So a week or two ago, I was talking about how the “prolife” movement had long ago abandoned being prolife in favor of using the unborn as human shields for all the anti-life stuff it actually cares about:
I am actually old enough to remember the genesis of the Prolife Movement and how it settled on its branding. Back in the 70s, as it was first starting to germinate, opponents of abortion were criticized by those defending abortion as being merely “anti-abortion”. The reply was that, no, we are pro-life–from conception to natural death. I believed that and, as a Catholic, I believe it still. A consistent life ethic defends human life from conception to natural death. It is about the right to live, not merely the right to be born.
But then the prolife movement was co-opted by American conservatives and taught to regard the unborn as the opposite of every form of human life conservatives want to treat with contempt. The poisonous drip of this lie has lasted 35 years and now we have arrived at the point where Old Prolife Movement “orthodoxy” means that we are indeed simply and solely anti-abortion and conservative assaults on the sanctity of human life are to be ignored, excused and even salivated over. And so it has now come to pass that the most passionate, vindictive, gloating, and sadistic fans of ripping children from their parents’ arms are “prolife”, conservative, white, self-identified Christians, both Protestant and Catholic.
What is chronicled there is a progression of moral corruption in which prolifers have continued to participate.
I remember 1973. I remember, the moment Roe was decided, being repulsed by the idea of abortion. I am still repulsed by it. I instantly rejected the thing as monstrous and have never seen any reason to regard it as anything else.
And because it was such a repulsive and horrible thing it was (I assumed) a simple matter to decide how to vote. Which party opposes abortion? The GOP? Great! I’ll vote for them. So the last Dem I voted for was in 1976 (I wasn’t a Christian then, but Carter seemed like a decent guy and the Dems had not yet settled on abortion as the pole star of their politics).
I continued to buy the lie that the GOP cared about abortion for decades. Voted GOP right through 2004. Because I’m a sucker and a slow learner. But finally, I started looking at American politics through a Catholic rather than GOP lens about 15 years ago. It started with the question of torture (of which, to my astonishment, “prolife” white Christians were the most passionate and vocal defenders). And over and over, their argument was “the real torture is abortion!” As though opposition to abortion meant the defense of torture was magically sanitized and even mandatory.
Then there was the Iraq War, opposed by two popes and all the bishops of the world. The unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands (some guess a million) people was (again) something the “prolife” community passionately backed. The argument was “Abortion is intrinsically immoral but support for war is a prudential judgment”. So you had to keep supporting the GOP because Real Soon Now abortion would be magicked away and the ends would justify the means.
The death penalty? The Church opposes it: but the white conservative Christian “prolife” community loves it, going so far as to pump out an utterly unnecessary “Catholic defense of the death penalty” book and giving us the governor of Nebraska, who overturned the legislative will of the people just so he could please a bloodthirsty base who are willing to kill 4 innocent people out of a hundred to get their pound of flesh. Why support this? You guessed it: Abortion is intrinsically immoral but not the death penalty. So feel free to make war on the Church because opposition to abortion means your bloodthirsty desire to kill four innocents out of a hundred is AOK!
And that doesn’t begin to touch the way the “prolife” community has sold its soul to embrace a Nazi-sympathizing sex predator and misogynist and his party who makes war on the institutions of our democracy, insults POWs and Gold Star families, mocks the disabled, fleeces our elderly of Social Security and Medicare, fleeces the poor of Medicaid, spits in the faces of our allies, and empowers our enemies. All is forgiven and the ends justify the means, even when the means include re-funding Planned Parenthood six times.
And, as of yesterday, their #1 priority will be to find ways to excuse this traitor and his party for siding with an enemy of our county while it continues its aggression against us by meddling with our elections. That, not the unborn, will be the primary work of the “prolife” (I’m sorry, anti-abortion) movement this week.
The eternal excuse of the “prolife” movement has been “But Hillary!” and the eternal reply of the Truth-Based Community is, “She’s gone. She lost. Get over it. Live in the present. 11/8/16 is a long time ago. The problem is that you have spent every day since then making excuses for and defending this vile human being and his pack of nihilist predators.” As Rebecca Bratten Weiss says so well. “The Prolife Movement has lost“.
Lost? How can that be? Gorsuch! Kavanaugh! Trump is just about to magic away abortion! Victory! Triumph! The liberal snowflakes are crying! Vengeance! Winning!
Old Prolife Movement: You have gained the whole world and lost your souls. And you are, by the way, delusional that abortion–or even Roe–are about to be magicked away. Kavanaugh, like Roberts and Gorsuch, has said that Roe is settled law and he means to respect it. I know you love to console yourself that they are all liars. You’ve made clear that you love lying as a tool of policy for years. But consider the possibility that the suckers and the deceived are yourselves. After all, it is in fact what you have received at the hands of the GOP for decades. Indeed, the entire abortion regime is 100% the creation of GOP SCOTUS appointees. And while the GOP has delivered nothing but piddly participation trophies to buy your souls, you have given them passionate approval for death and harm on a colossal scale–culminating in the election of a swinish pornocrat who has corrupted you to the bone.
It is that corruption that has killed your movement, even if by some miracle you get that repeal of Roe you have made your idol. The great fear of white conservatives “prolife” Christianists in 2016 was that we faced a choice between Diocletian and Constantine. It was “Flight 93 Election” Panic Stampede bunkum repackaged for comfortable suburbanites who seriously believed that a Starbucks’ coffee cup not to their taste or a Target clerk who failed to say “Merry Christmas” were the harbingers of Stalinesque suffering.
In fact, it was a choice between panic and seduction, and millions of Christians eagerly embraced seduction and have never looked back. We did not actually face persecution. But if we had, Jesus tells us that we should take persecution over seduction every time.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mt 10:28)
And, increasingly, when it is pointed out that all this sadism is the opposite of anything like the protection of human life from conception to natural death, they respond as Eric Sammons did on CatholicVote the other day: by declaring that they are “through being pro-life“–because if being prolife means having to care about human beings after they are born, then screw it.
Sammons’ piece has, at least, the virtue of a sort of semi-honesty. He reflects what has long been the actual position, not of the Church’s, but of white, conservative Christianists.
The Church’s position is simple: Protect human life from conception to natural death. That’s it. That’s all. Easy to understand. Note that there are not even clauses about “innocent” human life. The Church works to minimize death wherever possible, even on death row and in warfare. She does not ask “When do we get to kill?” but “When do we have to kill?”
But the Right Wing Culture of Death which Sammons and CatholicVote so ably represent have all sorts of people they would like to kill and harm. Death row inmates, the poor, people they want to torture, sick people, brown people at the border. So they perform the following sleight of hand (watch the ball very closely here):
- Declare the Seamless Garment an attempt to water down the supposed “focus” on abortion. (“[S]ome pro-lifers call everything a pro-life issue because they want to minimize the importance of abortion. They don’t believe abortion is really that bad (and might even be necessary sometimes), so by lumping everything under the pro-life label, they make abortion just one of many issues. And as we’ve often seen, it becomes an issue that never rises to the top in terms of priority.”)
- Declare that your Number 1 priority is solely abortion. (“I’ve come to realize that I’m no longer pro-life. Just call me anti-abortion. It’s accurate, specific, and tells the whole world that I’m unabashedly opposed to child-killing.”)
- (Here’s the sleight of hand). Spend enormous time and energy, not attacking abortion, but attacking the Church for advocating a Consistent Life Ethic.
It’s that last step where the core lie of the Old Prolife Movement is found.
The Catholic tradition has tons of room for people who want to focus on their specific gift and call. Want to go pray for the Church and the world in a cloister? There’s an app for that called the Trappists or the Carmelites. Feel called to preach? Join the Dominicans! Want to be a Missionary to the brainiacs? The Jesuits are right there. Feel called to focus on the prolife cause? Go to it! Save the unborn. You don’t have to do everything. You can focus on your gift and call.
But suppose the Dominicans said, “We need to focus on preaching” and then spent the bulk of their time defending Nazis marching in Charlottesville or writing treatises on why the Pope is a naive fool for opposing the death penalty. Suppose the Jesuits spent all their time on defending the need for Confederate statuary. Imagine the Franciscans dropping their mission so they could lecture the residents of Flint, Michigan on why they need to just go get a bucket and boil their own water because they are lazy ass slobs who have it coming?
The problem with the claim of the Old Prolife Movement that “we need to focus on abortion” is not with focusing on abortion. It’s that they don’t focus on abortion. They focus on using the unborn as human shields for all the other anti-life and evil crap they actually care about.
The overwhelming majority of the Old Prolife Movement (now rebranding itself back to being anti-abortion) do not focus their time and energy on abortion. They focus it on defending whatever Trump and his party of predators are doing today. That’s why people like Fr. Frank Pavone do things like desecrate altars with dead bodies in order to make stump speeches for Trump and that’s why he maintains a laser-tight focus on the unborn with tweets like this:
Jesus tells us “Seek first his kingdom and everything else will be added as well.” That is the point of Catholic holistic teaching, which is the polar opposite of what Eric Sammons and CatholicVote advocate. Sammons’ post now makes open and obvious what has long been passive-aggressive and hidden by the Old Prolife Movement: that, for them, the unborn are the opposite of all the classes of human beings he and the Party of Nihilist Predators he serves seek to harm and kill. He seeks first, not the kingdom, but earthly power at the expense of war on the Church and her Consistent Life Ethic. And the result is that he does not even get the anti-abortion bit he claims to care about.
Proof? Under the ministrations of the Trump regime CatholicVote passionately defends, mothers at the border are spontaneously aborting because they are being denied the medical treatment they need. Same thing in Flint and Puerto Rico.
But for the Old Prolife Movement those abortions don’t count. Deaths matter to the Old Prolife Movement when they are politically useful. So Flint matters only insofar as it can be blamed on Democrats. The deaths at the border matter only insofar as they can be blamed on parents fleeing death zones. The idea of putting the lives of the least of these–even the aborted least of these–first no longer occurs to the the thing formerly known as the prolife movement.
Meanwhile, the actual Catholic Consistent Life Ethic presses on saying the obvious: the unborn are related to, not the opposite of, all the other forms of human life that are endangered by our Culture of Death in both its right and left wing expressions. We must protect human life from conception to natural death.
And right now, the loudest and most aggressive enemies of the Church’s teaching on that score are white, conservative “prolife” partisans of the Trumpian party of nihilist predators. Because they have largely seduced and corrupted what it means to be prolife–and they have done so to the point that they are now making war on the very idea of being prolife.
Corruptio optimi pessima.