Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lying in the pro-life movement must not go mainstream. It must be eradicated

Father Jerabek wrote a very thoughtful comment in response to Mark Shea's excellent column Augustine vs. the Priscillianists:

There have always been people in the pro-life movement who used immoral means to obtain what they perceived to be good ends. For example, in the 80s there were groups like Randall Terry’s “Operation Rescue” that routinely broke justly-enacted and enforced civil laws, in order to make statements, raise awareness, stop abortion, etc. In the 80s and 90s there were also bombings of clinics by pro-life madmen. In the 80s, 90s, and 00s, there were abortion doctors murdered by the same types of characters.

In all of these cases, what was involved was someone or some group of people, who saw themselves as fighting the pro-life cause, embracing a vigilante-sort of justice and using illicit means to achieve their goals. BUT IT MUST BE NOTED: it was also always possible to write off these individuals/groups as “extremists”, “fundamentalists”, “wackos”, etc. In other words, it was always clear, to one degree or another, that “this is not what the pro-life movement stands for”, that these people were on the fringe.

Now, while it was once possible to write off immorality in the pro-life movement as belonging to the fringe, it has now become mainstream, because it is being cloaked in America’s favorite guilty pleasure: lying. (Further cloaked by another favorite pasttime: consequentialism.) Live Action (and its imitators) is a mainstream group; they are being greatly hailed by pro-lifers all around. And they are using the tools of evil to obtain perceived good ends.

So perhaps it can be said that there has always been a cancer in the “movement”, but it was also always possible to defend ourselves against it—UNTIL NOW, when immoral means are threatening to become part of “the new norm”, or as Mark has called it, The New Hotness.

And I don’t hesitate to say that it is “mainstream” now, because I see that it is poisoning an entire generation. There are many fine young men and women on college campuses right now who see the truth about abortion, are very eager to do something, and are also energized about what Lila Rose and others are doing. They see her as a heroine and—like many people on these pages, on Dr. Kreeft’s combox, and in other fora—they reject out-of-hand the notion that what she is doing is wrong, in the final analysis. They might even admit that what she is doing is morally evil, but they also maintain that such evil can be justified in these circumstances.

It is urgent that we help people to see the truth of this matter and so prevent this cancer from metastasizing in the mainstream. Mark has easily shown how this “Faustian Bargain” that is being transacted in our time is already having deleterious effects (see his final paragraph). I shudder to think what it will produce in the long run. Mark’s raising the example of Holland should be a salutary warning for us all.

As we approach the season of Lent, perhaps it falls to us to rethink our role in the fight against evil, particularly the battle against abortion. Our primary weapon must be the truth and we must cloak ourselves with the armor of Light. Could it be that our weariness over a 40-year battle has resulted in an idolatry of success? Our desire for results has led us to give in to temptations to do evil, or at least to support others in so doing.

Let’s not simply drive this “cancer” back to the fringe. Let’s eradicate it completely: first, through humble prayer and supplication; second, by holding high standards for ourselves, in dependence upon God’s grace; third, by exhorting others to do the same, primarily by a shining example, but also, when necessary, by our charitable words.

This fight to eliminate lying in the pro-life movement is of extreme importance.

Because we will never win without moral purity. The pro-life battle is first and foremost a spiritual battle.

That means our most important weapons are of a spiritual nature, and moral purity is a necessary part of that.

When you're a Christian, when you're a Catholic, you do not live unto yourself. Your sin affects everyone else. When you sin and put barriers in the way of the Holy Spirit's operation in your heart, you're stopping the Holy Spirit's operation in the whole Church.

People say that lying is okay as if committing this evil were of no consequence, as if the operation of the Holy Spirit were some paltry consideration.

No it's not.

When the Holy Spirit is stopped in its tracks, that's how we become ineffective, and that's how we stop changing hearts. Our own holiness, regardless of our planned actions, changes hearts. We don't always know how that happens. We don't need to know.  It's a mystery. When you're full of the Holy Spirit, you don't necessarily need to think of fancy words or strategize about everything, because the Holy Spirit does that for you through your own holiness. Better than you can.

Yes, it's all very mysterious. We hate the thought of another baby aborted. The subjective emotion of thinking of that experience is more than many of us can bear.

But there's more to morality and truth than what our emotions can bear. And yes, the lack of a lie can mean that another mother goes to the abortion clinic and has her child slaughtered, but it is an evil we must tolerate in the short term for the greater good.

God does this all the time. He could violate free will and stop racial genocide. But he doesn't. He tolerates levels of evil above and beyond abortion. He does it  because the greater good is that human beings need to choose moral acts in order to be good and loving. Nothing else can substitute. So horrible consequences have to be tolerated for the big picture.

If God can tolerate the evil in the name of the big picture, we can tolerate the evil, in the short term, for the big picture. We can't make our laudable goal of saving babies so important that it trumps Truth, in every sense of that word. It almost becomes a false idol. We make the lives of human beings more important than God's law. We can't. God's law is everything. It's reason we are pro-life, and so we can't act like it's not important. It's contradictory.

I'll probably have more to say about this. I suspect this controversy is going to go on for a while. There are so many things many Catholics don't get-- Catholics who are otherwise faithful to the Magisterium. There are things that need to be said not just to correct them but because they are essential to the very cause we espouse. They're essential to understand the moral order. And they're essential because holiness is what will ultimately win this battle, and it is difficult to be holy in ignorance, especially on so basic a concept as lying.