It was shocking enough that 54% of Catholics embraced him last time around, but at the very least, you could say in 2008 that the full extent of Obama’s anti-life dogma wasn’t widely known and the alternative wasn’t exactly a crusader for the pro-life cause.
This is after four years of reminding them that the president believes in a fundamental right to snuff out innocent souls in the womb – and out of it. After he asserted state dominance over the religious liberties of private Catholic institutions. After he stood for taking Catholics’ money and putting it to abortion against their will.
Really? The end result of all that was a whopping three-percent decrease in Obama’s Catholic support?
Sure, the mainstream media wasn’t about to vet Obama’s gravest offenses, and Mitt Romney’s campaign was generally unwilling to raise them. Yes, some bought the fiction that Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s economic views were equally bad affronts to Catholicism. And a few especially gullible Catholics may have been hoodwinked into thinking ObamaCare was somehow “pro-life.”
But the unavoidable truth is that a majority of Catholics who went to the polls were faced with something their own faith defines as a mortal sin and chose to overlook it. The suffering of God’s children called to them, and they didn’t answer.
In every religion, there are cafeteria believers who pick up the parts that make them feel good while ignoring the inconvenient stuff, who see churches as nice social bodies but not true representatives of divine authority and wisdom. It now appears that constitute a greater share of American Catholicism than pro-lifers have been willing to admit.
Perhaps how the culture sees them is of greater concern than how God does. Perhaps they stand to gain something else from other issues that trumps whatever pangs of conscience they might feel from abortion. Perhaps they embrace the modern sexual ethos to the point where they were happy to get a birth control deal at the expense of their fellow Catholics’ rights. Perhaps they just don’t care about the unborn.
To be fair, it’s not as if their leaders were putting forth a united, unambiguous message about the right to life. Throughout the campaign, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops implied that abortion was no more morally objectionable than fiscal policies they opposed.
More importantly, for years the church’s actions have not matched its rhetoric on abortion’s evil. Ted Kennedy, Rudy Giuliani, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and scores of other prominent self-professed Catholics in public office have unabashedly promoted abortion – theoretically an excommunicable offense, yet the excommunication never happens. If flouting the faith has no consequences for abortion’s most powerful protectors, why would anyone expect more out of the average churchgoer?
It’s no wonder Catholics don’t oppose abortion to a meaningfully greater degree than the average American: the forces guiding their perspective on the subject aren’t that much more compelling than those acting on the rest of the country.
While Catholic theology remains a powerful worldview that sides unambiguously with the right to life, and the church may remain a powerful champion of the unborn elsewhere in the world, it is sadly time for pro-lifers to face an unpleasant reality: the United States’ Catholic community is no longer a natural ally of the pro-life cause.
I pray that my Catholic friends and allies succeed in revitalizing their church’s commitment to life, but as a pro-lifer, my duty to the unborn takes priority. That means refocusing on the right to life’s essential nature as a universal liberty cause rather than a sectarian doctrinal one, resolving to challenge abortion’s defenders and enablers no matter how close to home they reside, and – while still reminding wayward Catholics what their theology really says on the subject – maintaining more realistic expectations about whether that will be enough to reach them.
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