisely because the people I met were very much focused on calling out their friends—that is telling the pro-life movement that there were more life issues than abortion, and telling the peace and justice crowd that abortion was violence and contrary to everything they stood for.

      In the “may disagrees”: First, Zizek is attempting to create a general theory of political philosophy, applicable to the left and right. So he explicitly does not treat this as peculiarly conservative affliction. Rather, he argues that it is intrinsic to any ideological system. See my post about traversing the Christian fantasy for the application of these ideas to Christianity.

      Second, I am not sure that “we progressive” actively oppose episcopal or K of C support for the pro-life movement. In my experience we just wanted the bishops and the Knights to “share the wealth,” as it were. If you treat this as a zero-sum gain, then yes, this would be taking away from the pro-life movement. But I don’t think this is the case: I at least argued that this was a way to expand the base for all the causes.

      Finally, while I see the parallels you are drawing, and I agree that some P&J Catholics dish it out as good as they get, I disagree with what I see as your attempt to treat the two sides as equal and opposite. I do not think that this is the case and this is what I was trying to indicate by pointing to the much more extensive institutional support the pro-life movement gets.

      Now what I would be interested in is more evidence that P&J Catholics are as much trapped in a totalizing ideology as pro-life Catholics. I ask this honestly: if I have a blind spot I would like to rectify it. My personal circumstances have generally made me among the most progressive Catholic in whatever situation I find myself in. (E.g., I have never belonged to a parish with a thriving peace and justice ministry, however defined.) The one exception is the Catholic Worker movement: all of my friends in that are way to the “left” of me. But I have always been amazed by the fact that they cooperate with the most militant crisis pregnancy center in town. On the other hand, as one of them indicated to me, while the Catholic Worker is opposed to abortion, their hope is that the folks at the crisis pregnancy center will come to understand the issues of social and economic justice that underlie the problems of the women who come to them for help. This again points to my reservations with trying to paint the two sides as equal and opposite.

      • Mike McG…

        David:

        Thanks again for leading such a rich conversation. I’d like to pick up on the following comment:

        “Now what I would be interested in is more evidence that P&J Catholics are as much trapped in a totalizing ideology as pro-life Catholics. I ask this honestly: if I have a blind spot I would like to rectify it…I have always been amazed by the fact that (the Catholic Worker folks) cooperate with the most militant crisis pregnancy center in town…(T)heir hope is that the folks at the crisis pregnancy center will come to understand the issues of social and economic justice that underlie the problems of the women who come to them for help. This again points to my reservations with trying to paint the two sides as equal and opposite.”

        I accept the integrity of your comments without reserve. It is clear to me that they are a fair representative of your experience in the trenches. I suspect you might grant the same presupposition to an earlier comment of mine:

        “I am a progressive Chicago Catholic who came up in the Bernardin era of consistent life advocacy. Most of my progressive Catholic friends have gradually migrated from a consistent ethic stance to one of fairly categorical, even harsh stereotyping of prolifers and of distancing themselves from the prolife message…I am amazed at how many of my friends are remarkably sanguine about abortion and comfortable identifying as prochoice. It is not for no reason that prolife Catholics feel insecure.” And, I might add, my friends wouldn’t be caught dead near a crisis pregnancy center.

        I think we might agree that both of our comments are, at some level, anecdotal. Generalization from our limited sample sizes ‘feels’ true, but it is hard for us to escape confirmation bias, “the tendency to seek out and interpret new evidence in ways that confirm what we already think.”

        It is clear from your comments that you consciously avoid the sort of polarization can is so lethal, the kind in which ‘the other’ is simply a cartoon character to loathe. But that kind of polarization *is* out there. Sean Cardinal O’Malley describes such polarization as a ‘cancer in the Church.’ And it is plainly evident in blogs of all persuasions. I take your critique of the assertion that the two sides are equally to blame. But isn’t the opposite formulation, that ‘they’ do it and ‘we’ don’t, equally suspect?

        In a brilliant essay in Salon, Michael Rubens opined as follows: “People are complex and can hold different views and still be moral actors…Maybe you already grasp that concept, because you have good friends or loving relatives with beliefs that are wildly divergent from your own. But I tend to think my experience is more typical: I lived in a little bubble surrounded by people who think more or less like me. And when I considered people with opposing viewpoints I would turn into a fabulist, concocting an entire narrative of who they were and what they were like — and what they were like was yucko…I think we should all fight hard for what we believe in, but I’d like to put in a request for some general slack cutting.” Michael Rubens, Salon, April 27, 2012 http://www.salon.com/2012/04/27/the_daily_show_guide_to_my_enemies/

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Mike,

        I took your original comment about your progressive friends to heart. To clarify my request: can you flesh this out with specific details in a case or two? I try to do this myself in my writing as I personally find such textured examples more enlightening (because they reveal complexity) than broader assertions (even though true).

        Later, you wrote:

        “I take your critique of the assertion that the two sides are equally to blame. But isn’t the opposite formulation, that ‘they’ do it and ‘we’ don’t, equally suspect?”

        I agree completely, and I was not trying to construct a false dichotomy. But I think the way forward from this juncture, one which heals the breach between progressives and conservatives and reunites us in defense of life, requires an honest and critical assessment of where we have been. Jesus’ injunction about “motes and beams” is relevant here, and I think progressives need to own up to the ways in which they have turned away from abortion. But I think the progressive critique of the hierarchy and the ways in which it has not embraced a consistent life ethic needs to be acknowledged by conservatives.

        • Mike McG…

          David:

          We’re in full agreement. Healing the breach is exactly what needs to happen and discussions like this one are an important first step.

          I’d be happy to flesh out my experiences with progressive friends but I’m not sure this thread is the appropriate venue. Backchannel?

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            “I’d be happy to flesh out my experiences with progressive friends but I’m not sure this thread is the appropriate venue. Backchannel?”

            I’d prefer to keep it public, if only because it can help enhance the broader conversation. Share as much or as little as you see fit.

      • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

        I’m curious what makes a crisis pregnancy center “militant?”

        I’d also be curious how you would feel about people referring to say, a battered woman’s shelter or food pantry as “militant.”

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          John,

          sorry I am late in responding. I have been busy at school and your two comments intrigued me and I wanted to think about my response. As to the word militant, I realize that this word is often taken as pejorative. I have used it in that way, but I also use it as a descriptive—e.g. when I talk about “militant labor organizers.” A lot of times, militant means making people very uncomfortable, and the question becomes whether what they do is fruitful or whether it ultimately works against their cause.

          So what makes this particular crisis pregnancy center militant? Well, they chose to locate directly across the street from an abortion clinic. The bulk of their supporters belong to the most active of the direct action pro-life groups, leading weekly prayer vigils at the clinic across the street. They also engage sidewalk counseling; from what I have witnessed this ranges from prayerful accompaniment to harassment of women entering the clinic. (I still cannot shake from my memory the image of a middle aged white man, his face clenched, chasing a young Puerto Rican woman down the street. I was not close enough to hear their exchange, but his body language screamed anger, and hers fear.) The director of this clinic is known to take an uncompromising stand on moral issues. My wife witnessed an exchange between her and a woman attempting to organize local support for a new ministry to sexually active teenagers: girls who were either engaged in prostitution or who were acting out in sexually destructive ways. The director denounced the proposed ministry for not going out and telling these young women that their only moral option was chastity. She rejected any argument that they needed to reach out these women where they were.

          Your question about militant women’s shelters or food pantries was an interesting one. The closest thing I could think of, one which I would describe as militant, was when a group of Catholic Worker’s set up a soup kitchen on the steps of the Cathedral on a Sunday morning. Their two-fold goal was to both feed the hungry and challenge the Church goers over their complacency. (And, some would say, they also wanted to embarrass the Archbishop.)

  • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

    Considering the direction that the culture of the United States has gone in during the last forty years, to criminalize abortion would be an essentially violent act; it would use the force of the State to set back women’s rights, according to the way many women feel–mistakenly, we, of course, believe. The only way left to halt the widespread use of abortion as a prophylactic is to convince women, one at a time, unfortunately, that it is an act against life, and an act against THEM. To refuse to engage in this slow, grueling conversation is, essentially, to give up, and to claim that one is “combating abortion” through political palaver. Meanwhile, I’m sorry, but I agree with the political stance of Hillary Clinton: “Abortion should be legal and available but rare”–in THIS benighted culture.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “but I agree with the political stance of Hillary Clinton: “Abortion should be legal and available but rare”–in THIS benighted culture.”

      Dismas, a lot of progressive Catholics have argued this point as a matter of prudence and I think it is worth discussing. Of the top of my head there are two problems with this approach. First, it does have the tendency to “normalize” abortion and reduce it to an evil we put up with rather than an evil we confront. (Here, I think of slavery.) Second, there are continual pressures from the secular left to expand abortion to a “right”, and in particular to a “right” the state should pay for. I may be willing to tolerate the existence of legal abortions, but I am far less happy about paying for it. Of course, I am not also not happy about paying for America’s neo-imperialist military stance, but that is a regrettably large part of my tax bill.

      Interesting question: if the law changes to the extent that the State does start paying for abortions, will any pro-life Catholics become tax resisters, in the way that a small faction of the pacifist movement have become tax resistors so that they do not pay for war?

      • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

        We will obviously have to. I may not want to go to war with the feminist movement over what damned things some women want to do with their own bodies, but I’ll also be damned if I’m paying for it.

        • Wj

          The anxiety about the pro-life status of the Pope is a largely American phenomenon, and as such is directly related to the ways that liberal capitalism has defused the potentially revolutionary practice of the Church by coopting this practice to its own ends. Thus the self – understanding of the progressive “liberal” catholic depends upon the existence of “conservative” pro-life catholics, and vice versa. These terms function really as cultural-political markers: they stake out a divide among catholics that is analogous to and intelligible in terms of the divide in liberal politics–as managed and reinforced by media outlets, academicians, political structures, etc.–which outlines the “real” options available for political action and invites us to choose between them. For this reason, indeed, those progressive catholics (not you, David) who revel in the pro-lifers’ anxiety about Francis are just reinforcing the “truth” of a divide which is necessary for the self – identity of both parties.

          A very good analysis of this dynamic was offered some time ago by Patrick Deneen in the American Conservative. I agree for the most part with his analysis, though my Aristotelian-Marxist leanings suggest to me that Deneen’s critique of the liberal politics that by this point simply dominates catholic ecclesial understanding – – especially among the bishops, most of whom are too stupid to think creatively about these things (say what you will about the ancien regime, but at least it invested the episcopal office with enough status and power to attract real talent)–falters when the economic form of this politics comes into view. (I agree with Owen White (aka the ochlophobist) that the so-called third way of distributism leads, given the productive capacity of our current technology, in the direction of either socialism or anarcho-capitalism. I am with the socialists.)

          But, getting back to the pro-lifers, I believe that the attempt to relieve their anxiety or to point out their poor apprehension or understanding of the integrity of Catholic teaching is pointless and, frankly, counterproductive. They are right to have misgivings about Francis, of course. But both they and their counterparts the progressives are so embedded in liberal American institutions – – think-tanks, charities, journals, foundations, national parties – – that each will find a way to continue the narrative they’ve constructed for themselves come what may.

          • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

            Wj, thanks for the thoughtful response. A lot to think about, but let me come back on one point immediately: speaking of pro-lifers you write

            “They are right to have misgivings about Francis, of course.”

            Why do you think this? My article points out a general phenomenon which I don’t think is too closely linked to Pope Francis except that his rhetorical style by its nature tends to undermine their dominant narrative (even though he is closely aligned to them in terms of opposition to abortion). But do you think there is something else specific about Francis that will justify their anxieties?

    • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

      I’m curious how you would feel about the following sentiment:

      Given our culture’s embrace of unfettered capitalism, enacting redistributive taxes to bring about justice for the poor would be a violent act. The only way to bring about justice for the poor is to convince wealthy people, one by one, to share their wealth with their poor brothers and sisters openly and without coercion. To refuse to engage in this slow, grueling conversation is, essentially, to give up, and to claim that one is “combating poverty” through political palaver. Meanwhile, I’m sorry, but I agree with the political stance that people should decide for themselves what to do with their wealth. In THIS benighted culture.

      Would you think someone expressing something like this “got it?” If you care about justice for the poor, would you think someone expressing this was on your side in a meaningful way?

      And this is for people to give up their wealth, not refrain from killing.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Well, for what it is worth, a lot of Christian anarchists feel this way. See Dorothy Day’s extensive (though scattered) writing on the State.

  • Wj

    David,

    They are right to be worried about him only because he threatens to undermine a key aspect of their self-image, whichEven, olves the alignment of their antecedent held political and social beliefs–basically Reaganomic in economics, militaristic in foreign policy, and culturally reactionary–with something called “faithful” or “orthodox” Catholicism. Describing abortion as the bishop does, as an issue that differs in kind and not only in degree from other issues, allows the “orthodox” or “faithful” prolifer to present himself as witnessing to a counter-cultural commitment to human dignity (available on the basis of reason alone, but strengthened through ecclesial identification) even as it ensures that this commitment will, in practice, conform to and even reinforce the aims of what is called movement conservatism. The Knights of Columbus, EWTN, Lifesite News, CatholicCulture, various “faithful” catholic colleges, etc. all broadly instantiate this dynamic. (There are always, of course, exceptions.)

    Francis challenges this framework by suggesting that the titles of orthodox or faithful not only cannot be reduced to the attempt to criminalize abortion through political processes, but are themselves not even the most important marker of Catholic identity, which Francis tends to want to associate more with right practice than with right beliefs. (Hence all the talk about risking mistakes and so on.)

    The (frankly unlikely) danger as perceived by the prolifers is that, by removing this link, the Pope will undermine their claim to represent “orthodox” Catholicism rather than the interests of (mostly) older white wealthy people whose opposition to abortion is connected to an essentially reactionary mindset rather than to catholicism per se. This danger would, eventually, mean loss of income, access, prestige, etc. for those professionally involved, and so both the prolifers and their funders have either (1) misrepresented, (2) claimed not to have understood, or (3) rejected the Pope’s analysis as naive, parochial, or–the strongest term of resistance – – liberal.

  • http://eclecticmeanderings.blogspot.com/ Hank

    David

    None of the problems mentioned will be solved without a generous amount of God’s grace.

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

    “1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. . .”

    What is the “proper due” for a country that has killed over 50 million of it’s children? If abortion is not up front among our priorities I have a hard time seeing why He would give us the grace to successfully address the other problems.

    But He is infinitely merciful – PRAY!

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, if you want to phrase it in those terms, what is the proper due for a nation that has watched 10s of millions of children die of hunger and malnutrition over the past decades? “When did I see you hungry, and not give you something to eat?” seems a very, very weak defense.

      But again, my argument would be that this is not an either/or situation. We are called to address all of these issues faithfully.

  • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

    I guess I would challenge why, if these other issues are so important to you, you invest so much time and energy analyzing those who have different passions.

    If you want to advocate for other issues, advocate for other issues! This need to psychoanalize pro-lifers (based on thier appaernt need to re-assure themselves that Pope Francis is pro-life) is, in my opinion, part of what drives this suspicion you seem to be lamenting.

    You seem to see those those who prioritize legal restrictions on abortion as an odd collection of people worthy of some kind of intellectual curiosity but certainly not sympathy or support. This viewpoint does seem to not be uncommon in those driving conversations about Catholicism, and that this will lead to the marginalization of the pro-life cause is not an absurd thought.

    You can help this by offering your support rather than your detached analysis.

    • Melody

      I honestly am not getting a vibe of merely intellectual curiosity or detachment on pro-life issues from David’s writing. It is true that he doesn’t write predictable boilerplate type of things on the subject. His best pro-life writing is found in the text of postings about other (but related) issues. This post is particularly up-close and personal, and very far from detached: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/2013/10/12/telling-parents-their-unborn-child-has-down-syndrome/
      One shouldn’t have to constantly belabor the issue to retain one’s pro-life creds.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Thank you Melody.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      John,

      Objective critique is important, perhaps doubly important about the issues that you care about. When I was active in the anti-death penalty movement, it was very painful for us, as an organization, to acknowledge that we were working hard and accomplishing nothing. But ultimately the critique of our strategy and tactics by outside organizations and the resulting redirecting of our organization was critical to our success in abolishing the death penalty in CT.

      The pro-life movement is important, but if someone like me, who is fully opposed to abortion, finds them problematic and off-putting, and this feeling is shared by many other people, then I think an objective analysis of what I perceive to be their weaknesses is in order. You may dismiss my argument with the label “psycho-analyzing” or implicitly accuse me of undermining the movement by offering “detached analysis” instead of “support”, but that does not address the issues I raise. It sounds to me as though you want me to privilege the pro-life movement and not subject it to any kind of scrutiny.

      • http://profiles.google.com/JohnMcG johnmcg

        This post, however, seems to start with the conclusion and work backward.

        Let’s look at the inputs that prompted this post:

        * The K of C publishing a series of articles demonstrating that Pope Frances is pro-life.

        * The K of C’s statement of opposition to the death penalty.

        Both of these are good things.

        But, not, apparently, good enough for you. The series of articles isn’t good, because they establish something that shouldn’t need to be established. The statement on the death penalty is bad because you can apparently see into the souls of those writing it and tell it’s not really heartfelt.

        It’s like one spouse telling another “I love you,” and the other spouse seeing this as a reason for criticism because if the love were real, it wouldn’t need to be expressed.

        What other groups are subject to such “scrutiny?”

        This scrutiny is not actionable. how exactly would you have the K of C ;leadership respond to uneasiness in their ranks about Francis’s commitment to the pro-life cause? With a lecture about how wrong they are?

        How exactly is your post going to move the K of C’s embrace of opposition to the death penalty be more heartfelt? It seems to me that if there hearts are where you say they are, they are taking the right steps to move in that direction, starting with intellectual assent and docility to the Church’s teachings. I fail to see what saying, “but you don’t really mean it!” can possibly accomplish.

        If all progressive Catholics could bring themselves to echo the Church’s positions on the rights of the unborn, even if it wasn’t heartfelt, that would be a great day. And if pro-lifers turned their noses up at this gift because they suspected it was not heartfelt, they would be in for some deserved criticism.

        It seems to me the primary impact of posts like this is to comfort your more progressive readers that those pro-lifers really are the Other, really are messed up, and not worth working with, deepening rifts in the Body of Christ.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        John,

        my primary interest in writing this was not to criticize the KofC for publishing this article—it is a fact that for some reason their readership is uncertain whether Pope Francis really is pro-life. My goal was to analyze the underlying reasons for this lack of concern. As I tried to argue, from my perspective there seemed to be no reason for this concern, and the article seemed an over-reaction. That some people do not think it was an over-reaction but a worthy response to their concerns only adds to the reason for asking the question in the first place. I come back to a point where I think we fundamentally disagree: I think asking the question and trying to analyze what is going on is worthy exercise. If it gives “comfort to [my] more progressive leaders” that is not my intention, and I hope that they will look more deeply at the questions I am raising instead of using this as an excuse to vilify the pro-life movement.

        As for the failure of the leadership of the Kof C to make the death penalty a priority, no matter what their resolution says: I cannot read their hearts, but I can judge their actions. Moreover, as a Knight myself I have a dog in this fight, as it were. Now to be fair, in other states the Knights have stepped up. I was told by the former director of the anti-DP movement in New Jersey that a number of Knights were very active in the grass roots campaign that brought about abolition in NJ. I don’t know if this was a state council initiative, an initiative of local councils, or just groups of Knights taking the matter up on their own. But I can say that in CT the state council sat this one out, despite repeated requests for help by me and others.

  • Kurt

    Most of my progressive Catholic friends have gradually migrated from a consistent ethic stance to one of fairly categorical, even harsh stereotyping of prolifers and of distancing themselves from the prolife message. Noteable is their characterization of prolifers; they once were ‘us,’ even when there were differences on tactics, but now they’re ‘them.’

    I would be one of those progressive Catholics and have no apologies.

    I might not join them, but I don’t particularly have a problem with those who “totalize” abortion or who give it a primacy above all other issues. David notes such people and yes they do exist, but I don’t think they are the problem, nor the dominant voice in the pro-life movement today.

    I don’t accept that the poster defacer is a proponent of the totality of abortion school. If so, why stand idly by until David came around to reinvigorate it? No, my assumption is that the person was threatened by the possibility that the pro-life cause could be presented in a way that did not serve secular conservativism. We saw this in Bishop Tobin’s recent attack on the late Nelson Mandela. It was a mistake for those who claimed this was a sign of the bishop’s degree of attachment to the anti-abortion cause. He used the pro-life issue to attack a man of the Left who advocated causes of the Left such as anti-apartheid and social democracy while Bishop Tobin left without criticism an abortion rights advocate like Margaret Thatcher, a union busting, anti-welfare state conservative. For Tobin, there is no primacy of the abortion issue. It is something selectively used to denigrate opponents of apartheid but not to be employed against economic Right-wingers.

    The shifting standard of what is “tax payer funding of abortion” where pro-life groups and bishops have done a 180 degree turn from the previous administration to the current is one more example.

    Accepting that success come to any movement by have a diversity of actions, some of the most effective pro-life work in the past has been done by pro-life persons simply quietly witnessing their opposition to abortion within communities and organizations working on various progressive causes. That is how International Socialism actually voted DOWN a resolution to go on record supporting abortion rights. Nowdays, such work is denigraded by some bishops and considered to be the work of traitors by the pro-life movement.

    I would welcome a return of the pro-life movement to simply oppose abortion and not involve itself in other issues (such as the NRTLC’s assertion that it is ‘anti-life” to support campaign finance reform) rather than the political games currently played by those who control the movement. Until then, yes, I view such pro-lifers as “them” and no longer to be “us”.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Kurt,

      you have made this argument about the alliance between the pro-life movement and secular conservatism before, and I think it has some merit. As part of my discussion with Mike above, I think this is an issue that needs to be on the table if we are going to manage to reunite left and right in the cause against abortion. However, I don’t think it provides a complete explanation of what is involved in the pro-life movement. In particular, I don’t think you can use it to explain the phenomenon that motivated this post: the apparent over-reaction to suggestions that Pope Francis was not “solidly pro-life”. WJ in his comment above makes some observations which lead in this direction, but at the moment I am still more convinced by my “totalizing ideology” argument.

      You also wrote:

      “No, my assumption is that the person was threatened by the possibility that the pro-life cause could be presented in a way that did not serve secular conservativism.”

      I freely admit that my interpretation of this incident is speculative, but I am having trouble seeing this as an alternative reading. How is a poster that talks about world hunger a threat to secular conservatism? I no longer remember the details, and as I said I cannot find a copy of the poster, but my hazy memory is that it addressed hunger as an issue of charity and not one involving economic injustice or inequality.

      “We saw this in Bishop Tobin’s recent attack on the late Nelson Mandela. It was a mistake for those who claimed this was a sign of the bishop’s degree of attachment to the anti-abortion cause.”

      Your point here about Bishop Tobin is spot on, and I do need to reflect on this dichotomy some more. I think this can still be explained within the framework of my argument of a totalizing ideology: given the central importance of abortion, the fact that the right has adopted this cause (or pretends to have adopted it) gives it a privileged status. The failure of individuals on the right to oppose abortion is overlooked as a personal failing, since the movement as a whole “supports” the cause. Conversely, the left “opposes” the cause and therefore, deserves to be condemned, irrespective of the actual actions of individuals on the left. The glaring inconsistencies this generates are part and parcel of embracing any ideology, and must be papered over to maintain a sense of internal consistency. Thus we have the bishop going off on Mandela in a way which does him no credit and does the pro-life movement no help.

  • Julia Smucker

    I felt a vague discomfort with this post as I read it, and the exchanges here with Mike and John have helped point to what it is. Within the past couple of years or so, I have regretfully noticed that the greatest pains to show how much more ideological, polarized and just plain nasty the “other side” is are generally being taken from the left. I say “regretfully” because I take no delight in calling out hypocrisy on the part of people I tend to agree with on matters of social justice. Maybe it’s because of that broad agreement that I am all the more annoyed when those who feel so strongly compelled to point out inconsistencies on the right fail to see the log in their own eye. (I do know that invoking the parable in reference to others brings me dangerously close to missing the whole point, and I am aware of my own need to check myself against the tempting presumption of being uniquely balanced.)

    So, while nobody can work with equal fervor on all “issues” (even if we acknowledge, as we should, the connections among them), I do think it is a fair question to ask whether you would be as bothered by someone taking an impassioned stance on poverty or the death penalty but sounding lukewarm on abortion. Unfortunately, I can’t deny that I know what you mean when you refer to tendencies toward “totalizing ideology” within the pro-life movement, which again is all the more bothersome to me given how fundamentally I agree with the cause they are trying to support. And I don’t doubt for a minute your commitment to the consistent life ethic. But even so, when you criticize people on the right for criticizing people on the left just because they are “the left”, I can’t help but think that you appear to be playing the same game.

    • brian martin

      noticing the “speck in our neighbor’s eye and failing to notice the beam in our own?”

    • http://digbydolben.wordpress.com dismasdolben

      Exactly WHAT do you want people to do, then, Julia? Do you want Catholics who understand that they are a cultural and theological sub-culture to support the campaigns of Catholic bishops who neglect the other “seamless garment” issues to militarize the laity in favour of a politically futile struggle with the secularists and feminists who are the majority now in America? It seems to me that Pope Francis has told you that he will not support such a course, and that he wants something that is more prayerful, more sophisticated and less abrasive. Both sides in this discussion within the Church need to quiet down and have discussion regarding what to do practically–in order to, at least, know what to do to divorce themselves from the increasingly pagan and anti-Christian (and, in my opinion, Protestant-heretical) society.

    • Kurt

      I do think it is a fair question to ask whether you would be as bothered by someone taking an impassioned stance on poverty or the death penalty but sounding lukewarm on abortion.

      It is a fair question. I think we progressive Catholic have a fairly good record on this. Let each individual devote themselves to various initiatives, apostolates, causes or efforts based on what interests them, what they feel they can make a contribution toward and whatever other criteria they find valid. If it be abortion, poverty, liturgical music, evangelization, teaching French at an elite Catholic girls school, or simply a ministry of presence in various communities — or they may just want to put their energy into being a really good parent. We on the Left are not saying that anyone is a lesser Catholic because of what personal discernment they make.

      I have nothing but admiration for those who devote themselves to protecting the unborn, even if they seem lukewarm on other issues. That admiration only ceases when they start telling me what my priorities need to be if I am to be considered an orthodox Catholic and about my eligibility for the sacraments. I simply find that lack of mutual respect coming from a certain element on the Right to be offensive. I’m okay if they are lukewarm on social justice issues. I’m not okay when they attack my faith and orthodoxy.

      • Melody

        “I’m not okay when they attack my faith and orthodoxy.” That, to me, summarizes the whole polarization issue in a nutshell. Wherever we may fall on the ideological spectrum, none of us are “okay” when our faith, or our good intentions, or our standing as disciples of Christ, are attacked. All of us can credit one another with the desire to do the good and right thing, even if we may seem confused as to what exactly that is in a given situation.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Julia,

      thank you for responding. I was hoping you would since you often challenge me in interesting and insightful ways. There is always a temptation to shout “hurray for our side, down with the other guys!”, but there is another insidious temptation to see a balance or an equality where things really are out of balance. (Here I point to the media’s attempts to be “objective” and “balanced” on climate change.) The left has its share of sins, and perhaps among them is a totalizing ideology (if nothing else, there are still Trotskyites in academia.) But this sort of thing is so prevalent, and so painful in the pro-life movement that I have no qualms about pointing it out. Now my ideas needed some nuance, and the exchanges with John, Mike and others have been helpful—this is one of the reasons I like to blog here at Vox Nova: it often leads to a very insightful discussion.

      I think you are misreading me when you write “I do think it is a fair question to ask whether you would be as bothered by someone taking an impassioned stance on poverty or the death penalty but sounding lukewarm on abortion.” I am not criticizing the pro-life movement for its passion on abortion. I am criticizing it for the way it positions this passion as the central concern in the moral universe. Perhaps I did not convey this clearly and I am sorry if I missed the mark.

      • Julia Smucker

        I think I understand where you’re coming from, David. I didn’t think you were criticizing the pro-life movement’s passion on abortion, but I did see you criticizing the Knights of Columbus for not equaling their passion on abortion with a comparable passion on the death penalty. I have my own misgivings about the K of C (particularly their embrace of militarism and tendency toward some superficial culture wars), and I agree that a stronger statement on the death penalty in closer parallel with the one on abortion would have greatly strengthened their pro-life stance. But I also think that some of the commenters above have a point when they remind us that lopsided passions go both ways – which is why we should try our utmost not to be governed by left/right ideologies in the first place, but rather to take as our guide the fullness of the Church’s social teaching, in which the “life issues” are profoundly and inseparably integrated.

  • Ronald King

    It seems to me that we are attempting to treat symptoms rather than treating the underlying cause. Abortion, poverty, inequality, etc. are all symptoms of intra/interpersonal violence. Violence leads to inequality, poverty, isolation, hopelessness/helplessness, abortion. Women and children suffer the most in this violent world. We must understand their suffering and create a safe world for women and their children. Treating symptoms will not get it done.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Well, the holy denizens of Vox Nova might be surprised to have a comment from me again, as I have not been in these precincts for a while, though I see from an earlier post recently that I am an award winner here– even with my comment cessation! — for most comments (I feel kinda like I won a Grammy or something!) . Wow, I must be a tad long-winded, or as an editor of mine says– sesquipedalian. Mea culpa! Anyways, I am commenting here as a special thing just to say you all have a really interesting Pope going these days, truly, and I agree with David’s shrewd comment that the fact that that Life Site website felt the need to make that re-assuring comment is the truly telling fact. That, indeed as David points out, is the very interesting indicator from the cultural point of view. The reason is that I think that the new Pope probably does share roughly the same sort of critique of “totalizing ideologies” that David mentions. This was a sane, critical attitude that was around quite a lot when I was a young person in the Church. It seems that another more totalizing-tenidng influence entered later. So it is surely a good thing that the pendulum has swung back a bit.

    Btw, apropos some of these very issues, I would like to make you all aware of a couple publications of mine coming up, because they touch on issues related to the Catholic Church. First, in the next few months the beautiful, hardbound journal Heredom will publish my article on the “Masonic-Catholic Misunderstanding”. I actually think many Catholics will like this article a lot in some ways, because in the course of a complex analysis of historical issues between Freemasonry and Catholicism there are some very clarifying insights which show the falseness of the charge of connection to certain national fascisms, which are sometimes famously leveled against the RC Church. N.B. the article is not about that per se, but it gets resolved in elucidating other issues. You can see what I was doing when I was not commenting on Vox Nova!

    Second, I have an article on religious liberty that is going to come out in the journal Philalethes, spread out over several issues, because it is so long.

    Lastly, and third, you can read an article of mine, which will be published next year, now online at http://www.masonicarts.org/309666939. This article has a lot of relevance to issues we bandied about here from time to time, especially St. Thomas Aquinas. Unlike my Heredom article, which I think many WILL like, I am not sure some will like this other one, as it deals with certain tendencies in medieval Catholicism and their relations to notions of tolerance (non-totalizing , as David might say). The article is entitled “Medieval Confabulations, the Mendicant Controversy, and the Real Templar-Masonic Philosophy, ” by yours truly Peter Paul Fuchs.

    p.s. Btw, I did not stop commenting because I was pissed or something. You guys were great, and I always enjoyed dialoguing here, It was just that after the Supreme Court decision last summer on gay marriage, I kind of lost my oomph to comment anymore online apropos the RC Church, for a number of perhaps personal psychological reasons. That was what it was about. Anyways, my best wishes to you all, and, yes, pax vobiscum.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thanks PPF. To other readers: I let this somewhat tangential comment go through unedited, but please lets keep the discussion focused on the original post.

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