Saturday, August 30, 2008


Pelosi and Palin: A Tale of Two Women

The intersection of faith and politics is heating up once more as we approach the general election, and this week both House Speaker Pelosi and and Alaska Gov. Palin had starring roles with the issue of abortion shedding a reflective light on these women and the issues of the day.

Speaker Pelosi made headlines last weekend when she described herself "as an ardent, practicing Catholic" on TV, and then went on to misrepresent the Catholic Church's two-centuries old condemnation of abortion. Citing the theological writings of St. Augustine, she said that the Church has always been in doubt about when life begins, and that it is still a "controversy" in the Church. A quick read through the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that there is no confusion - the Church definitely declares abortion to be a grave, mortal sin that involves the killing of innocent life.

It's worth noting that for all the treasures the Church has gleaned from the writings of the Church Fathers, including St. Augustine specifically, Catholics should know that the trump voice in the Catholic Church has been, and always will be, the infallible voice of the Pope in communion with the Bishops of the universal church. And there is no question that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is clear that abortion is a no-no for Catholics: and that Catholics who publicly say otherwise risk causing scandal. Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York, made it very clear how wrong Pelosi was in her remarks; read his affirmation of the Church's teaching and his correction of Pelosi.

And then, a week later, into the national spotlight walks Gov. Sarah Palin - the Republican vice presidential nominee. She is someone, though a newcomer to public service, who has been consistent in her opposition to abortion. And for Gov. Palin, this national debate is not an abstraction - it is a personal reality. When she learned she was carrying a baby with Down Syndrome, she chose to have the baby instead of getting an abortion. This is walking the talk. This is the culture of life actualized. This is the true strength and power of femininity revealed, proving that politics is simply the expression of one's deepest values into the civil discourse. If you hold to the truth that life begins at conception, then it must carry through and inform your political and governmental actions. This is not an example of religion muddying the waters of civil society, it's an example of people of faith using their values to influence the debate in a pluralistic, democratic society.

Yet for many liberal politicians and feminists, the pro-abortion dogma is something that defines their entire worldview and understanding of freedom. Already the writers on the Huffington Post have begun to label Gov. Palin as an extremist and an enemy of women. I wonder how a mother who chooses to defend her child's right, and the right of all children to be protected in the womb, is an enemy to women? The insanity of abortion, contraception, pornography, homosexuality and no-fault divorce has become a kind of mental and spiritual addiction for many on the left in this country. With this peculiar lust for licentiousness, many politicians have begun to ignore the teachings of their faith and the dictates of logic.


Whereas previously, a Down’s child could be born without the prior knowledge of the mother, going forward, a parent with a Down’s child will likely have made a conscious choice to have that child. As prenatal testing for trisomy 21 becomes ubiquitous, Down’s children (and eventually those with other genetic disorders) will increasingly become symbols of faith – a freak show meant to communicate the “family values” of their parents. The children will become public sacrifices made by their parents for their faith. They will be a symbol of religious reverence in the same way as the scarred backs of Catholics who flagellate themselves, or Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire, or Sunni Muslims who mutilate their girl’s genitals or Shiites who bloody their children’s heads with swords.

Genuine moral virtues – such as integrity, honesty, and productivity are not useful as evidence of religious virtue. To the extent that their practical benefit is visible to everyone, they do not represent the special domain of religion. To demonstrate religious virtue, it is necessary to sacrifice authentic moral values in favor of “religious” values. The particular object of the sacrifice is not important – there is nothing particularly “biblical” about being prolife (the Christian bible just as easily supports the opposite position.) If Christian fundamentalists decided that cutting of one’s hand sufficed as proof of moral virtue, they would be wrong to do so, but not much more so than the numerous other ways that people find to be self-destructive.

What is really vicious about fundamentalists in America is that the prey on the most vulnerable –poor pregnant young girls and women, those dying from painful terminal illnesses, the loved ones of brain-dead patients, — and children afflicted with terrible genetic illnesses. One can at least grasp the moral indifference with which a fundamentalist can force a single young mother to abandon her goals and dreams and condemn her and her child to poverty. But what can we say about a parent that chooses a life of suffering upon their child? If we are morally outraged by child rapists, how should we judge a parent who chooses a lifetime of suffering on their own child?
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