It seems like once a month well-informed Catholics need to mop up after Pope Francis. The latest spill? A long and undisciplined “Apostolic Exhortation” entitled Gaudete et Exsultate. It appears carefully timed, coming out the day after a conference of orthodox Catholics held in Rome to address the “crisis” Francis has caused inside the Church. Its contents? Mostly mixed wisdom about living the spiritual life.
The Real Threat: Too Much Pro-Life Fervor
One section in the document will afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. It subtly jabs at pro-life activists, and gives handy talking points to pro-abortion politicians. Especially those who claim to be Catholic, and seek Catholic votes in closely contested elections. See the upcoming races in the U.S. Congress.
One section in the document will afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. It jabs at some pro-life activists, and gives handy talking points to pro-abortion politicians. Especially those who claim to be Catholic, and seek Catholic votes in closely contested elections.
You might think that the Congress is beneath Pope Francis’ notice. No! Remember that he invited one member to a conference at the Vatican: the rabidly pro-choice, anti-marriage socialist Bernie Sanders. And Pope Francis spoke to Congress, during a tour of the U.S. that George Soros sought to spin as a campaign tour for Democrats. He did that by funneling $650,000 through the Latin American leftist group PICO, orchestrated by Pope Francis’ protégé, the scandal-ridden, anti-Semitic Fidel Castro fanboy Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.
When Soros’ machinations came out, did Pope Francis turn against PICO? Not a bit. He sent a supportive message to the group’s 2017 conference in Modesto, California. That’s the conference where 24 U.S. bishops, and a cardinal, urged bishops to “disrupt” all attempts to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Go read the crackpot manifesto that two dozen heirs of the apostles signed.
Pope Francis Corrects Our “Harmful Ideological Errors”
Here’s what Francis wrote recently:
The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.
A Poison Pill for the Unborn
Our lockstep pro-choice media took this statement and ran with it. The New York Times headline said it all: “Pope Francis Puts Caring for Migrants and Opposing Abortion on Equal Footing.” Expect the 14 Catholic senators who voted to keep on killing almost viable (“pain-capable”) unborn children to use this talking point. They will cite their opponents’ qualms about open borders as if it cancels out their support for Planned Parenthood. That’s what the Seamless Garment does, and why it was created in the first place.
That’s why Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI rejected that cheap, intellectually incoherent slogan coined by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. (Remember him? He’s the Chicago Archbishop who used Church funds to send the young Barack Obama to his first Saul Alinsky training.) The Seamless Garment is a poison pill for the pro-life movement, and a fig leaf for pro-choice politicians with Irish and Italian last names, who think that fact makes them “Catholics.” And now Pope Francis has provided some text that its advocates will be only too happen to use to bludgeon pro-lifers.
Obvious Premises, and Bad Conclusions
Like much of what Pope Francis says and writes, his latest statement asserts a few things that are obviously true. Then he draws from those “well, duh!” assertions conclusions that are baffling or … not quite right. Let’s unpack this rhetorical strategy. Yes, it’s true. The lives of unborn children are no more “sacred” than those in other categories:
Those already born.
The abandoned and the underprivileged.
The vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia.
The victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.
No pro-lifer has ever denied this. I challenge any skeptic: Find me the statements where pro-life activists have questioned the value of poor people’s lives. Or those already born. Or the destitute. Or any of the other vulnerable people in that list.
Never. Hasn’t happened. In fact, there’s just one thing that sets off unborn children from every other type of person in that group. Can you guess what it is?
Which Group Is Most Vulnerable?
Every single one of them has some form of legal protection. It might not be perfect. For instance, human trafficking runs riot on our unguarded southern border, because we don’t enforce our immigration laws. (But that’s not what Pope Francis seems to mean here.) We have massive government programs aimed at combating poverty and homelessness in America. The U.N. spends billions aiding refugees. The U.S. federal government sluices billions into helping immigrants, much of it through Catholic agencies that are little more than federal contractors.
The one group of people in our society with zero legal protection? The unborn. We can murder them on a whim, for sex selection, suspicion of being handicapped, or simple convenience. Their bodies can be carved up and sold for profit. They’re denied even dignified burial.
That’s why there’s a specific, single-issue movement devoted to unborn children. Because they’re in greater need. No one in civilized society calls poor people or immigrants anything like “blobs of tissue” or “products of conception.” No powerful organization like Planned Parenthood collects half a billion dollars from the U.S. federal government for hunting down immigrants and killing them, then sells their organs for profit.
If that starts to happen, then we will all agree that it is just as bad as abortion. And count on it, the same people who now run crisis pregnancy centers, and do sidewalk counseling, and lobby for unborn children, will step up and help stop the killing of immigrants. You see, unlike these allies of convenience on the left, we really do believe that life is sacred.
And you know what else? We believe in Hell, and we’d like to stop people from going there.
John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.
He has been Press Secretary to pro-life Louisiana Governor Mike Foster, and a reporter and editor at Success magazine and Investor’s Business Daily, among other publications. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in First Things, The Weekly Standard, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, FrontPage Magazine, The American Conservative, The South Carolina Review, Modern Age, The Intercollegiate Review, Commonweal, and The National Catholic Register, among other venues. He has contributed to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of Faith & Family magazine and a reporter at The National Catholic Register. During 2012 he was editor of Crisis.
He is author, co-author, or editor of eleven books, including Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist, The Grand Inquisitor (graphic novel) and The Race to Save Our Century. He was editor of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s guide to higher education, Choosing the Right College and Collegeguide.org, for ten years, and is also editor of Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind.