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Please comment on the pro-life argument presented below

Caitrin, one of the friends of this blog, posted an excellent comment in the Communion to Pro-Life story. I post it below, together with my response. I invite comment upon my analysis of the situation.

Thanks for your help in exploring these arguments and suggestions.

Fr. Tim

caitrin said...

Justin Trudeau seems to think that he can support abortions rights and call himself Catholic.

Fr. Tim, people hate pro-lifers. The church hierarchy is not too fond of pro-lifers or "conservative' catholics ( a descriptor I dislike because truly there is only orthodoxy or heterodoxy) either. So it is not surprising that politicians, who want people to like them, abjure church teaching. The liberal party has long ago become hostile to pro-life members.

To proclaim your pro-life beliefs is to instantly discredit yourself as a politician in this country.

My husband and I have attended the Life Chain for many years and have brought along our children from very young ages. Many years we have not even one priest in attendance. What are we to make of that? I was happy to see our Bishop attend in May but frankly, I think the pro-life community feels very abandoned by the church.

Fr. Tim Moyle said...

Caitrin: I fear that the answer to you question and comment is not entirely easy to understand, but I believe that there are two or three motivations that together explain the lack of reaction and support from clergy.

1. As priest, we are the instruments of God's mercy and forgiveness. We are the people to whom people confess such sins as abortion. We know that, with very few exceptions these people are not "bad" people - that they should not be defined as evil because of what they did. When we hear the anguished voice of a parent who brings to God their guilt over obtaining an abortion for their young daughter; when we watch them being torn apart by their love of their child, menaced by fears of a lost future coming into conflict with their faith, we feel immense compassion. We would be poor examples of the priesthood if we were not moved by these moments of brokenness.


As Bishop Fulton Sheen was known to often state: we as clergy of the Church are called to practice a ministry guided by the principle "mercy in truth". If we neglect either side of this important method, then sin prevails. Being priest demands of us fidelity to the teachings of the church and we must minister within all of the facets of her message. The prayerful skill that is needed is the be faithful with God's mercy and judgment.

2. Further to this, there are clergy who are sensitive to the vox populi, which in Canada seems to speak of support for the status quo. They do not want to be seen as "extreme" or "out of the mainstream" as they fear that this will result in the loss of many of the faithful who practice their faith. Think of this as the"water in the wine" school of thought: better to have lots of people hear some teaching than for fewer to hear all of it - a spiritual law of diminishing returns.

Again the error here is that if we continue to accommodate these secular drives (framed as they are as being manifestations of the "right to self-autonomy"), then soon we will find ourselves in a corner where no one will come to church because we stand for nothing.

3. Finally, I can also see the same political wisdom that Ted Kennedy followed throughout his career in the Senate (never bad to learn from one's opponent) of make compromises that bring you incrementally closer to your ultimate goal - kind of a "reverse" inculturation against the forces of secularism.

All of this being said, I understand as well that no matter what our tactics might be in bringing about a more just and moral society, we must be vocal and clear as to our ultimate goals - in this we have no choice - if we wish to be faithful to the voice of the the Successor to Peter and stand for LIFE!

Might I suggest the following: write to your Bishop and ask him to consider mandating participation of the local clergy at next years "Life Chain" (something that his "Council of Priests" could discuss). If he will state publicly that he himself will attend, as will the majority of the area clergy, this would serve to lift the profile of the Life arguments of the Church - for it would garner some notice in the local and Catholic press. This simple act of education and respectful request placed before your Ordinary can be presented as the laity bringing to the attention of their church a challenge to their faith, an approach that will most likely be warmly and positively received.

The pro-life community has indeed been left to fend on its own, with only token support from priests and bishops. But you have succeeded in keeping these important issues on the public agenda. Imagine what you could accomplish if you could unite your efforts with the witness of the clergy of the church. In dioceses where this has happened, it has served to stiffen the resolve of the Church and benefited the cause of life.

Google the news stories from various dioceses in North America. Put together a presentation package for the Bishop that he can bring to his Council of Priests. Help to bring the clergy into the fold by tuning your message to be heard amongst the clammer of daily ministry. You won't get them all... but you will get enough. That's all that Christ, our High Priest has promised, but that's all that we will need.

Fr. Tim


  1. Thanks for replying but please do not propogate inadvertantly the idea that pro-lifers are insensitive to the serious emotional effects abortion brings to parents, grandparents, siblings and others. Most of us are lay people who are fully aware of the responsibilities of raising children and the difficulties that they face. Priests and politicians don't have a monopoly on compassion.

    There are many issues confronting us in this story, the apostacy and cowardice of politicians, are only the simple ones. We do not see any catholic politicians who strive honestly to offer any fresh thinking or approaches. Whilst the older generation of catholic politicians would give the old "personally opposed to but... " arguement and would in their personal life demonstrate their embrace of life the new generation offers no such sop. They now fully support positions clearly contrary to the faith and still proclaim that they are catholic.

    There are options- defunding abortion from the public purse is a pretty moderate step. At the least those of us who are conscientious objectors ought to be able to refuse to pay our portion of taxes to support morally objectionable surgeries and research- abortions, sex-change operations, stem cell research, human cloning, euthansia and sterilizations.

    I have every confidence that all of our bishops and priests are pro-life. I only wish that they were more apparently pro-life.

    Somehow as well the chuch, in its teaching capacity has not well articulated its understanding of human dignity. Ignorance is rife amongst the laity. Somehow people of my generation and younger are remarkably ignorant. Religious instruction in our school stumbled when the main content became " You are special and Jesus loves you" I don't say that the content is wrong because it is a profound truth that each of us is made for love- to give love and to receive love. However it is inadequate to walk through that statement without examining what that means. It means that even the preborn are made for love, that the old are worthy of love, that the handicaped are to be loved, that poor are to be loved. Ultimately it also means that abortion is a rejection of love, an act of violence that impairs the abiltiy to love. We have no problem denouncing violence in wars or bullying on the playground. However the uterous is one of the most unsafe places around. The organ which was the tabernable is now an empty and dangerous place.

    I am sorry if I am ranting, we are not in disagreement but I think too many laity don't speak up. Not speaking up does no favour to our ordained. Indeed, I think that the gap between the laity and the ordained has grown very wide. When I was a child, our newly appointed parish priests would visit all the parishers in their homes. It was a great gift to us to have father come for tea and cookies. We would also have the priest for dinner once a year and so they were never foreign creatures. I think priests are more isolated than ever and so they hang out with each other for companionship instead of finding friendships within families as well. Our vocations are not so different. Your job is the sacraments- the administration thereof. Ours is to live the sacraments in the world and we need each other.

  2. Caitrin: There is no rant in your comments - you have nothing to apologize for on your own behalf or on behalf of the laity. You are also certainly correct in saying that our task in life is the same: manifesting the love of God in everyday life.

    I did not mean to claim any sort of particular gift of compassion on the part of priests over the laity. I was just reflecting upon the impact that this compassion has on us as confessors for people who bring such matters to God for forgiveness. Since we face this issue on such an intimate and personal level in the broken lives of others, any priest can lose himself in his desire to bring comfort and peace to a penitent - and as a result lose perspective on the greater life issues. Put another way, as the agent of absolution and mediator of forgiveness, a priest is called to minister God's grace in a very direct way that is unique to our office. Think of it as the counterpoint to parental love.

    I believe that you nailed part of the problem that I neglected: the lack of religious formation and education of the majority of Catholics. You are absolutely correct in saying that we have not equipped the youth of today to be able to process these questions in a religious manner. The principle that God loves us is always correct, but without the concommitant teaching on how we are obliged to respond to this love. The belief of today lacks the bones and structure that the old catechisms offered to those formed in the faith prior to this new Cathetechical approach. It's as if we have the flesh to want to respond to God's love, but we lack the skeleton needed to support of efforts to bring ourselves closer to God.

    The end result is that we have inadvertently transformed the image of God as "Father" into some sort of doting "grandfather" that we go to when we want something.

    I close as you did, by acknowleging that Catholics of all stripes and grade must do far more to bring the wisdom of our faith to these great life questions - a task that has been made all the more difficult by the failures of formation in the past.

    Fr. Tim


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