Wednesday, April 30

Irritation and Concern:

I have a sick baby at my side, and a talk to write, so no guarantees of coherence here. But then, there never are.

First, in regard to Sean Hannity. The problem is not what he or Bill O'Reilly believe or what variety of Catholic they consider themselves to be. The problem comes when they presume to make pronouncements about what the Church teaches - and they're wrong. No excuses, either. No "well, they're entertainers" or "they know as much as the average adult lay Catholic." Nope. These guys are in the process of making millions from spouting their opinions on television, radio, and in print. They have a responsibility - not just to be engaging, confrontational, or whatever it is their bosses want, but to be truthful and honest as well. As a person who has an audience that (when you take everything I write regularly together) numbers in the hundreds of thousands, I feel that responsibility very keenly, and try very hard not to make misstatements and to research whatever it is I'm talking about. Look at it this way: I write about religion, but, of course that ends up touching on everything. Say I want to write on something related to medical ethics. Would I have the right to say, "Well, the American Medical Association says..." without making sure that I'm absolutely positive about what the AMA does, indeed, say on a certain issue? Of course not. And neither do these guys who both (Hannity more than O'Reilly, though) make an issue of their Catholicism or Catholic heritage.

I only skimmed the Hannity thread below, but I noted that once again, the issue (naturally enough) of Catholic identity is rearing its head, and that's fine. But I wonder sometimes about our purpose and our starting point in such musings.

First of all, when it comes to Catholic identity, as much as the Kennedy's, Hannity's, Gibson's, Sullivan's and Daschle's of this world might irritate us, our primary, fundamental and really only responsibility in terms of Catholic identity is our own. Splinters and beams, people. Splinters and beams.

Secondly, if this is an issue for you and you wonder how and where you fit into this huge, diverse thing called the Catholic Church, please, please don't start looking at it from the point of this or that specific Church teaching on this or that issue.

Start with Christ.

Sure, on down the road you will confront these other issues, but as you begin.start with Christ.

Who do you believe Jesus is? What do you believe about Him? Have you read the Gospels lately? Well, go ahead. Listen to Jesus as he speaks, observe him as he acts and accept his invitation to pray. Where do you stand in relation to Jesus? Do you believe what He teaches is true? Do you believe that what happened to him - his death for us sinners and his resurrection - was absolutely real? Where do you stand?

And, of course, all of this must be done honestly and with a completely open heart, without any desire to justify our own sins or to mesh what we hear Jesus saying with what we think he should be saying or with what, as 21st century Americans, we dearly wish he would say.

And then, if we are Catholic, while we are studying and pondering, we are also encountering Jesus - in our personal prayer, and in the sacraments. We go to Mass, not expecting to be entertained by the personalities or inspired by human wisdom, but merely to encounter Jesus, bring our lives to him, and bring him into our lives. Let him change you. Let him speak. Listen.

I'm not being a fideist here, or saying that the other issues aren't important. They are. But way too many people unwittingly use them as an excuse to stay away, not just from the Church, but from God, period. I am not saying, either, that everyone who turns their focus this way will automatically end up as happy Catholics or even Catholics at all. I'm saying that if you are a Catholic who is struggling with that Catholic identity, start all over. Take a break from stressing about specific teachings that bug you, and go to Jesus - in the Gospels, in prayer, and in the Eucharist and in Reconciliation.

And let Him lead you from there.

A Holy Cross alumn weighs in on the Matthews thing at NRO

He offers a broader context, relating how the protesting alumnus shared his concerns privately with the college, but received no response. He also gives the full context of the president's defense, which has been discussed in comments here, but I offer again:

Despite Matthews's copious comments in defense of abortion (he has uttered flat-out on several occasions "I am pro-choice"), McFarland told the paper Matthews "said he feels abortion is immoral. Where he would differ from some Catholics is on the role of government and how intrusive government should be in controlling this. It's a matter of practical judgment. That's allowable in Catholic thought."

This perspective has, of course, been dissected forever, including in these here comment boxes. So I'll just add my own personal observation:

Do you know the problem with the "personally-opposed to abortion, but we live in a pluralistic society, can't force my views on anyone" crowd? They're ultimately a bunch of liars, no more and no less. Well, maybe more. Why? Because there is never any evidence at all of their opposition to abortion beyond their words. Let's put it this way: I've been involved in the pro-life movement off and on for twenty years. I've worked with national organizations like Feminists for Life. I've worked on the local level. I've answered phones in centers offering alternatives to women in crisis pregnancies. I've sorted baby clothes and organized diapers. I've sat in countless meetings at every level of the movement. I've done scads of public speaking on the issue.

And in all that activity, meeting with all of those people, not once have I ever encountered a person, also working at those tasks, who said he or she was personally opposed but pro-choice.

Translation:

The "personally opposed" don't do squat to try to help women and girls make life-affirming choices. The only people that are doing that are the people who are opposed to abortion, proud to say they're pro-life and believe that it should be discouraged by any moral means possible, including, dare we say it, the law. The personally opposed but pro-choice are not, in reality, where it counts - saving lives - really opposed to abortion. And they should just stop trying to absolve their own consciences by uttering empty words and just admit it: they really don't care if kids are being killed down the street. Because if they cared they'd be doing something about it, in some way, no matter how small. And my experience, at least, tells me that they can't be bothered.

Not the rest of us are doing as much as we could - or should - either, mind you.

Update:

As usual, commenters and other bloggers have helped me clarify my thinking. What I was really thinking of here were people who are in positions of power, responsibility and influence, or who are of the activist temperment. Certainly, all of us hold a myriad of positions of various issues and important matters, and we can't be involved or do something about all of them. I may be concerned about everything from the situation in the Congo to problems of health care for the poor in this country to oppression in North Korea to the idiocy that passes for modern education, but I can't be involved in every single cause. Just can't. So sure - there are plenty of people out there who don't like abortion, who live that in their own lives and choices but don't get involved in activism. Those aren't the people I called liars.

No, I'm talking about politicians and government officials who piously cry that they are "personally opposed" while consistently voting with NARAL and NOW, down the line, 100%, or who do nothing to use the power they have to actively nurture and support alternatives to abortion or education programs on the nature of abortion. I'm talking about people involved in communications in media who do nothing to try to balance the way that this issue is portrayed in the media. I'm talking about activists - in the secular world, and in the Church, too - who say that they are really, really dismayed by abortion, and then proceed to scold, scold, scold pro-lifers for being "single issue" and not focusing on the "root causes" of abortion, telling them that they should really be in the business of helping women and education, instead of wasting all their time on legislative issues. Now, if these personally opposed activist types actually were involved in the abortion issue just the tiniest, littlest bit they would know, of course, that perhaps 90% of what pro-lifers do in their organizations is all about helping women, children and families, and education. They would know this. But they don't know this, because, you see, despite their great concern for the issues of the day, they are not actually involved in trying to do anything about abortion, so they have no freaking clue what the pro-life movement is really all about.

So those were the people I was talking about. The people who say they don't like abortion. The people who have the power to do something about it. The people who scold the other people who are actually doing something about this thing they say they abhor. The people who, at the close of the day, have done nothing with the power, influence and responsibility that they have to work on diminishing this practice they say they oppose.



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