In the past two years, my criticism of the mainstream prolife movement has made me pretty unpopular in certain circles, and far-right groups have made it a habit of attacking not only my organization, but also other consistent-life groups that situate moral opposition to abortion within a broader context.
At the same time, many people from both sides of the pro-life / pro-choice divide have supported the new-pro-life and consistent-life ethos.
The events of this past weekend, and responses to them, have made it clear to me that a new line has been drawn, and it’s not between those who identify as pro-life and those who identify as pro-choice. One can, after all, believe in the inherent sacredness of all life, and also recognize that a woman’s bodily autonomy is a real thing, that shouldn’t be violated.
The line that has been drawn divides those who supported the young people marching against gun violence, and those who attacked them.
Whatever one thinks about the Second Amendment, or about firearm ownership (I think the Constitution is just a document, but I also don’t think all guns need to be illegal) – it is radiantly apparent that the students who mobilized after seeing their friends brutally slaughtered are brave, sincere, and in the right.
If your response to these young people is to mock and deride them, you should not call yourself pro-life. If you’re more worried about your “right” to bear arms, than about their right to life, your love of guns has obliterated your moral sense. If your response to their fear for their lives is fear for your guns, you have demonstrated that you are not a responsible gun-owner.
And “what about abortion?” is not a good response to people who are trying to find a solution to the very real problem of rampant and nihilistic gun violence. Saying that the protesters over this weekend “stole” the idea from the March for Life is not only petty and cruel; it also demonstrates ignorance of and indifference to our long history of protests, especially the Civil Rights movement.I was appalled to see how many pro-lifers responded to the March for Our Lives in a malicious and anti-life manner. I even saw a meme circulating, among far-right Catholic pro-lifers, implying that David Hogg should have been aborted. I saw people calling him a “Nazi” – because not wanting to be shot is exactly like trying to take over the world and exerminate all the Jews.
But I was also encouraged to see how many made statements of support, or even joined the marches. Priests, nuns, and religious who spoke out in favor of the marches especially gave me hope. Cardinal Cupich in Chicago even met with a group of young protesters, to give them his blessing before they departed. There is no question at all about where Catholic moral teaching lines up, on this issue, even if too many Catholics choose to ignore it.
There are many different ways in which people approach issues of life ethics, and rarely can we all agree. I know many who don’t think factory farming is all that bad, and I find that unfortunate. On the other hand, some people probably think I’m a crappy life-ethicist because I still eat meat, and that my phrase “ethically harvested” is a sophism. I know some who think that all war is always bad, and others who think it can be justified in certain cases. Many of my friends believe abortion is always wrong, while others think that it is sometimes a necessary evil.
All of these are cases of people recognizing that life is a good and must be protected, but also recognizing that real life is complex, and lines of justice and injustice, power and oppression, intersect.
But when it comes to children saying “we are tired of being mindlessly slaughtered” – the only just response is to say “We’re sorry. And let’s try to find a solution.” There is zero justification for criticizing them, or for “whatabouts.” One might as well decide to be nuanced on genocide.
If you find yourself on the nihilistic side of the line, maybe you should consider asking yourself what you are afraid of – and consider stepping over the line.
image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/9602574@N02/39184620300/