Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Wanderer and the Void

The 21 May 2009 issue of the Wanderer had two articles, side by side, that both addressed the same problem. The first was by Alice von Hildebrand and it posed the question right in the headline: "Should Abortion or Other Social Concerns Have Priority?"

She began by saying that, putting aside "pro-choice" Catholics (who are not really Catholic at all), there is a divide in the Church between those who see abortion as being the paramount issue of our time, and those who see it only as one among many issues of concern to Catholics. She then points out that whereas the other issues are fairly complex (e.g. peace and war, the death penalty), and some are almost incomprehensibly complex (e.g. social justice), abortion was always wrong. She stated that only by over-looking the "quality" of the issues, can we think that these other concerns possibly outweigh the enormity of abortion. She states:

Among moral obligations there is a clear hierarchy: Desirable as it is to fulfill them all, in case of conflict, we should give precedence to the one that has more weight, and ask ourselves whether or not an action is irreparable or not. Death is an end point. An abortionist cannot bring back to life a dismembered little baby deprived of the very possibility to ask for mercy.

Just to the left of this was a piece by Scott P. Richert, "A Bridge to Nowhere," in which he asks just how effective have pro-life efforts been since 1973. His conclusion is that the pro-life effort reached a high-tide in 1989 when the court handed down "Webster v. Reproductive Health Services" which allowed certain limitations on access to abortion. At the time, one of the architects of Roe v. Wade, William J. Brennan, Jr., was in poor health and expected to retire, which he did the next year. Bush then replaced Brennan with David Souter, who not only turned out to be pro-choice, but then influenced Anthony Kennedy to uphold Roe v. Wade in subsequent decisions. So — Bush was not pro-life after all.

Then followed the Clinton years and the appointments of Ginsburg and Breyer, both of whom were expected to be, and were, pro-choice. But then hearts lifted when George W. Bush was elected, because he was an Evangelical and thus, presumably, more committed to the pro-life cause than his father, an Episcopalian. No such luck. Richert details how Bush's moves against abortion were all on the margins, that he failed to sign on to a Republican pro-life initiative in 2003 (ostensibly so that abortion would remain an issue in 2004), and appointed two justices (Roberts and Alito) who have pretty much come out and said that Roe v. Wade is settled law. He concludes:

Why aren't we winning? Why isn't abortion under steady attack, and Roe v. Wade on its last legs?

Because pro-life candidates know that we have nowhere else to go. We cannot, will not, should not vote for candidates who support abortion. Yet we are convinced that it is our civic duty always to case a vote, and some Catholics even argue (with sum justification, based on a passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) that it is our moral duty as well.

Which means that, in a race between a putatively pro-life Republican and a pro-abortion Democrat, we cannot vote for the Democrat, so we must vote for the Republican.

And the Republican knows it. And he knows that we'll vote for him again when he comes up for re-election, whether he follows through on his pro-life promises or not. So the temptation is there to take the easy way out — to campaign as a pro-lifer every two or four or six years, but to govern as someone for whom abortion is a non-issue.

Thus pro-life voters have become for the Republican Party what black voters are for the Democratic Party — a block of "sure votes" that can be appeased by words and ignored in action.

And if you think that has worked out well for blacks, I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

Scott P. Richert is executive editor of Chronicles, the magazine of the highly conservative Rockford Institute. He is a traditional Catholic who writes frequently for the Wanderer. His pro-life credentials are impeccable. If you don't believe me when I tell you that an "anti-abortion" vote for the Republicans is a vote wasted, then maybe you'll believe him.