Abortion trumps everything!—Rhode Island priest says “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone,” but forbids Communion given to pro-choice lawmakers.
Abortion, abortion, abortion. This is the one defining issue for Catholics, no? How you stand in relation to it defines whether or not you are even Catholic, yes? Not Baptism. Not Eucharist. Not love. Abortion. Isn’t that how we make it? It sure seems that way. That’s the way things get presented these days in many Catholic circles when approaching elections. How did this craziness begin?
Those Who Forget History are Doomed…
In November 1973, a mere ten months following after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision, U.S. bishops took action to defend the dignity of all human life at their annual meeting. They committed themselves to push for constitutional amendment to safeguard the life of the unborn. They called for organized political actions in each congressional district. Abortion was the emphasized issue and the focus.
Prophetically, some bishops feared the danger that this response would make the Church appear to only care about one issue. They feared that all other problems, like those involving human rights and social justice, would be subordinated and marginalized when compared with the One Issue to Rule them All.
But the body that would one day be called the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops chose that day to disregard these bishops’ concerns and maintain the strongest emphasis on abortion. Popularly it was indeed perceived that the official position was that abortion was the issue above every other issue…
One Issue to rule them all,
One Issue to mind them…
One Issue to bring them all,
And in the darkness bind them!
In the District of Columbia, where the Shadows Lie.
Bucci’s Abortion Folly
Fast forward to February 2020. After just banning all legislators who voted in 2019 to enshrine Roe v. Wade into Rhode Island state law from receiving communion and taking part in various church functions at his parish, Fr. Richard Bucci went a step lower. Way lower. Look here:
Catholic priest says “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone” after barring pro-abortion lawmakers from communion
So in defense of his interdict, Bucci made a comparison between the gravity of abortion and pedophilia. Bereft of pastoral sense and empathy to victims (including family members of politicians he lists on his ban), Bucci said what he said. He triumphantly affirmed that his Church has been prolife for two millennia. I am sure thousands of women accused, tortured and murdered for witchcraft, those many “heretics” burned at the stake, indigenous peoples slaughtered and enslaved, all those crushed under the Borgias and Draculas we have produced again and again would disagree with Bucci’s seeming confusion of Church with the Final Reign of God.
Meanwhile, we have “Handmaid’s Tale” political movements going on pushing states toward green-lighting the death penalty for women having abortions. Millions claim to be pro-life and to work for the end of abortion, but what many of them really seek is its criminalization.
Abortion History Since Roe
Putting aside the absolute revulsion and blistering rage that is natural given this sort of “pastoral love,” it behooves us to explore the history of how we have fallen so disgustingly low as Catholics. That is if we care about both the unborn and the victims of sex abuse produced by the demon, Clericalism.
Following the momentous decision by U.S. bishops strongly emphasizing the abortion problem in 1973, it became popularly misunderstood as their absolutizing the One Issue. So the U.S. Bishops, every four years following 1976, issued reminders to all Catholics not to go overboard. Was the abortion issue important? Yes, it was of grave moral importance. But it wasn’t the only life issue. Certainly it should not be the issue dominating one’s vote!
Being Against Abortion = Against Carter / Mondale?
Archbishop (and later Cardinal) Joseph Bernardin so emphasized the abortion issue that many believed he was supporting Gerald Ford (and cronies Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who would later orchestrate, for greed and American empire, causing over two million deaths in Iraq) in the first presidential election following Roe. Bernardin, in a pastoral approach unfathomable to clerics like Bucci, wisely modified his stance because of this. He would later develop and adopt a consistent ethic-of-life stance.
Consider also what happened when, in 1984, Catholic and pro-choice Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the running mate to Democratic presidential hopeful Walter Mondale. Cardinal John O’Conner and Bishop James Timlin (who infamously reassigned Father Thomas Skotek, who raped a teenage girl and then arranged her abortion after she became pregnant) publicly criticized Ferraro. This amounted in the minds of many, many ignorant Catholics as an endorsement of GOP incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Because of this, U.S. bishops took careful steps to make clear that they were not instructing Catholics on how to vote. Therefore they modified their quadrennial statement accordingly. In a nutshell, what the bishops were saying was, when it came to voting for candidates for the White House, they would neither endorse nor oppose candidates.
But centuries of keeping Catholics stupid and servile took its toll. Mixed in with American pragmatism, it became disastrous. Life is simple, Mel Gibson-style black-and-white. These issues aren’t complex! Give us quick, easy answers. Let’s see the world through a morality at the level of a He-Man cartoon. We all know Skeletor when we see her.
To the Right, Boys!
And the Bishops? As the 1980s became the 1990s, among themselves, the U.S. bishops endorsed Cardinal Bernardin’s seamless garment approach of a consistent ethic-of-life. But this died in 1989. That was when the bishops unanimously passed a resolution declaring abortion the One Moral Issue to Rule them All. This was the group that gave Mother Angelica and her draconian EWTN network carte blanche to dictate to American Catholics her monolithic style of Catholicism as the one and only. Cardinal Bernardin would die in 1996, and buried with him, notes Charles Curran, went the consistent ethic-of-life.
This took place all during the reign of the man who stole what Vatican II was all about, Pope John Paul II, the one called “great” and “saint.” In 1995, JPII released his encyclical, Evangelium vitae. This document would generate fires in the U.S. bishops sparking them into calling both abortion and euthanasia unequaled threats to the dignity of human life three years later. They also turned Bernardin’s ideas upside down in ways he could never have imagined. It happened in 1998, just about four years before the Boston Globe exposed the Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal.
It was the late 90s when politicians, almost exclusively Democrats, began to be threatened with being excluded from Holy Communion. This was an effect of the long pontificate of JPII, Catholic Thanos of the post-conciliar years. He enabled the conservative trend which produced Bucci and his ilk during his Vatican II overhaul and redirection project. Tightening the cilice, JPII appointed many conservative bishops to the hierarchy, remaking the council into his own image, remaking the Church hierarchy after his own theological likeness. And the U.S. bishops went waaaaaaay right.
Sex Abuse Crisis? Not the Most Important Issue!
Even reeling from the humiliation and disaster of the sex abuse crisis—a situation every bit as grave as the problems which caused the Reformation!—could not deter some U.S. bishops from claiming it would be a mortal sin to vote for John Kerry in 2004.
Let’s take a moment to journey back in time, not to the conference halls or mansions of Church prelates, not to Diocesan headquarters where they meet with batteries of lawyers to protect their assets, but to a much simpler setting. Let’s go to a secular university in an American city where Catholics do Campus Ministry work. It’s a true story. But don’t expect names.
Catholic Collegians & their Trip to the Abortion Mill
Once upon a time, a certain campus minister took seventeen collegians of diverse demographics to pray at the local abortion clinic. Neither the lay minister nor the young adults with him had ever been to such a place. It was 2006, an early Saturday morning. The following January this group would travel to the 2006 March for Life in Washington DC. They had been raising funds for this trip, and it had been suggested more than once that they should stand in solidarity for the unborn like so many parishioners did each Saturday morning.
When they arrived it was just after 7 am. Before their eyes stood a small band of twenty women in their fifties or sixties, a smattering representing about five local parishes. The women, upon seeing the college group, beamed. At about the same time, nine young women, representatives from the Women Center at the same university as the Catholic group, arrived in two cars, parked, and began walking over.
“Here they come!” one grandmother shrieked. “Don’t look at them!” whispered one of the older women to the Catholic collegians. “They are possessed! Just pray in our circle!” The advice came across sounding like something from Abraham van Helsing, but without sense or courage. Disregarding what the terrified woman said, the Catholic group looked over anyway. They immediately recognized friends and peers from the Women Center. Some of them had wept and prayed together only recently in a vigil over the tragedy of the Virginia tech shooting. It was surprising to meet this way.
She-Demons & the Amoeba of Truth
After a somewhat awkward beat, pieces began to fall into place. Older women grabbed the confused Catholic collegian’s hands, and almost as in a fancy line-dance, the circle began praying, faces turned inward, away from the demoniacs gathering round them. The older women started doing what they always did there, huddle up into the prayer circle with eyes closed tight. Of course the circle had more or less the shape of an amoeba, as one side of it was to the street. A Rosary-for-life began with special intentions to prevent demonic activity. The circle was a bit large this day due to 18 new participants (17 students plus their campus minister).
The young women danced and yelled slogans behind the amoeba. The older ladies saw them as ghouls. But those pro-choice collegians performed a comedy lost to the terrified older women, but not so much to the Catholic group who, at times, fought tears of laughter. It was bizarre and humorous. The familiar “PRAY! YOU’LL NEED IT! YOUR CAUSE WILL BE DEFEATED!” intermixed with zingers from Family Guy and South Park was familiar to all the young adults present (and the campus minister too). Their shouting blared behind the heads of those in the amoeba. This chilled the blood of the older women to ice! But the younger Catholics were amused. Apparently this was how the protests were to be conducted.
This “struggle” lasted about an hour until the legal time for the groups to be there finished.
Here Comes Creepy Pro-Life Dracula
Now there was one older man present for the pro-birth side. He stood the whole time off to the side. As the event finished up, he crept up to the Catholic college group. He thanked the whole group profusely for coming out. He also collected everyone’s emails.
This man, a master manipulator who worked closely with the Republican party and volunteered at diocesan crisis pregnancy centers, would incessantly email the group racist pictures of Barack Obama in the moths ahead. The images often depicted Obama as a monkey. Choose life, folks!
Many complaints were filed with the Respect Life office. But nothing happened. Hands went up in the air and looks of exasperation were returned to the complaining campus minister. “What can we do?” came the reply. “At least he is pro-life.”
Inconsistent Ethic of Life
About a month after, there was a protest at the Corporate Headquarters of a national fast food chain. It concerned paying migrant workers just a nickel more for the tomatoes they picked. So the same Catholic collegians went. But they noted something odd. None of the anti-abortion older women from the prayer circle were present. Why not? They all claimed they cared for life and human dignity. Why then weren’t they present? Could it be because to these Church women only some lives matter?
Unwelcome at the March
College students don’t have a lot of money, generally speaking. But they do have a lot of questions. At the March for Life, this university group was surrounded by Catholic high school students from the same city. The number of high-schoolers dwarfed the college group. The university students appeared odd to these younger people. Their chaperons were concerned. They are always sharing food at the commissary! Don’t they have enough to provide for themselves? Why are they here if they can’t even plan accordingly?
Later on during their stay in DC, but before the actual March, the college group participated at a propaganda event inside a large theater. The event involved Republican representatives talking before mostly Catholic high-school students. But the college group wasn’t swallowing anything and this proved unsettling to the high school organizers and their agenda during Q&A time. The university students began asking unwelcome questions.
Some weeks following the DC trip, complaints were filed with the Archdiocese and the pastor who supervised that campus minister. It was obvious they wanted this person fired. Like the Godfather Part III, “All our zhips muzt sail in ze zame direction!”
Enough with the slice-of-life picture of the ramifications of magisterial foolishness.
Before Barack Obama, fondly referred to by many Catholics as “the Muslim Communist Antichrist,” got elected as the 44th president of the United States, the U.S. bishops had ratcheted up the rhetoric (see the 2007 “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”). Abortion is called “intrinsically evil” (hyperbole used to manipulate those not philosophically versed). Abortion “trumps” all other issues. It can never be justified, said the U.S. bishops.
And lay U.S. Catholics? For many, abortion became the litmus test for being Catholic. And only Catholics can receive the Eucharist, right? Not folks with souls like the Antichrist, Barack HUUUU-SEIN Obama, himself.
In 2008 “pro-choice” is pro-abortion. But that’s nonsense—to be pro-choice is distinct from being pro-abortion just as law and morality are distinct and just as the Thomistic and the Religious freedom approaches to law are distinct. The expression “intrinsic evil” is a moral term, not a legal term. Doesn’t our Church teach that artificial contraception, masturbation, and lying (Oops! Sorry Mary, Joseph, and Jesus!) are intrinsically evil? So why are we not pushing to criminalize these actions?
Trump Trumps All
Now let’s skip forward to our United States of today. We have an autocratic POTUS that lies like breathing. He controls our nuclear arsenal and our lives by his narcissistic whims. He has removed or destroyed environmental protections as our world spirals to an ecological breaking point. The Doomsday Clock ticks a hair’s breadth from Midnight like we are in the height of the Cold War once more. And our national debt is ballooning in the trillions approaching 98 percent of the GDP by 2030.
Voting for this man is not unlike comiting suicide. And yet many U.S. Catholics felt as though they HAD to vote for him because, after all, he was “pro-life.”
Thinking about Bucci and Trump, often our Church—and by Church I mean what Yves Congar and Vatican II means—reminds me a lot of a codependent in slavery to an abusive addict. Think Harley Quinn (the laity) and the Joker (the hierarchy). Codependents, after all, are addicts to addicts—their poison of choice is another addict to drown themselves in. We are the addicts. There is a giant Oliphant in our living room, fellow Hobbits. It’s our abusive husband with a Jesus-complex. He’s a manipulative addict in denial. We are way beyond tough love with him. He won’t listen. And no one makes codependents like the Catholic Church.
With priests like Fr. Bucci proliferating, we better get our act together, folks! Have you been looking at the Pew Forum recently? If our “company policy” is to not make the arguments of Garry Wills look convincing, we better change something real quick!