Are there lessons to be learned in the election for the US bishops?EJ Dionne offers an answer: washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-di…— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) November 26, 2012
A few days ago Father James Martin, S.J. sent out the above tweet promoting an article by Democratic political writer E.J. Dionne. Dionne attacked Archbishop Chaput for saying that "I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion." Dionne says the Church is "casting itself as a militantly right-wing political organization." Dionne can be opposed. He’s wrong. The preborn deserve legal protection from the abortionists. The Church should not abandon the babies under any circumstances. Even if it were true that abandoning the babies would "halt defections among so many younger Catholics" as Dionne falsely promises, the Church should stand with the defenseless and speak for the voiceless no matter what. But as I say Dionne can be opposed. He will only be defended by people who agree with him. People who disagree with Dionne will not defend him saying that because he is right about something else, his call for the Church to abandon the unborn should not be criticized. What about Father Martin, though? Should he be immune from criticism?
Father Martin writes popular books that are marketed as Catholic, have subjects like saints, Lourdes and liturgy and appear to be perfectly unobjectionable Catholic books. In photographs he is often shown wearing a clerical collar. On his Facebook page he says his name is "Fr. James Martin." (Not every Jesuit would use the "Fr.") He speaks regularly at Catholic events, and not just liberal Catholic events, but events that appear to be regular, mainstream Catholic events. Yet he has promoted this article saying the Church is wrong to work for legal protection for the unborn. Can I oppose him the way I can oppose Dionne? Or should I try to think of excuses for him? Try to explain away his decision to take the side of the world against the babies?
Some people say what they mean. Some people snipe from a concealed position. The people who deny the humanity of the unborn are wrong, but they have a point. If the baby in the womb is not a human being then maybe abortion isn’t wrong. Thirty years ago, on a very few occasions, I had the opportunity to discuss abortion with men outside of abortion facilities. What strikes me about those three or so heated discussions is the response I got when I talked about the humanity of the unborn. Each of the men interrupted me with the words "that piece of s___." The people who refer to a "blob of tissue" or say that the baby becomes a baby when the mother decides she wants him or her to be born are wrong, like those men outside the abortion facilities are wrong, but at least somewhat logical. They support abortion by denying the humanity of the preborn.
More mysterious are those people who are unwilling to deny the humanity of the preborn, yet still oppose protection for them. The most bizarre exponent of this bizarre opinion is Vice President Biden who insists that he believes that we are human from the moment of conception and that preborn humans must have no legal protection from the abortionists until outside the womb. He "guarantees" that the Obama administration will appoint no Supreme Court justice whose is willing to allow the unborn any legal protection. Certainly we’re allowed to oppose that view, too, monstrous as it is.
How about those people who affirm the unborn’s humanity, and write in public about abortion, but hedge about what should be done, and snipe at people working to protect the unborn? Father Martin, for example, wrote that a voter choosing between Biden and Paul Ryan shouldn’t pick one or the other on the basis that one is the "better Catholic." That’s because we can’t read hearts and we don’t know which one actually is a better Catholic. Of course we can't know the state of another person’s soul. But let’s assume that Biden is perfectly protected by an absolutely unbreakable shield of invincible ignorance. How can anyone vote for someone making such a monstrous claim, whether he’s culpable or not? Biden says he will work to prevent human babies from having any protection from being dismembered and killed, as long as the mother gives consent. How can a Catholic not reject such a candidate? How can a Catholic priest write about such a candidate without explaining the extreme evil of that teaching, even though the priest could also write that he didn’t know if Biden was sinfully culpable in promoting such a horrible belief?
Father Martin has written that gun control is a pro-life issue. I don’t think he’s right about that. If gun control were a pro-life issue Father Martin would write in a way that highlighted the argument that the gun control people might be all wrong. Maybe they should abandon the idea of gun control laws, and just ask people not to buy guns, or maybe just ask them not to shoot them. If gun control were a pro-life issue I don’t think Father Martin would put himself so unambiguously on one side.
Father Martin’s tweet, of course, leaves him some room for denial, although I don’t know that he has plausible deniability: "Are there lessons to be learned in the elections for the US bishops? E.J. Dionne offers an answer:" He can say that he didn’t endorse the answer. He might say that he’s just raising the question of Dionne’s answer. He’s not endorsing the attack on Archbishop Chaput’s statement. The attack on Archbishop Chaput’s statement, the request that the bishops quit asking for protection for the babies, and all the statements in the article that are objectionable just happen to be in a really great thoughtful article that may, or may not, be right. Would you promote an article you fundamentally disagreed with? If I found something good in this article and was sending it to someone I knew, let alone sending it to a lot of people I didn’t know, I’d note that it was too bad that it also contains an attack on that excellent statement of Archbishop Chaput. And that attack is not a discordant note in the article. It’s a part of Dionne’s theme that the bishops have to sit down, shut up and take direction from the secular left, like their betters are already doing. Father Martin promoted this article. Is it really any better that he promoted it while leaving himself the option to disassociate himself from the article later if he had to?
As Father Martin said about Vice President Biden, we can’t read each other’s hearts. If you are ever on a jury in a murder case the judge will tell you that you have no way directly to determine another person’s intent, but you can infer an intent to kill from the use of a deadly weapon upon a vital part of the human body. We’re not on a jury, though. We don’t have to determine Father Martin’s intent. I’m opposing his statement. I’m not opposing him. His intent is between him and God. Maybe he could truthfully say that he thought the very best thing he could possibly do for the unborn was to send out that tweet. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m not concerned with what he thinks. I’m concerned about the actual effect the promotion of this article has on the people trying to defend the babies and on the people trying to keep the killing going. Whatever Father Martin thought when he sent out this article, the people who retweeted it retweeted it because they want abortion to be legal, not because they want it to be illegal. Father Martin made things a little harder for people on one side and a little easier for people on the other.
Is Father Martin’s tweet a #MoronicProchoiceQuote? Father Martin would say it is not moronic and not pro-choice. I would not argue with him. It is, however, more dangerous than any actual moronic prochoice quote.
Agreed. Roger has rightly identified an insidious and growing problem-worldliness within the clergy. When political correctness become more important than eternal truths, we're in real trouble. Many thanks to Roger for this excellent post calling out leadership for failing to stand on principle.