An Open Letter to Pro-Life Catholics

An Open Letter to Pro-Life Catholics August 25, 2016

(John Henry Cardinal Newman in Century Magazine, 1882. Source: Wikimedia, Creative Commons License).
(John Henry Cardinal Newman in Century Magazine, 1882. Source: Wikimedia, Creative Commons License).

Dear _______,

We go to the same churches; we fill the same pews. We pray the same Creed; we find ourselves unworthy before the same Sacrament.

Yet, there’s anger and mistrust. An outsider looking in could be forgiven for looking at recent feuds and thinking he sees rivals trading jabs, rather than brothers in Christ.

I am a writer at Patheos Catholic home of Mark Shea and pieces like “Voting Bernie Sanders,” “YES, You Can Be Catholic and Vote Democrat” and “The Socialist Roots of Catholic Social Teaching.” I understand why you might assume I am not pro-life.

But I am.

It’s true. In the primary season, my favorite candidate was Bernie Sanders. I disagreed with him on abortion, and that mattered to me. Had he made it to the general election, much reflection would’ve been needed. Voting for someone who supported abortion is not something I would have taken lightly (nor is it probable I would’ve done it, though now we can never know).

Now I’m voting third party (for a pro-life candidate—rest easy), because I dislike both Hillary and Trump. I cannot stomach unjust wars, personal corruption, and megalomania any more than I can dirty business, un-Christian rhetoric, and, well, megalomania.

But you have to understand how alienating it is—how we feel, treated by our “pro-life” brethren, just because we won’t get in line.

Take Stephen Herreid’s now semi-famous attack (and I think that’s a fair assessment) on Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher. He writes: “Shea is hostile to conservatives, but especially to pro-lifers.” No. Mark Shea is pro-life; he is hostile to certain elements within the pro-life movement. And anti-conservative? Last I checked he was no fan of President Obama.

I’m not here to defend Shea’s disparaging comments—his over-the-top attacks—but I am here to ask you what is gained from pushing some people out of the pro-life movement, people who are otherwise invested in saving lives—from conception to natural death? What is gained by calling a seamless garment approach a “poison pill” merely because it thinks pro-lifers deserve better than the Republican Party (heard of the American Solidarity Party?)? I don’t think the integral nature of the abortion problem ought to be minimized, but it also should not be used as an excuse to support any and all behaviors (enter Trump).

Conscience has a place in Catholic theology. Cardinal Newman wrote:

The rule and measure of duty is not utility, nor expedience, nor the happiness of the greatest number, nor State convenience, nor fitness, order, and the pulchrum. Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway.

Conscience is not some excuse to vote for Hillary, but it is a valid reason to give pause to voting for Trump, to voting for a GOP trying to sell us “pro-life” Hillary, to a party not-so-big on promises and even smaller on deliveries.

Many of us balk at the prospect of voting for Democrats and Republicans.

Prayerfully, I (we?) ask to be listened to.

Valete, Valete,
Chase Padusniak

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