Monday, January 25, 2010

Ideology cannot move us, part 2

The anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is always observed by a massive pro-life march in our nation's capital. It is a peaceful demonstration and it is, without a doubt, a good thing to see hundreds of thousands of people, citizens of a free country, exercising their rights to free speech and free association in support of the worthiest of all causes: human life. To paraphrase something Pope John Paul II said over and again: without the right to life all other rights do not really matter. Nonetheless, we can't just leave it there because it is very easy to get together with a large group of like-minded folks to march with banners and chant slogans in the service of a cause that is just and true.

Beginning last Saturday I began to see the following on Facebook: "Yesterday, January 22, 2010 marked the 37th anniversary of the day abortion became legal. Since that day 50,000,000 human beings have lost their lives. 3,500 abortions are performed each day, adding up to over a million abortions a year. If you want to take a stand for life, post this on your page and leave it as your status for at least one hour." I did not post this as my status at all. Why? Because it strikes me as very abstract. I can't really see the humanity in this statement, factually accurate and disturbing as it is in its own way. I stand for human life unambiguously. With regard to the statement above, I ask, what good does it do, especially if we are content to remain in the realm of ideology? For somebody who takes the opposing view, I imagine their response would be to say "Ho-hum," then to stretch and yawn.

My own experience in pastoral ministry has taught me that the part of being pro-life that consists of opposing abortion requires me to reach out to and to pray for women who find themselves pregnant, alone, scared, and uncertain, who feel unloved and unwanted themselves, more than it means being politically active. Political posturing with a lot of bon homme and hot chocolate is easy, whereas it is quite difficult to love because love requires a lot from me and is often inconvenient and always means not being in control. I cannot love an abstraction. I can only love a person. Humanity, humankind, mankind, etc., is an abstraction, the woman looking at me through tears who is scared and alone is not just a concrete reality, but someone of infinite worth. She is also, if I am honest, very often someone I would rather not face. The part of being pro-life that opposes abortion also means recognizing that whenever I teach or preach on this important issue, I must do so knowing full well that there are women who have had abortions listening to me. Many of these women carry a lot of guilt, their choice remains for them an open wound, like the woman with the hemorrhage who needed Jesus' healing touch (Mark 5:25-34). So, if all I offer is ideology, condemnation, and a reaffirmation of something too many of them might already believe, namely that they are beyond the reach of God's love, I am not in the service of Christ, in whom and through whom God brings life from death.

Cutting to the chase, yet again: it is not a matter of having the correct ideology, the one that opposes the ideology set forth in my previous post, it is recognizing once more that ideology cannot move us. If anything, ideology hardens us. With each day that passes I am more convinced that the Eucharist is where we resist the "annihilation of the human subject," which does not mean politicizing the Eucharist. It means verifying through experience that we are accompanied by His presence and seeing how we are called to make Him present to everyone we encounter in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

Today we observe the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The Apostle's encounter with our resurrected and living Lord moved him beyond the narrow confines of religion as ideology- "For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors... God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me..." (Gal. 1:11-16a NRSV).

I also want to acknowledge the fifteenth anniversary of the episcopal ordination of Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco. He was ordained 25 January 1995 in The Cathedral of the Madeleine. Roger Cardinal Mahony was his principal consecrator who was assisted by then-Archbishop William Levada, and Bishop Tod Brown- though it might make him chuckle at this point: Ad multos annos!


  1. Your two posts may be among the best I have ever read on this topic. Thank you for your compassionate voice and open heart Deacon Scott.

  2. Thanks, Fran. I can honestly say that both flow from the charism of CL. There are so many distinctions that are not often made, like the difference between being pro-life and merely anti-abortion, like in what or whom do we place our hope In the U.S. Congress? I write that not being too hard on the women and men who serve us in Congress, they, too, are human beings who are loved and who are capable of serving us by acting in accord with the common good.


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