How did it happen that so many prominent Catholics, especially those in politics and in academia, moved from being ardent defenders of the unborn and the culture of life to advocates of the culture of death with such ease. It all seemed so smooth and unremarkable. In such a short time after the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision these elites seemed to go effortlessly from “deeply held” opposition to open support for abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy.
Part of the answer, of course, is that they were never truly committed to protecting the unborn, and/or lacked the courage to stand for life and risk opprobrium from the secular elites. The other part is that there was little or no social or political cost to being a prominent, abortion supporting Catholic.
Whatever private admonitions there were by the bishops of America to the Catholic elites who were jumping ship on this fundamental matter, those communications remained mostly private — even when the admonitions were obviously ignored. It is true that the hierarchy did publicly and consistently state the Catholic teaching on abortion. But year after year prominent many prominent Catholic abortion supporters and promoters escaped any form of public chastisement from the Church.
As time went on it became increasingly easier for the Catholic politician, the Catholic professor, the Catholic journalist, and other Catholic elites to proclaim themselves publicly in favor of abortion and at the same time claim to be “faithful” Catholics. There was no downside to this Alice In Wonderland position.
Bishops and clergy still greeted them on Sunday and gave them Holy Communion. Catholic universities and other Catholic groups still gave them honors. The pro abortion professors received tenure at Catholic universities. Their pictures appeared in diocesan newspapers and other Catholic publications with glowing commendations and heavy praise for their efforts in the continuing expansion of government welfare programs, especially when a lot of that welfare state money flowed into Catholic Charities, Catholic hospitals, and other Catholic run programs and bureaucracies.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and many chancery offices around the country still rolled out position papers year after year declaring the evil of abortion. But pro-abortion professors and journalists were too frequently welcome at the USCCB and at those same chancery offices. So were the politicians, and the tax money they brought with them.
This all may seem like old news. But this little history of accommodation is worth reviewing today because there is an eerie sense of deja vu with the current same sex “marriage” juggernaut that is smashing through the historical legal protections for genuine marriage.
The politicians are claiming that they are personally opposed but… The media are churning out tearjerker stories about lonely homosexuals who deserve to be married to a same sex partner as much as any heterosexual man and woman deserve to be married to one another. Professors at Catholic universities are manufacturing the modern new truth about marriage: It is whatever they say it is.
But what we don’t have (yet) is a unified, articulate, and truly robust engagement with society in general, and with these high profile elites in particular, on the absolute necessity of traditional marriage and the destructive consequences of supporting and permitting any other concept of marriage.
What we don’t have (yet) is a unified and robust catechesis directed to American Catholics in every parish in every diocese teaching that, while same sex “marriage” may seem to be the right, just, and good thing to do for homosexuals, it is in reality the fruit of a poisonous sentimentality and the very opposite of right, just, and good.
What we don’t have (yet) is a clear, direct, and unified public denunciation of those Catholic elites, including without limitation vice president Joe Biden and former speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who loudly and publicly support marriage other than between one man and one woman, and who must be deemed complicit in the destructive consequences to the family that flow from their positions.
However, there is good news and evidence that a growing number of our bishops see the need to do some of these things. Following are just two examples from among many.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois presented the Church’s teachings on real marriage and the false notion of same sex “marriage” in a debate with Sr. Jeanine Grammick in Phoenix in May of 2013. Grammick is co-founder of the dissident group known as New Ways Ministry, which has been condemned by the Congregation for the Divine Faith and by American bishops.
Presumably it was clear to Bishop Paprocki before he ever left Springfield to travel to Phoenix for that debate that the audience would be hostile. And it was, with insults to the bishop and mockery of the Church’s teachings. But he chose to go anyway to present the Truth to those who needed to hear it the most.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has for some time now robustly defended true marriage in the public arena, and warned of the destructive results of same sex marriage, both for the individuals involved and for the well being of true marriage and our society.
For his troubles he has been condemned by a multitude of elites, including Catholic politicians, notably Ms. Pelosi who demanded that the archbishop not attend the March for Marriage in Washington D.C. in June 2014. But he continues to teach and preach the Gospel even to powerful misguided politicians such as Mrs. Pelosi.
The public fight over the Obamacare contraception and abortion mandate has also been a reminder to the bishops and to all Catholics that there is no place to hide from the enemies of the Truth, and that Caesar is never really the Church’s friend. So we should emulate St. Paul, and confront error head on, and early on.
Some evidence of this is the bishop’s public condemnation earlier this year of President Obama’s 2014 executive order forcing all persons and entities that contract with the federal government to, in effect, recognize same sex marriage.
Yet there is much to be done. The inevitable damage to families, and the just as inevitable threat to religious freedom, seems to be lost on too many in the Church. In so many parishes in so many dioceses there is nary a word mentioned about same sex marriage.
Too many diocesan publications are silent on it, and far too many pulpits are black holes into which the teaching of Christian marriage simply disappears. It is as if there is no threat, and that we have no response. But the result of this catechetical failure has consequences.
An October 2013 Quinnipiac poll found that American Catholics, both observant and lapsed, support same-sex marriage by 60% to 31%. But even when the results were filtered for those who go with some regularity to Mass each week the result was telling. Fifty-three percent of the more observant Catholics support same sex marriage (53% to 40%).
These are people who for the most part go to Mass every Sunday! Do they even know what the Church teaches about true marriage? Do they have even a scintilla of a notion of the danger of the destruction of true marriage that same sex “marriage” brings? Do they really consider sodomy a practice that should be legally protected and deemed equal to procreative sex between one man and one woman?
Likely a lot of chancery offices and pastors are not up for the fight for marriage since the gay activists are well funded, and skilled at intimidating and bullying their opponents. It is just as likely Church officials know that a full, robust moral challenge to the immorality of same sex marriage will produce a backlash of ridicule and condemnation of the bishops and the Catholic faithful far beyond what has rained down over the years from opposition to abortion, or even from the priest sex scandal. They know as well that, as Bishop Paprocki experienced and as the Quinnipiac poll reveals, the battle to defend true marriage is as much of a conflict of us against us as us against them. The battle will be neither comfortable nor easy, and not without great pain.
But there is no cure for falsehood and evil except the Truth. The bold proclamation of the Truth to the faithful and to society, in season and out, is always the only option because accommodation is false wisdom and always a loser.