Sauce for the goose

Sauce for the goose February 13, 2011

I have been very busy with classes this week, so I have not followed the flap about Planned Parenthood, abortion and Vox Nova closely.  However, I have been reading a bit about it and I wanted to offer some of my own thoughts.  If these have already appeared in other posts and comm boxes, well, I guess this will just show that great minds think alike! 🙂

I have never been a fan of Planned Parenthood, but I have been equally disturbed by the tenor of the campaign against it in some pro-life circles.   I am not denying the great evil they do as one of the largest abortion providers in the U.S., but they are not wholly evil.  In charity, I believe that many, if not most of the people who work there believe that they are doing the right thing, and in the midst of the evil they do, they also do some small good: counseling, social work, some reproductive health and pre-natal care.  These goods do not offset or cancel the evil they do, but they provide context, and suggest that they are not the personification of pure evil.

This leads me to consider the counselors caught on tape.  It is worth remembering that any recording is not reality:  it is an image or representation of reality, and not the totality of what happened.  This is not to suggest deliberate or malicious editing:  this is the very nature of any representation of reality:  it is inherently incomplete.   So we have no way to know what happened before or after.  (In the most recent incident, Planned Parenthood announced that after the conversation, they notified the authorities.)

Here I want to probe at the actual response of the counselor, which seemed tolerant, if not accepting of child prostitution.   One explanation is an institutional culture which urges counselors to be non-judgmental, so as to not scare off clients.  The idea being that first you build trust by providing needed services, and then on the basis of this trust discuss the larger issues.  One reason I thought of this is that this very discussion came up at a recent meeting of my Franciscan fraternity.  We give a monthly tithe, and one of the recipients is the local Birthright.  A member raised the concern that Birthright did not do any moral counseling to these (mostly unwed) pregnant women on the immoral nature of their activities.  Another member, who was a volunteer counselor, made exactly the argument made above:  the women are scared and in need, and it is better to tend to their needs without judging them, in order to build up a relationship.  (A real fear is that a judgmental response will drive them away and lead to their getting abortions.)

But does this response by the counselor at Planned Parenthood mean that the organization or the counselor support child prostitution?  I think a fair answer would be no.  I am reasonably sure that if asked, in the abstract, the clinic director and the staff of one of these Planned Parenthood clinics would respond with horror to the suggestion that they support child prostitution.   So how does it come about that in at least one case, they did?  It was not policy, except indirectly, in the sense of directing counselors to be non-judgmental in their dealings with clients.

I suggest that it was, rather, a mindset, an internal culture that shaped their responses so that in effect, they were supporting the intolerable.  Just as they have convinced themselves, for the best of reasons, that providing abortions is the right thing to do, they have expanded upon the notions of privacy, individual liberty and choice to the point that they can, in practice, accept (perhaps with some internal qualms) things they would in the abstract condemn.   Again, in most cases, I think these qualms would get the better of the counselors, and they would report matters to the authorities.  In some cases, they do not, and the people involved cooperate with (or turn a blind eye to) prostitution and abuse of minors.

This does not excuse their actions, but it provides context, and as any confessor knows, sin cannot be understood, and repentance cannot be brought about, without understanding context.  And again, it shows that we are dealing with human beings, and not evil automata.

I am sure that I am going to be accused of defending or excusing the inexcusable, which brings me to the title of this post.  It seems to me that we have to apply the same ethical analysis to ourselves and the pro-life movement.   Periodically, there are violent attacks on abortion providers and abortion clinics:  bombings, shootings, a few cold-blooded murders.  The pro-life movement is quick to distance itself from these acts.  And, indeed, in the abstract, the vast majority of the members of the movement are horrified by these acts of violence.  And certainly, there is no over-arching policy calling for abortionists to be hunted down and killed.  But if we listen to ourselves, the ways in which we demonize abortion providers, the ways in which we paint them as pure evil, then we have to acknowledge that we are creating an internal culture which lets some people cross the line, either to harassment (and posting names and pictures on websites can be nothing but) or to violence.

In think that in both cases—the abortion counselor who turns a blind eye to child prostitution, and those who act with violence against abortion counselors—we need to apply the same moral analysis.  I am not excusing or condoning either action.  But both must be put into their moral context, and if need be, we need to accept some of the responsibility for creating that context, just as we demand that Planned Parenthood, as an organization, accept responsibility for what individual counselors do.


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  • Ronald King

    David, I want to first address the concept of a counselor as used in this context. In the state of WA we have two distinctions of counselors. One is a registered counselor who can have an education up to a master’s degree and then after two years of clinical supervision and a written test can then become a licensed mental health counselor. A registered counselor doesn’t have to have a master’s degree but can have a bachelor’s degree but must be under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor and actually cannot do any direct counselling outside of direct observation of the licensed counselor.
    So it appears to me that the term counselor is mistakenly applied at PP.
    Registered and licensed counselors are required by state law in WA to inform potential clients of their rights of privacy and what must be reported to lawful authorities such as child abuse or suspicion of child abuse and felonies. Before they would receive services they would be required to sign a statement that they have received this info both written and verbal. Before the age of 14 parents must be notified of any problems. After the age of 14 notification is still required for child abuse. The most important starting and ending point is always what is in the best interests of the child’s welfare.
    It is my perception that “counselors” at PP are not professional counselors who are registered with the state but instead are administrative people who do not have the requirements of ethical and educational training necessary to be registered with the state.
    Correct me if I am wrong.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


      a reasonable distinction. I was using the word loosely and in an informal sense. In the same way, people who work at pro-life centers like Birthright are often described as “counselors” but are not certified in the sense you describe. I am open to an alternative word, but nothing comes to mind.

      • Ronald King

        David, My spouse used the term case manager. I might use the term “people pusher”. She has a better attitude than I.

  • Chris C.

    The Planned Partenhood counselor may not support child prostitution, but who would know it from her response? One thing that can be said is that nothing, including child prostitution was going to deter her from the “greater good” of promoting abortion as a solution to a unwanted pregnancy. From a moral standpoint I am ambiguous on the tactics used; this is a version of ” hit piece” journalism which on the whole I do not like or respect, nevertheless what other methods could have been used to expose the mind set of Planned Parenthood and its counselors? There have been longstanding attempts to get the public authorities to do something about PP’s refusal to report sex crime violations, all to no avail. That is the background and the context within which these surreptitious actions took place.

  • I would not defend the Planned Parenthood employee in the film that I watched. On the other hand, I do think that laws that require people providing confidential medical services to report certain things to the authorities poses an ethical dilemma. I would not want to compare Planned Parenthood employees to priests, but there are a number of states that do not exempt priests from reporting instances of child abuse that they hear about in the confessional. Are any Catholics going to deem this a good thing?

  • Dan

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. There are very few people in the world who consciously and willfully align themselves with evil – in particular child prostitution and other heinous crimes. Most often it is a case of misguided priorities in the case of choosing conflicting goods. In my opinion, the “counselor” was confronted with a situation where she wanted to provide a non-judgemental framework where people could come for help.

    Under no circumstances does this justify it, nor does it justify PP in any way, but the characterization that the organization and all within it delight in becoming as evil as possible is simply ungrounded in reality. As Catholics we’re called to promote the truth. False characterizations and smear campaigns are NOT the way to bring Christ’s light into the world.

  • I keep going back to Jesus making the very daring move of halting the stoning of a prostitute. It was a great demonstration of compassion, which is something that is lacking from both the dialog as well as the response to abortion policy.

    When we show love through our compassion for another, we not only are more likely to reach the person(s) we show this love toward, but we are also teaching them the lesson that Christ taught us over 2000 years ago.

    Let the courts and the government handle the response to those who break the law, and let God handle the judgments that come later.

    Christ has clearly shown what our job is as individuals and that is to show all of our brothers and sisters they way of love.

  • Mike McG…

    Thoughtful commentary, David. You are right to note that demonizing is counterproductive. The ‘enemy’ is structural and cultural. And yet the low level functionary is a critical component of the delivery of choice.

    I wonder if the intensity of one’s response to the PP ‘counselor’ (Ronald’s point apropos of the propriety of this term is well taken) is a function of centrality of abortion to one’s moral geography. I suspect that for each of us there is a violence issue so salient as to making it tempting to demonize an enabling functionary.

    I would be interested in how you would compare the responses of anti-abortion activists to PP counselors to the responses of anti-war activists to military recruiters who, after all, also offer counsel on life choices. In both cases the counselee is often vulnerable. In both cases the counsel is offered by individuals who are presumably comfortable with the ‘choice’ they represent and are presmably evaluated by the choices made by their counselees.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


      this is a very insightful comparison. I do not have a lot of direct experience of the responses of anti-war activists to military recruiters: in the few cases I can think of the activists were Quakers and so brought a real “love your enemies” attitude towards their response. They disagreed with the recruiters strongly, but seemed to make a conscious effort to not demonize them. I suspect based on some literature I have seen, however, that this response is not universal.

  • brettsalkeld

    Quick question: Is it true both that the woman was fired and that PP made an immediate report to the authorities? This seems off to me.

    If she reported this to the authorities, then she did a pretty good job of playing the players. She certainly looked like she was all on board. If she didn’t report this, who did? Did she have some talks with her co-workers later when they decided to report this? The whole thing has an air of unreality about it.

  • brettsalkeld

    “I suggest that it was, rather, a mindset, an internal culture that shaped their responses so that in effect, they were supporting the intolerable.”

    I think this is probably very accurate. It looked like a very dull conscience on display. If she was horrified at child trafficking in the abstract, she certainly didn’t let on. She looked completely comfortable the whole time.

  • M.Z.

    I think one needs to be careful when dealing with clerks in a bureaucracy. To take a common example like mortgage fraud. Any clerk – we call them mortgage brokers – who diligently worked to prevent abuse found himself rewarded handsomely for his diligence by a thankful management. No, that wasn’t it. They found themselves pushed out the door for failing to perform. One doesn’t become a clerk or a nurse or a myriad of other things in order to engage in law enforcement. At most the reward for engaging in law enforcement is a pat on the back. When clerks aren’t incentived to do law enforcement, we shouldn’t be shocked when they don’t do it.

    Of course when a clerk is caught with their pants down, then everyone can get indignant. If a customer service rep gets upset with a customer, well fire him because customer service is our first priority. That is a luxury you have when you have 100 applicants waiting to have just as good of an opportunity themselves as the fired schlep. Of course, the rainmaking salesman boinking secretaries finds himself exempted from these no tolerance policies, because rainmaking salesmen don’t grow on trees. It was easy for the PP director to fire this clerk because she was just filling space and a replacement could be found with little to no effort.

    • M.Z.

      To put it another way, principles are for the powerful and ideologues. Clerks are typically neither, and it is little wonder that they put their own interests, the path of least resistance, in priority.

      • smf

        Which is sadly true, even in the most extreme cases.

        After all, all sorts of ordinary folk did things to keep the trains full of Jews moving to the camps on schedule, or the air lift of covert/clandestine captures on the way to whatever memory hole they disappeared into, or Stalin’s gulags, and Mao’s cultural revolution… and on the list goes. How many minor functionaries, clerks, buerocrats, laborers, soldiers, etc. were involved in the Passion and Death of our Lord? It takes a great many normal people keeping their heads down and not asking too many questions to make any machinery of evil work.

        The thing that is worse about PP, in a way, is that no one is holding a gun to these peoples’ heads. They can quit and walk out the door.

        • M.Z.

          Why don’t you list capitalism’s list of accomplishments in there? Are you so hopped up on propaganda that you don’t recognize them?

          • Perhaps you could be kind enough to list capitalism’s accomplishments for me?

          • M.Z.

            If you insist. 🙂 There are many to choose from. We could start with slavery and Jim Crow. Some smaller items would be the Ludlow massacre, the Bayview massacre. I should do some research and come up with a comprehensive reference.

          • That was quite the impressive list. It never actually posted but it did come through to my mail.

          • smf

            I listed what I did because those are all well known and recognized cases of an obvious evil that anyone with half a brain should have recognized. Further, I was limiting this to systematic cases where there was an established machinery of evil, not to some single incidents. Captialism tends not to be in the business of mass murder (except abortion) because there isn’t much money to be made in it (except abortion).

            The covert/clandestine captures bit could also have been a reference to certain CIA actions and those of other intelligence agencies, though obviously the CIA isn’t exactly a paragon of free market capitalist ideals.

            In any case, I would argue that Nazism and Communism both have mass murder as a natural result of their programs. While certainly our post-modern post-enlightenment system of political and economics freedoms has led us down the road to mass abortion, I don’t think free societies necessarily produce such a result, as after all we did have a decent democratic Republic going without large scale abortion for nearly two centuries.

        • “Captialism tends not to be in the business of mass murder”

          I was wondering smf if you had ever heard of the military industrial complex or a simpler term, arms dealers?

  • If looking to promote the truth in discussions of this kind, here or elsewhere, it would be helpful to discard the term “abortion industry” in such discussions. There is no “industry” here, any more than there is a “appendectomy industry” or a “tonsilectomy industry.” Using the word “industry” suggests that abortions are being performed for the purpose of making a profit. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that PP, which also provides pre-natal care to the same demographic population which would be receiving abortion there, would make a much larger “profit” providing nine-months-plus of prenatal services than it makes in performing one surgical procedure.

  • Kurt

    I’m not in principle opposed t sending people into PP facilities and finding out if they are complying with legal requirements and professional standards and, if not, exposing them to appropriate consequences.

    In fact, as an old-school liberal, I have to ask my conservative friends, do you remember when you fought people like me tooth-and-nail over the permissibility of “testing” in housing and job discrimination? When you got provisions written into law prohibiting “testing”?

    For the kids, “testing” was where a government agency or a private non-profit would send in an African-American couple and later a white couple to rent an apartment. I would offer that this was done in ways that were controlled and fair and that the testing groups represented a broad assembly of civil rights leaders not some fringe group looking for media attention. It was bitterly opposed by the Right and attempts (some successful, some not) were made to prohibit people from “falsely” asserting they were actual prospective renters when they were really testers.

    Do my conservative friends now regret conservativism’s stance on this or do they have something they would like to say about how testing for race discrimination was different and less defensible than the PP videos?

    sauce, goose and gander, indeed.

    • Kurt writes, “When you got provisions written into law prohibiting “testing”?”

      Do you mean to say that it’s illegal for private individuals to pose as tenants for the purpose of testing whether discrimination is taking place?

      • Kurt

        There have been some places where conservatives have been successful in passing such laws and other places where liberals have stopped laws from being enacted to prohibit or restrict testing.

        It was a very controversial issue in the 1970s as to housing. There was a 1982 Supreme Court decision supporting “testing” in housing discrimination. After that, anti-testing forces generally shifted gears to make housing testing limited to an act of government agencies and under certain rules and conditions they supported.

        Testing in employment remains controversial and the GOP had pushed several bills against employment testing in the 1990s. The Democrats blocked these bills.

        It would be nice if conservativism had some consistency on this matter.

        • Kurt writes, “There have been some places where conservatives have been successful in passing such laws …”

          Can you name any specific law? I’m genuinely interested. I would be surprised if it were actually illegal for a private citizen to do that, but I’ve been surprised before.

          • Kurt

            DeKalb County and St. Charles County passed such laws until they were overturned by the courts.

            I don’t know how old you are Agellius. I have no disrespect for young people drawn to conservativism based on the issues of today. And I have very good friendship with a number of so-called “neo-cons” and others who thought American liberalism took a wrong turn in the late 1960s.

            Obviously, as a liberal, I am very proud of the heroic work liberals did on civil rights, though that pride says nothing against people in the two groups mentioned above.

            I do have political disagreements with historic conservatives who defend their movement’s stance on civil rights legislation. And I have problems with those who deny the historical reality that there was a social and political struggle over civil rights legislation and seek to suppress any discussion of it — something I have been quite amazed at recently coming from certain quarters on the Right.

            “Testing” was quite the controversial issue in the 1970s. Emerson didn’t think much of consistency, but I think reminders of past actions helps moderns take the edge off of some of their rhetoric.

  • This is the type of statement that can drive people nuts.

    I have never been a fan of Planned Parenthood, but I have been equally disturbed by the tenor of the campaign against it in some pro-life circles.

    One the one hand, we have an organization that actually carries out thousands of abortions a year.

    On the other hand, we have some people who get carried away in their criticism of that organization.

    And your analysis leads you to be “equally disturbed” by both?

    I’m not saying two wrongs make a right. The notion that a Culture of Life is going to be built on catching PP counselors enabling child prostitution is one I am deeply skeptical of. And I am not saying that the pro-life movement is perfect and can not stand some examination.

    Also, reading this post, one would think that the idea that the pro-life movement should examine its rhetoric and tactics was some sort of novel idea that had never been considered, when it seems to me it’s the subject of every other Vox Nova and dotCommonweal post. It seems that it’s always the time for the pro-life movement to rethink its actions, and never the time to actually advance the cause of the unborn.

    Again, this is not to say that the pro-life movement is perfect, or that the “the other guys are worse” is a valid excuse for genuine problems. Just that to be “equally disturbed” by thousands of abortions and inartful opposition to them reveals a moral perspective in need of correction.

    • John writes, “And your analysis leads you to be “equally disturbed” by both?”

      Excellent point.

    • To amplify my point, let’s imagine that instead of Planned Parenthood, the target of the sting was a Catholic priest or bishop. That a media organization or other groups was able to organize some kind of sting operation indicating that the Church was still willing to conceal priests who had credible outstanding accusations of sexual abuse, and put them in situations where they had more access to children.

      Now, such an operation would rely on some deception, and would likely be motivated by a bit of demonization of Catholics and the clergy.

      Still, if a bishop were to respond to this by questioning the morality of the operation, or decrying the anti-Catholic motivations behind it, wouldn’t that be seen as odd? Wouldn’t that lead you to conclude that this bishop, fundamentally, doesn’t “get it?” That however shady the investigation or sting operation may have been, that the real story is that the Catholic Church still hasn’t effectively confronted is sexual abuse problem?

      Incidentally, I’m quite sure the producers of “To Catch a Predator” would have dearly prized nabbing a Catholic priest. That they never did is, I think, an encouraging sign.

      None of this is to say that LiveAction’s tactics are particularly laudable, or even licit. I’m just trying to help you understand why some people react as you do when you propose that the main result of these revelations is a teachable moment for the pro-life movement to reconsider its tactics and attitudes.

      • I failed to find one line by the author of this post supporting any illegal actions by any PP employee. Did I miss something?

        I think your Bishop would “get it” and I think the author “gets it”.

        I do have to ask you good sir, what part of Catholic doctrine calls for Christians to play the role of Serpico?

      • It seems to me one of the many problems with LiveAction is that they are making claims about Planned Parenthood that these individual exposés don’t warrant. PP contacted local law enforcement, even in the most egregious case where the woman who was taped was later fired. PP contacted the FBI. They announced they were retraining all their employees. Just as the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church doesn’t prove all priests were abusers, so the LiveAction stings don’t prove anything about Planned Parenthood as an organization. Of course, people who already hate PP because it performs abortions will find these stings proof that PP is rotten to the core. But of course, people who hate the Catholic Church take the abuse scandal as proof that the Church is rotten to the core.

        Rose says her videos show PP’s “institutionalized willingness to aid and abet . . sex traffickers.” Does the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church show an “institutionalized willingness to aid and abet” pedophiles? I think the abuse crisis may have demonstrated an institutional failure in the Church in dealing with pedophiles, but to say “institutionalized willingness” either of PP or of the Church indicates more than inadequate safeguards in coping with a problem.

        • David:

          I have to admit you make a good point.

  • “I am sure that I am going to be accused of defending or excusing the inexcusable, which brings me to the title of this post.”

    I think I understand your point, and agree mostly. I certainly agree that we should give PP employees the benefit of the doubt, that they are doing what they believe is right and helpful. Though I consider myself quite theologically conservative, and though I have also been politically conservative for most of the past 20 years, I have always assumed good intentions on the part of both theological and political liberals. (Which is one reason it really bugs me when liberals won’t assume the good intentions of conservatives in the context of, for example, the healthcare debate.)

    That being said, I think what the videos show us is objectively how far the liberal mentality can lead people in the direction of tolerating evil. I think the producers said to themselves, sure, a good half the population or more thinks abortion is acceptable, but almost no one thinks child prostitution is. Let’s see if we can show that the toleration of abortion goes hand-in-hand with toleration of other evils which people don’t find nearly as tolerable.

    In other words, there are two different issues here: (1) whether we should judge the individuals involved as personally culpable of great moral evil (or cooperation in same); and (2) whether we should be wary of an organization that is so tolerant and non-judgmental that it engenders an environment in which even child prostitution is tolerated. The individuals involved may honestly be doing what they think is good, but if it’s objectively bad the public has a right to know, since they receive taxpayer-funded support.

    It is hard to get people to think analytically enough to be able to separate blameable policies from blameable persons. But that doesn’t mean blameable policies should not be blamed.

    • I must respectfully submit that the actions of one employee does not suggest nor prove that PP “engenders an environment in which even child prostitution is tolerated”.

      I think not only would a court of law require much greater evidence to prove what you seem to be suggesting, but any logical argument itself cannot stand upon supposition alone.

      Now if I have misread or misinterpreted what you have said by all means please clarify further. It appears that you are employing guilt by association and I think the U.S. military would be in deep trouble if we employed this line of reasoning to those who commit war crimes.

      • Gisher writes, “I must respectfully submit that the actions of one employee does not suggest nor prove that PP “engenders an environment in which even child prostitution is tolerated”.”

        Granted. The actions of one employee would be insufficient evidence to constitute proof of that.

        My point was more to try to show that the motives of the videos’ producers may not have been so much to say that everyone who works at PP has evil intentions; but rather, to show that regardless of intentions, bad things are going on at PP.

        Again I admit that the videos alone may not constitute adequate proof, but that doesn’t mean that whatever evidence you do have should not be given. Just as, although the actions of one bad priest don’t constitute evidence that the Church is thoroughly corrupt, that doesn’t mean you should not expose the one bad priest.

        • On this wonderful rare occasion where we are in agreement I do rejoice but I must add that we do not in fact have knowledge on the motives of the videos’ producers either. We do know deceit was employed by them. That is all we have on the producers at this time.

          So my friend, it is all speculation and supposition. We are left with the actions of one person to focus on, one person who went outside the bounds of our laws as well as our expectations.

          We are also left with a producer who used tactics our Church stands opposed to.

          My point all along was we need to pull the focus back to where the facts actually are found. A unique concept, I know:)

        • “Just as, although the actions of one bad priest don’t constitute evidence that the Church is thoroughly corrupt, that doesn’t mean you should not expose the one bad priest”

          Would you support an organized campaign of entrapment in order to identify and expose bad priests?

          • Rodak writes, “Would you support an organized campaign of entrapment in order to identify and expose bad priests?”

            No, I would not support entrapment of priests. But I think the PP videos are essentially different.

            Entrapping a molesting priest would involve presenting him with a temptation and seeing if he gives in to it. The PP videos (as far as I know, I have not watched them all) don’t tempt the person with any personal pleasure or enrichment. They merely ask for advice, in the context of services provided by PP, which the target happily gives, seemingly without any reluctance or a terrible amount of prodding, while in the course of his employment with PP, as a representative of PP. That’s different from entrapping a private person in a situation which there is an expectation of privacy.

            That being said, I don’t necessarily agree with the tactics used. It was never my point to defend the videographers or to accuse them. Rather, I was responding to what I took to be the main point of the OP, which was, that we should not demonize individuals who work at PP by accusing them of evil intent — which is a statement I agree with. But if we should not demonize people who work for an organization that kills babies, neither should we demonize people who, with presumably good intentions, are working to try to expose objectively bad activities being undertaken by an organization that kills babies.

    • Ronald King

      Agellius, people are dying without healthcare. How long do they have to wait? Is it tolerating evil by not providing healthcare coverage to those who need it? It is not a liberal mentality that leads people in the direction of evil. It is ignorance, stupidity, indifference, anger, fear, etc. fill in the rest. It is a lack of love that exists within the right and left that harms those who choose abortion.

      • Ronald writes, “Agellius, people are dying without healthcare.”

        Of this I have to say I am skeptical. It’s my understanding that hospitals have to treat people in danger of dying regardless of ability to pay. Besides which, there are state programs that provide care to poor people, such as MediCal in California.

        Do you actually know of cases where people with terminal diseases are literally being turned away to die at home or on the streets without treatment?

        • Kurt

          A –

          Of course, you realize your claim is one of the defenses that the family insurance mandate is consitutional — that people would otherwise get health care as free riders.

        • Age I actually know several with private insurance plans left to die. most commonly elderly and far too often over medication costs. They are quite real and as I am deep rural here, I suppose if one moves closer into the city, the numbers get much higher.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Sorry to be so long in getting back to some of these very thoughtful comments: three classes, hiring interviews and an exam will slow anyone down!

    JohnMcG writes “Just that to be “equally disturbed” by thousands of abortions and inartful opposition to them reveals a moral perspective in need of correction.”

    My first response on reading this was to think that perhaps I should have written “also disturbed” and avoid the implicit equation of moral gravity. But my second thought was to stand by what I wrote and expand upon it. Here, in a nutshell, is another way of expressing my point: I don’t like Planned Parenthood, but I find myself viscerally alienated by the tenor of the language and attitudes of my erstwhile allies when they discuss Planned Parenthood. So quite literally, I am disturbed, and the degree of emotional disturbance is roughly the same as what I feel when I contemplate the abortions performed by PP. This is not an intellectual stance: it is an emotional response.

    In the end I am more interested in working to end abortion than in debating these issues, but from my perspective this gets to the heart of the problem. I should be a “card carrying” member of the pro-life movement in America, but I am not, precisely because of this sort of alienation. And if the movement drives me away, what impact does it have on others who are in the “muddled middle” that constitutes the majority of Americans on the subject of abortion?

    • I have two reactions.

      First, it’s encouraging that you have enough affinity for the pro-life movement and/or its stated goals to be more disturbed by its shortcomings than by superficially more serious acts by groups like Planned Parenthood. When one of my daughters lies, even about a minor issue, that bothers me more than a number of greater evils.

      Second, and as long as we’re owning up to claims of equivalence, I submit that you are as responsible for your distance from the pro-life movement as the pro-life movement.

      Let’s stipulate the following:

      1. The invasion of Iraq was unjust.
      2. I was not as strong in opposing it as I could have been.
      3. There were parts of the anti-war movement that were unseemly.

      When I am called to account for what I did to try to prevent the invasion of Iraq, I don’t think it will do for me to point to Bush=Hitler signs in the crowd at anti-war rallies or observe that Michael Moore is a buffoon. It was wrong; I should have taken a strong stand against it; I didn’t.

      What’s more, if I were to have committed myself to the anti-war cause, it is possible it could have tempered the notion that it’s only the weird hippie people with purple hair who are against the invasion. I don’t harbor any delusions that my involvement would have been sufficient to turn it around, but it certainly didn’t help that I chose to keep my distance from anti-war efforts.

      I think the same applies to defense of the unborn. You speak of the movement driving you away, but ultimately you are responsible for where you stand. And I submit that more moderate people loudly distancing themselves from the pro-life movement is part of an unhealthy cycle that leads to the further radicalization of the pro-life movement, and further alienation of more moderate people.

      On a general note, I would say that if there is one group that should be absolutely furious at PP, and extremely eager to see it fade away, it would be progressive pro-lifers. Every Democratic presidential primary campaign begins with each candidate paying homage to PP, and trying to top each other over how supportive of abortion they are. It was at such an event that President Obama delivered his infamous promise to make passing FOCA the first thing he would do.

      Don’t you long for the day when the Democratic presidential campaign doesn’t arrive on the scene already committed to an extreme pro-choice position, thanks to Planned Parenthood’s influence?

  • Ronald King

    John, I have met very dedicated and humble people in the-it’s difficult for me to use this term-pro-life movement. They have saved lives and souls. It is the strategy, rhetoric and disposition of those with the loudest voices that disturbs me.
    Most of all it is the ineffectiveness of the strategies that bothers me. A legal solution will not stop abortion. A sacrificial and spiritual solution will stop abortion.
    The solution is in the story of Jonah.

    • Ron go over to Henry’s post on Avarice. His post starts a good discussion that continues into the threads below it and I cover some chunks of a plan there. Any questions just ask.

  • “When one of my daughters lies, even about a minor issue, that bothers me more than a number of greater evils.”

    Funny how on the More Debate Club at Auschwitz thread you were not bothered much about “your” minor lie revolving around a valentines day gift, but now when it is a your daughter doing the minor lie it gets elevated to a level of greater evils. Perhaps I detect a gender bias here, perhaps a control over women issue here?

    “When I am called to account for what I did to try to prevent the invasion of Iraq, I don’t think it will do for me to point to Bush=Hitler signs in the crowd at anti-war rallies or observe that Michael Moore is a buffoon. It was wrong; I should have taken a strong stand against it; I didn’t.”

    I am glad to see you admit that the Iraq war was an unjust war, and that you remained silent and on the sidelines.

    However David Cruz is not remaining silent and on the sidelines on either the issue of abortion, PP or the actions of the pro-life movement. He has taken a very public stand against all three.

    I might also add that there are more ways to prevent abortions than marching around waving signs and voting republican. I might also point out that those last two options, protesting and voting GOP haven’t been working at all, and have been enabling a party to commit countless other sins that violate our doctrine, like for example, leading us into an unjust war.

    An unjust war you remained silent about. David Cruz is not silent and I submit that might be what bothers you the most.

    • *Sigh*

      I am not saying it is OK for me to lie, but not my daughters.

      In fact, in the other thread you cite, I was comparing two hypothetical lies, with myself being the hypothetical liar in each instance. In this case, I am saying I would be disturbed if my daughter lied about, say, who broke the vase. God has only blessed me with daughters, but I strongly suspect my concern would be the same if I had sons, or if it were one of my nephews who lied. If you would like to continue to believe that this is driven by issues of gender bias and control, I suppose I can’t stop you, but I don’t think it’s supported by my posts.

      The current context of this debate is LiveAction’s efforts to expose Planned Parenthood and de-fund Planned Parenthood. This is not waving signs. This need not be about voting GOP.

      Indeed, what I wish for from David Cruz and other pro-lifers is to move the Democratic Party in a pro-life direction. I don’t want him to become a Republican; I’m not a Republican myself.

      I think part of that includes confronting the Democratic Party’s strong partnership with Planned Parenthood.

      • I am quite sure that you don’t think any sort of gender bias is supported by your posts. This is conveyed quite adequately by your response above. Frankly it has been a very rare experience for me to confront someone with a bias who was aware that it existed.

        As for the second half of your latest response, it appears that you took entirely too literally my reference on waving signs. It was meant to represent the bulk of the efforts of pro-life groups, which would include LiveAction and their duplicitous methods. You can if you wish, apply it directly as well, as the bottom line is the efforts I am speaking of have been abject failures.

        Otherwise it appears that you now accept that David Cruz has not been silent and have “refined” your point to be that you would like to see David Cruz and other pro-lifers work to move the Democratic Party in a pro-life direction.

        Well let me sharpen my point. You still seem to only be able to view this matter through a political lens. I am suggesting to you sir that there are other options that will work much better. It isn’t hard to work better than what the pro-life crowd has wrangled out in nearly 40 years.

        If you are really interested in lowering the number of unborn that are slaughtered, then just ask me, or David Cruz for how we would address the problem.

        You can either entertain new ideas, or you can just continue to watch a reality you don’t like dancing in front of you each time you open your eyes again.

        • Ronald King

          gisher, I am interested in your strategy. I have mine but it seems to be dismissed probably because it is too extreme or considered stupid.

          • I discuss part of it on Avarice

            I left out major chunks on stepping in for those who fall through the cracks and arranging for good homes and providing for health care needs—-even going as far as to offer additional incentives to carry to term.

            What it is mostly about is going after the real cause of abortions and recognizing that abortions themselves are only symptoms of other “diseases” that have many other devastating effects on society besides just abortions. If you have any questions after reading Henry’s post (which really covers the angles)and then my comments in the thread let me know.

          • Read Henry’s excellent post on Avarice and then the comments below it. I left out quite a few things but it will give you a start to ask more questions.

    • For simplicity, I probably painted too broad a picture of my involvement in the war debates.

      I blogged more frequently then, so you can check out my archives from 2002-4 here.

      If I had to characterize my involvement, it would probably be that I was defending the Church’s position on the invasion of Iraq from its most egregious criticisms, many of whom were Catholic themselves. That the Church wasn’t motivated by hatred of America but legitimate concern. But, to be honest with myself, I probably stopped short of offering full throated support to the anti-war cause.

      I think my involvement would be analagous to posts like this one, that defends the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act against the egregious charge that it’s pro-rape, but is something less than a full-throated expression of support for the bill.

      In my case, I am convinced that my efforts against the invasion were significantly less than sufficient. I am challenging David Cruz and others to submit their defense of the unborn to similar scrutiny.

      • I think Dave is doing a pretty good job. As for how well people are listening I think that may leave some room for desire to creep in.

  • Kurt writes, “DeKalb County and St. Charles County passed such laws until they were overturned by the courts.”

    What state are these counties in?

    Kurt writes, “I don’t know how old you are Agellius. I have no disrespect for young people drawn to conservativism based on the issues of today.”

    Since we’re getting personal, I am 45 years old. I was baptized but raised liberal, as well as atheist/agnostic. I re-verted to the Church in my mid-20s, but remained a Democrat. The first time I voted Republican I had to hold my nose, but just could not stand the thought of voting for a pro-abortion candidate. So I voted for Alan Keyes against Bill Clinton (I couldn’t make myself vote for Bob Dole).

    The abortion issue was the wedge that eventually turned me against liberalism. I am too young to remember the civil rights “struggle”, although I do remember my parents taking me to protests as a toddler. I neither defend nor accuse the conservatives of 40 years ago, as I don’t know enough to do either. I’m sure both parties have things to be ashamed of in their pasts. I don’t care about that. I look at their current platforms.

    That being said, I have explained previously that I am not wedded to the Republican party, mainly for the reason that I’m not wedded to American-style democracy at all. Because I believe democracy is precisely what has led to the legalization of murder. Being a fallen race, when you leave public morality up to the majority, with the Church’s teachings officially ignored, it’s to be expected that morality will go down the toilet. The Founding Fathers were apparently naive optimists.

  • “The Founding Fathers were apparently naive optimists.”

    The typical Founding Father was a slave-owning Deist. That aside, they were not wild-eyed idealists, nor were they naively optimistic about the probable results of unlimited democracy; they were elitists who reserved the vote for property-owning gentlemen only.

  • “neither should we demonize people who, with presumably good intentions, are working to try to expose objectively bad activities being undertaken by an organization that kills babies.”

    I see this as a distinction without any major difference. If you tempted a priest with an opportunity to molest a child, how is that different in kind from tempting a PP worker to offer advice (a service) to a pimp involved in child prostitution? In both cases you are trying to find out if the tempted individual is willing to become engaged with activities detrimental to children. I’m sure that you’re aware that PP as an organization had recognized the sting operation for what it was and reported it to the FBI, almost from the git-go. This was done before the tapes were made public, so it wasn’t a cover-up. In the case of tempting the priest, you are presumably merely offering him some kind of opportunity to do something which he would do on his own anyway. In the case of the PP worker, she merely handled an activity that she would not normally be involved with, and certainly wouldn’t be instigating in any way, badly. If anything, the sting on the priest is more justifiable.

    • Rodak writes, “If you tempted a priest with an opportunity to molest a child, how is that different in kind from tempting a PP worker to offer advice (a service) to a pimp involved in child prostitution?”

      The very definition of “entrapment” is luring someone into committing a crime and then arresting them for it. To “lure”, as in fishing, means to offer them some kind of bait, i.e. pleasure or enrichment of some kind. Entrapping a priest presumably would involve presenting him with a situation in which sex was offered. You don’t know whether he would have engaged in that sex if it were not presented to him. He may have had a practice of avoiding occasions of sin, i.e. situations where he might be tempted. Placing a temptation directly in his path might lure him into committing a crime that he otherwise might not have committed.

      This is not the case in the PP situation. The employee was not offered sex or money in exchange for the advice that was requested. He was simply asked a question in connection with his job, and he answered, like anyone else might answer a question from a client during the course of employment.

      That, to me, makes the two situations substantially different. I don’t know what more there is to say about it. If we disagree, we disagree.

      • For entrapping a priest, I’m envisioning a “To Catch a Predator” type scenario where an adult poses as a child in an online forum or chat room where these meet-ups are arranged.

        I guess I see this as less problematic, because the particular temptation is in a place that a rightly ordered adult (particularly a priest) should have no business being in the first place. It’s not unfair temptation to dieters to put candy in the candy aisle of the grocery store. It would be to put candy in the salad bar.

        In any instance, if a priest were caught by such a sting, I don’t think any commentary from a bishop about the legitimacy of this tactic would be well-received.

        • It does not matter whether it would be well received or not. What matters is any such entrapment, whether it is set up by the police, or it is arranged by LiveAction is a violation of church Doctrine.

          This the point that you keep dancing around. There is no way that you can be a Catholic and not condemn the actions of LiveAction.

          To butcher a great line for you sir I can only say to you that when you find yourself using the weapons of the devil, you have already lost the battle.

          • I’m curious why you seem so eager to cast me as a villain.

            Let’s see what we’ve established.

            1. LiveAction’s tactics are so awful that there is not way one can be a Catholic and not condemn them.

            2. These actions are similar in character to the ones employed by the “To Catch a Predator” TV show.

            I’ll add…

            3. The “To Catch a Predator” series has been a somewhat popular TV show for a number of years, enjoying at least as much prominence as the LiveAction videos.

            Given that, I would expect to see a number of condemnations of the “To Catch a Predator” series from Catholic circles, correct? Lying is lying; sin is sin. It shouldn’t matter that the people being caught are likely child molestors. What matters is that immoral mean have been employed.

            And yet. I haven’t seen it. But within a month of the LiveAction videos coming out, the debate is settled and all Catholics must condemn it.

            As I have said before, I am closed to convinced that the means LiveAction employed are contrary to Catholic teaching.

            I am not convinced that the prudent Catholic response to that is to “condemn.” Is the proper response to all sinful behavior condemnation?

          • “As I have said before, I am closed to convinced that the means LiveAction employed are contrary to Catholic teaching.”

            It does not matter if you are “closed to convinced” as you typed just now or if that was a typo and you meant you are

            “close to convinced”

            as either one is totally ignoring the admitted an obvious facts that tactics were employed by LiveAction that go contrary to Church doctrine.

            The fact that you are only close to or closed to accepting, this is very telling.

            I would like to see you accept that the tactics of LiveAction were flat out wrong and against church teaching. Not closed, not close, not near, not almost, not fairly, but absolutely positively certain they were wrong.

            Can you say that sir now or would you like to waver more around the edge of the issue again?