By Deal W. Hudson
Mel Gibson’s Passion is finally in movie theaters. Now people can see for themselves what all the hubbub is about. Most, I believe, will leave the theater shaken to the core by the terrible beauty of Gibson’s masterpiece. The media-driven expectation of an anti-Semitic portrayal of the Jews will be swept away by the spectacle of a man of peace abused, scourged, crucified, betrayed, and abandoned by all but a few of his family and friends.
When the ridiculous charges of anti-Semitism have finally passed, two questions will have to be asked. First, why was the attack on Gibson so pro-longed, so vicious, so multifaceted? Second, why did none of the liberal crowd who joined in the public hounding of Gibson ever concern themselves with his artistic freedom?
It was not that long ago when Andres Serrano was dipping a crucifix in urine to the delight of the New York Times and the anti-Catholic elites of the art world. Catholics who were offended at such vulgarity on display in an exhibit funded by public dollars were accused of censorship and the Philistine refusal of artistic license. Indeed it has been a virtual calling card of the left to place unflattering portrayals of Christianity in the arts beyond criticism. How, they ask, can the imagination of the artist be measured by the traditional religious creeds?
But what happens when an artist puts the central fact of the creed—”He suffered, died, and was buried”—on a movie screen? Apparently, concern for Gibson’s freedom as an artist no longer applies. When a major movie star employs all his talent and celebrity to put a conventional Passion play on film, everyone from seminary professors to movie critics and liberal pundits forget their defense of film director Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ a generation ago.
Once we acknowledge that the intelligentsia defends anything religiously heterodox, it then becomes apparent why Gibson’s film has drawn so much heavy fire. It’s perfectly fine if the meaning of Christianity is seen through the humanist vision of a Martin Scorcese or a Martin Sheen. Soon we’ll have a film version of The Da Vinci Code with its preposterous thesis about the marriage of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and about which liberal scholars and critics will say nothing.
But a film about Jesus Christ by Mel Gibson simply cannot be allowed. First, he’s a genuine celebrity, a mega-star whose film will be influential for that very fact. Second, he really believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that his death was not simply an example of love for his fellow man but the redemption of humankind. Third, as witnessed in Braveheart, Gibson is capable of making a classic film sure to be admired as long as film endures.
All this adds up to a movie that will be a powerful witness to the truth of traditional Christianity, precisely the force that liberal elites have been trying to still for decades. It’s Christianity—and especially orthodox Catholicism and evangelicalism—that denies them their total victory in the culture wars. Proponents of abortion, gay marriage, radical feminism, multiculturalism, and postmodernism all harbor a deep fear of the truth claims of Christianity about the fixed nature of God’s creation.
Gibson surely knew that making a film about Christ was scandalous to the unbelievers in Hollywood, but I doubt if he realized the threat it represents to the intellectuals who employ a neutered Christianity for their own ideological enterprises.
One final word on the question of anti-Semitism (an ugly and destructive force both here and in Europe): It’s possible that some bigots may have their prejudice reinforced by Gibson’s film. But that doesn’t make the movie anti-Semitic, nor does it justify the attacks on Gibson. Films are released every week that exacerbate the sick tendencies of child molesters, rapists, murderers, and Rambo wannabes. We can’t censor ourselves just because some nut somewhere may be influenced negatively by our work.
I thank Mel Gibson for his film and for all he was willing to endure in making his faith public. His life and career will never be the same—would it were that more men had such courage.
Addendum: Subsequent events in Mel Gibson’s life did reveal his anti-Semitism. His film, however, does not, in my opinion, express an anti-Semitic point of view, an opinion I am prepared to defend as I have in the past (June, 2016).
Published in Crisis Magazine, March 1, 2004
By Deal W. Hudson
•Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.
•Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and rights of human persons.
•Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.
•The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.
•Prudential judgment is the application of principle to concrete situations.
•Catholic principles apply to all political issues but in many cases do not lead prudentially to one acceptable Catholic position.
•The bishops’ teachings on faith and morals are binding; their prudential judgments on policy guide us but do not bind us.
•The Christian Faith cannot be restricted to oneself and one’s family, making it impossible to “love one’s neighbor.”
•The principle of subsidiarity teaches that Catholics should first address social problems at the local level before asking the government to intervene.
•Politics and government need the public witness of what faith teaches about the common good, human rights, and human dignity.
•Abortion is the dominant political issue.
•Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catholic vote.
•Catholics can justly support politicians who advocate incremental means toward eliminating abortion.
•The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admits of no exception.
•Removing extraordinary means of supporting life is allowable as a prudential judgment.
•The growing acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide rests on the misguided assumption that pain detracts from the value of life.
•Since science serves human ends, not its own, scientific research must always respect the moral law.
•Science must respect the inherent dignity of the human person.
Unused and unwanted embryos must be treated with the respect afforded to other human beings.
•Ending human life cannot be justified in the name of therapeutic (i.e., medical) benefits to other persons.
•Population policy must not include abortion and sterilization as methods of slowing population growth.
•The use of contraception in population policy undermines marriage and ignores the moral issues of promiscuity and disease.
•Catholic institutions should not be required to support contraception or abortion through mandated insurance coverage.
•The right to abortion should not be allowed to enter international law under the rubric of women’s “reproductive health” or fears of overpopulation.
The Death Penalty
•The Church teaches that the death penalty is acceptable in principle but should be avoided in practice.
•The responsibility of elected officials is to ensure that penal systems and sentencing policies do in fact protect society from known aggressors.
•The practical elimination of the death penalty is based upon the strength of the penal system and the commensurateness of the sentencing procedures.
•States have the right to engage in war in self-defense but should first exhaust all peaceful solutions.
•Just war is waged within defined moral boundaries in regard to its targets, goals, and outcomes.
•Political leadership must have both the inclination toward peace and the capacity for decisive action if war is just and necessary.
Defense and Terrorism
•Nations have a duty to protect their citizens from legitimate threats.
•Nations should build their capacity for defense in light of just-war theory.
•Terrorism—the injury and murder of innocent civilians— is never justified.
•Defending a nation combines the military, international diplomacy, and a compassionate foreign policy.
•Judges should be evaluated according to their judicial records and commitment to the limited judicial role, not attacked for their privately held religious views.
•Those who would nominate and confirm judicial activists disenfranchise the faithful Catholic voter.
•Catholic leaders have a duty to respect their constituents and their Church’s commitment to natural law tradition when considering judicial appointees.
Marriage and the Family
•Marriage was instituted prior to the state and should be recognized by the state as something inviolate and necessary to the common good.
•Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.
•So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.
•Parents—not the state–have the right to educate their children.
•Catholic parents have the right to have their children educated in a curriculum consonant with Catholic values.
•Governments should provide financial support to families for the education they desire for their children.
•Work is a matter of human dignity and is necessary to the common good.
•Government should create the conditions that support business and industry development.
•Corporate responsibility is critical in helping to maintain economic success.
•Taxes should be fairly based upon one’s ability to pay.
•Tax policy should not penalize marriage or the raising of children.
•Corporate taxes should not threaten the capacity to create and sustain jobs.
•The preferential option for the poor requires that authorities first provide assistance to the poor and oppressed.
•The poor must have access to the education and job training necessary to compete in today’s job market.
•Strong families that remain intact keep their members from falling into poverty.
•Health-care needs should be met by a combination of personal and corporate insurance, philanthropy, and government programs.
•Catholic health-care organizations must be free to perform their work with clear consciences.
•Abstinence and fidelity should be the foundation of sexually transmitted disease—education and prevention.
•Religious expression is a human right that should be recognized by the state.
•States that enforce secularism in social services and education are violating religious liberty.
•Political debate naturally involves religious concepts since law and public policy directly affect the common good.
•A nation should seek to accommodate the immigrant who, for just reasons, seeks greater access to the basic goods of life.
•Political leaders and citizens should recognize the reality of human interdependence that crosses all borders and all national identities.
•The immigrant is a person who deserves the same protection of law and social benefits afforded to citizens.
•From creation, human beings are given special responsibility as stewards of the earth.
•As part of its duty to the common good, the government should prevent unnecessary harm to natural resources.
•Government should also use creative and technological skill, in concert with global cooperation, to reverse existing environmental damage.
Published in Crisis Magazine, November 1, 2006
By Deal W. Hudson
It’s tempting to say that the coming presidential election of 2016 is the most important in American history. What gives me pause is the number of times this has been said before, including by myself. But this time, I cannot help but believe it’s true. Why?
Terrorism: A storm is gathering in the Middle East that threatens to spread throughout the world, but its perpetrators hate America above all. In a nuclear age, a single person supported by sophisticated, committed network of terrorists can kill millions at a single stroke. ISIS must be eliminated militarily before it can grow any larger. If you need convincing, read the history of Germany of National Socialism in the 30s.
Character: America is losing the unity of its national character. This began when immigrants no longer felt the necessity of being assimilated, starting with the learning of English. It’s one thing for the Hispanic population to reach 106 million by 2015, quite another if the majority of them don’t speak English. Rival languages have, and will, produce divided communities and cultures. Assimilation is not a nasty word demanding obedience, it’s the reasonable request of a nation whose character has attracted immigrants from around the world since its founding. That character must be preserved with care.
Family: When attitudes toward LGBTs becomes the moral standard by which we are all judged, something has gone terribly wrong in American culture. Here I distinguish between charitable acceptance of differences, and socially, and legally, enforced approval. Nothing is more fundamental to the well-being of human society than the health of families, created by the marriage of men and women. Of course, many marriages turn into train wrecks, and worse, but that’s no reason to give up on the norm. Just as it’s nonsense for a drunk to give up on sobriety because he can’t live up to it.
Life: America keeps killing its children at a rate of between 700,000 and a million each year, and its citizens are paying for half of those deaths through public funding of Planned Parenthood. America became the most admired country in the world following its decisive entry into both world wars and was handed the torch of freedom from a decayed, battered Europe. America took the lead in rebuilding both Europe and Japan, but at home began building a culture of death to “celebrate” its new affluence and prestige. Since 1973, the year of Roe, America has killed more children than any one of the genocides committed by Hitler, Stalin, or Mao — 57,762,169 dead.
Manners: There’s a mystery in manners, as the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor often talked about. One aspect of this mystery is the way manners both produce and express 0ur true values — manners bear values into the ordinary, everyday world of social conduct. Today it has become accepted that millionaire film stars will use the coarsest profanity on a public, televised stage while presenting and accepting awards for excellence. They use the privilege of their celebrity to show contempt for their audience, while indulging their egos with the equivalent of teenage flatulence. I can’t imagine Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, et al publicly shaming themselves in such a fashion.
Faith: Barack Obama is the first American president to scowl and wag his finger at America’s Christian citizens. Hillary Clinton would become the second. Obama has fought, and shown disdain towards, the orthodox people of faith from his first day in office when he repealed the Mexico City Policy. Religious institutions have had to seek relief in court from the federal laws that would require them sin against their God. Religious beliefs that won’t bend to accommodate the LGBT standard of morality are being fashionably scorned, while law and policy being shaped to bring those beliefs under the enforcement power of the state. Religious liberty is no longer celebrated but looked upon as the unconscionable excuse of a bigoted minority to “embrace diversity.”
The year after the end of WWI, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” (1919). In this poem he describes the fracture of Western civilization, its break with the certainties of the past, the values and vision upon which the West was built over 3000 years. The first few lines suffice to explain:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
Perhaps the reader, like myself, read this poem in high school or college decades ago, and were told it reflected the confusion following the senseless slaughter in the trenches of WWI. In other words, just a period piece. Yeats’ words in “The Second Coming” have taken on a prophetic intensity as we near the 100th anniversary of its writing. Indeed, the “widening gyre” has widened to the point that all that I described above has come to pass, all of which are a consequence of a nation losing its “centre” and inviting “anarchy.”
The election of 2016 will have a direct impact on the direction of our nation, the fate of the national character, its families, the defense of innocent life, the people of faith, and our collective protection against ISIS terror. This is why I will do all I can do to ensure the message goes out to those who love America “under God” to vote against another eight years of war on the foundation of our country.
Published at The Christian Review, January 11, 2016
By Deal W. Hudson
Recently, I spoke to a group of pro-life leaders about the 2016 election. I made the following remarks with the hope that the Trump and Cruz factions can eventually “kiss and make up.”
I’m going to address the question, “Who Is Us?”
In recent weeks criticism has been leveled at Trump for not being “one of us.” (I have deliberately left out a link to this criticism.)
I’ve used this phrase, but never publicly. Never as a public argument.
Now that I’ve seen it used this way, I am deleting it from my vocabulary.
Because I started asking myself just “who is ‘us?’” And, am I part of the “us” who speak this way about others not being “one of ‘us?’”
So I started making a list of questions about who could or should be called “one of ‘us.’”
A woman who’s had an abortion?
A man who’s encouraged a woman to have an abortion?
A person who claims to be pro life yet can’t talk about it coherently?
A person who accepts the ‘three exceptions”?
A person who claims to be prolife but contracepts and defends it?
Persons with test tube babies?
Women with frozen eggs?
Catholics divorced and remarried?
The rude, crude, and unattractive?
Male chauvinist pigs?
Anyone who’s been picked up drunk by the police?
Anyone who’s ever been to a strip club?
Or owned a strip club?
Those who watch porn?
Unchaste homosexual priests?
Unchaste heterosexual priests?
Now, I want to pose a question about all of the above:
Are they “one of ‘us’” as long as they are not outed and their “offense” made public?
If outed, do they cease being “one of ‘us?’”
If not outed, do we think they are “one of ‘us’” but aren’t really?
If not outed, do they think they are “one of ‘us’” but aren’t really?
Or do we wait for a prominent Catholic leader to tell us who is “one of ‘us?’”
Another way of answering the question is this:
The “us,” it seems, is who we are FOR.
And the not “one of ‘us’” is who we are AGAINST.
What if “us” accounts for only 20 or 30 % of voters? (Probably far less.)
What if the “us” makes political coalitions impossible? Winning impossible?
What if the “us” turns off even those who sympathize with “us?”
What if it being an “us” makes “us” look like “whited sepulchers?” (Matthew 23.27)
One final question:
If we were all stripped naked and standing before God, would anyone qualify to be “one of ‘us?’”
Because then all will be revealed, all will be outed. The hairs on our heads will be counted (in my case that won’t take long!).
I believe, and I think you will agree, that God has a different conception of “us,” and who belongs to Him.
It’s not based upon our sins, or whether they were made public while on earth, or our erroneous beliefs — He opens His arms to all who have learned to love Him.
By repentance and receiving forgiveness.
By growing through the trials and errors of life.
By learning from the just judgment of others and undergoing a continual conversion of the heart toward Him.
In other words, A Pilgrim’s Progress.
That’s the only way I can make Christian sense of being part of an “us”: As a pilgrim among pilgrims who “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” (1 Cor 13.12)
PS. Since this speech, Pope Francis issued his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. As I read it, I recognized the Holy Father was addressing the similar theme of how Catholics relate themselves to those who have committed, or remain in, “objective” sin.
Published at The Christian Review, April 15, 2016
Published December 1, 2001
DEAL W. HUDSON
Pro-life efforts rarely make the front page, much less above the fold. In fact, it seems the only time pro-life demonstrations make the evening news is when a handful of abortion activists peddle their pitch to sympathetic media ears across the street from our crowd of protestors.
It took the events of September 11 to put death back in the headlines. This time it wasn’t the death of the unborn but the ghastly, tragic death of thousands who also did not deserve to die.
A trauma of this magnitude is bound to teach us much about ourselves—to expose the strengths and weaknesses of individual and corporate character. Most of what we have learned about ourselves, about our much-derided, decadent culture, has been a welcome surprise: the long-ignored courage and sacrifice of our police, firemen, and armed forces, along with the deep generosity of a philanthropic nation ready to help those who lost friends and family.
But not all the reports have been so edifying. There have been disappointments as well. For example, we have all heard rumblings through pro-life communities, both Protestant and Catholic, that America got what it deserved for harboring a culture of death. Some have said that the towers of the World Trade Center were symbols of America’s godlessness, of its greed, its gross commercialism, and its trade in baby-killing.
Other pro-lifers have complained about the volume of public grief over the events of September 11: How can we lament so loudly, they ask, when nothing is said about the unborn?
You may be thinking these comments are from a radical fringe. They are not. They began shortly after September 11 with the televised statements of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and have persisted in spite of the subsequent apologies of those two men.
In these attitudes—revealed suddenly by the flash of an immense tragedy—we can see one reason why the pro-life movement has reached an impasse: It has come to suffer from spite. Such comments suggest that a passionate protest against one form of evil has led some pro-lifers to begrudge the grief of those who suffer from another. Obeying the gospel admonition to “love thy enemy” is difficult. Hating the enemies of life infuses the pro-life message with an unfortunate bitterness.
Don’t get me wrong—I understand how and why these thoughts and feelings can arise. Year after year, we watch children die. They die in the name of love and happiness; they die in the name of equal rights and freedom. How can we not get angry, or be tempted to spite? How can we not pray for the moment when this truth is revealed to all who deny it, who scorn it, laugh at it?
Because children continue to die in this way, all other causes of death seem to pale in comparison. In other words, how can anyone be upset with terrorism when abortion goes on and on?
Those who aim the highest will always face the greatest of spiritual temptations—in this case, the temptation to pride and envy in the cause of defending life. Could anything but pride exploit the September 11 disaster as proof of a given cause, even the pro-life cause? Is it anything but envy that begrudges mourning the thousands who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the four downed airliners?
Now is the time for showing a compassion that isn’t reserved for only one group of victims, no matter how large, no matter how innocent. Many souls have been shaken in the wake of this tragedy. The witness of the Church must be heard without the dissonant voices of pent-up frustrations and resentful “I-told-you-so’s.”
The concern for innocent life can be a new common ground for evangelical outreach. It’s an opportunity for Americans to hear the gospel without spite or bitterness. The pro-life community surely has a large enough heart to embrace the suffering of those who have rejected its pleas.
Published December 1, 2000
DEAL W. HUDSON
Catholics must wonder sometimes why the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) exists. On October 16, Catholic News Service (CNS) of the USCC issued a story with the headline, “Gore sees hope for ‘common ground’ movement on abortion.” Written by Patricia Zapor, based on an interview with the vice president, the article serves to provide official Catholic cover for a pro-abortion presidential candidate whose most ardent supporters are the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood.
The phrase “common ground,” of course, was brought into Catholic parlance by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago, who wanted to provide a forum for Catholics to discuss their differences on issues like Church authority and the role of the priesthood. Abortion was never put on the common ground table: To seek common ground on abortion is to accept that some number of innocent lives can be taken. This is Gore’s position. Cardinal Bernadin would have never accepted such a compromise with the culture of death.
The fact that such a story would come out of CNS makes one wonder how much the culture of death has a grip on the USCC. That those who edit these stories and write their headlines would not immediately reject such a wording indicates a serious lack of Catholic judgment at CNS. It is not the case that Zapor was simply quoting Gore with comment; she uses his language without quotation in the middle of the article: “Gore said he sees a bourgeoning grassroots movement seeking common ground on abortion.”
Anyone who is in the business of Catholic journalism knows full well that to use the phrase “common ground” is to draw on the moral and spiritual capital of Cardinal Bernadin’s legacy. I suppose we can look forward to further CNS articles on the search for common ground on euthanasia and partial-birth abortion.
The USCC also raised numerous eyebrows with the release of its presidential candidate questionnaire on October 17. The first nine pages of the questionnaire were released that morning, with the remaining eleven pages inexplicably added the next afternoon. For legal reasons, the USCC explains, the questionnaire contains “verbatim responses and comments” of candidates to questions posed by the conference. Legal arguments aside, the result is unfortunate, because once again a pro-abortion candidate is provided an official Catholic forum to mislead the Catholic public.
On partial-birth abortion, Gore is quoted as saying, “Al Gore opposes late-term abortion and the procedure of partial-birth abortion…. Al Gore believes that any law prohibiting the partial-birth abortion procedure must be narrowly tailored, and should include protections for the life and health of the mother.” (Note that Gore sent his comments to the USCC in the third person, which makes them appear written by the bishops, while Bush’s comments were published in the first person.) The leadership at the
USCC knows that the health exception effectively negates the partial-birth abortion ban, but the format allows Gore to mislead Catholics who are not fully informed on this issue.
This is a repeat of the 1996 USCC candidate questionnaire that allowed Clinton to get away with the same misrepresentation of his position on abortion. Catholics helped to elect Clinton, and the unborn have been his victims. Protests were lodged then, so this time the conference action is surely intentional. If the USCC cannot present the candidates’ views in a way that truthfully informs the Catholic public, then the conference should stop issuing questionnaires altogether.
There is no doubt in my mind that the USCC legal department is overly cautious: I am sure that Catholic bishops have the constitutional right to inform Catholics how a candidate’s position stands in relation to a clearly defined moral teaching of the Church. Moral guidance is a bishop’s job, and as far as I know, the IRS cannot and will not object. Such judgments do not constitute partisan activity, although they may affect the voting behavior of Catholic voters.
There are many issues of public policy where common ground should be sought between Democrats and Republicans in relation to Catholic social teaching—abortion is not one of them. Catholics depend on the USCC for accuracy in promulgating the teachings of the Church and representing them to those in the media and to Congress. These events during the crucial final weeks before the election demand scrutiny of the CNS and a reassessment of future candidate questionnaires.
Deal W. Hudson
October 18, 2010
With the decision of the Ohio Elections Commission to allow a hearing to decide whether the Susan B. Anthony List has falsely represented the voting record of Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH), the question is again raised: Was abortion funding authorized by the health care legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama?
The complaint arose from the SBA List’s use of billboards declaring that Representative Driehaus of Ohio’s 1st Congressional District had voted for taxpayer-funded abortions by voting for the health care bill. If Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA, is found guilty, she could go to jail. Supporting Driehaus’s effort to imprison Dannenfelser are James Salt, policy director of Catholics United, and Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America.
Driehaus, by the way, had made essentially the same characterization of the health care legislation as made by Dannenfelser. On March 19, Driehaus was an original co-sponsor of H. Con. Res. 254, an “enrollment correction,” introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). That resolution would have removed abortion funding from the Senate version of the health care bill.
The language of the final health care bill – “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (PPACA) – had not changed when both Stupak and Driehaus voted for it and Obama signed it into law. Now, Driehaus is trying to send Marjorie Dannenfelser to jail for precisely the same view of the health care bill as expressed in his support for H. Con. Res 254 – that it authorizes federal tax dollars to be spent on abortion.
Three members of the Ohio Elections Commission voted 2-1 to find “probable cause” to send the Driehaus complaint to a full hearing of the seven commissioners. The date has not yet been set.
The evidence supporting the SBA List is undeniable. In addition to the witness of Driehaus himself (and Stupak), there are the multiple provisions of the legislation itself that authorize the funding of abortions. The best summary is found in the affidavit submitted for last week’s meeting of the Ohio Elections Commission by Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life.
As Johnson points out in his affidavit, the provisions of the Senate version of the bill, ultimately signed into law, contained many of the same abortion funding mechanisms that the Stupak-Pitts amendment of the House bill removed. (There were new, additional problems in the Senate bill.) Stupak, Driehaus, and all those who supported the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House had full knowledge that those provisions had not been removed. Driehaus and Stupak also knew of a similar amendment, offered by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which was defeated soundly in the Senate. Interestingly enough, when the Senate bill passed (without removing the abortion authorizations), Stupak and Driehaus, along with Kristen Day, fought hard against its passage in the House. They worked diligently from the time Congress returned in January until March 19th when their objections suddenly, and inexplicably, vanished.
Here, Johnson provides an overview of the abortion funding in the 906 pages of PPACA:
It contained multiple provisions that authorize new programs or expand authorizations for existing programs that are authorized to cover abortion, either explicitly or implicitly. Some of these provisions are entirely untouched by any limitation on abortion in existing law or in the PPACA itself, and others are subject only to limitations that are temporary or contingent.
Those who deny this characterization must have been surprised when three states – Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Maryland – began the implementation of Section 1101 (42 U.S.C. § 18001) creating the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), also known as the “high-risk pool” program. Abortion coverage was explicitly included by these three states in this $5 billion program that provides coverage for up to 400,000 people.
After National Right to Life publicized the abortion coverage, it was determined that the coverage was not excluded either by the president’s executive order or the Hyde Amendment. On July 14, the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement:
Abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.
Nothing in the HHS statement suggested that abortion funding contradicted anything in the executive order, the PPACA, or any pre-existing law, including the Hyde Amendment. In other words, the implementation of PCIP by these three states to include abortion funding had been authorized.
Johnson’s affidavit provides three other examples of abortion authorization in the PPACA, and even these are not exhaustive. In addition to the program of pre-existing conditions, there are federal subsidies for private health plans that cover elective abortions, authorization for abortion funding through Community Health Centers, and authorization for inclusion of abortion coverage in health plans administered by the federal Office of Personnel Management.
Defenders of the bill say that under the premium subsidy program only private money will be utilized to pay for abortions. This is merely an accounting trick that still violates the Hyde Amendment. But there is a much bigger problem: The bill states that on the same day the Hyde Amendment is no longer attached to HHS appropriations, federal dollars may be used to fund abortions. This is an explicit authorization of abortion funding, which creates a huge incentive for Congress to put an end to the Hyde Amendment.
Johnson argues that any one of these four examples is sufficient to prove the SBA List was not falsely representing Driehaus’s voting record.
The biggest issue with the legislation, according to Johnson, is not the individual provisions authorizing taxpayer funded abortions, but “the absence of any bill-wide restriction on federal funding of abortion.” In other words, what’s missing is the very amendment offered to the House bill by Stupak, and co-sponsored by Driehaus – the amendment that never became a part of the final legislation.
Those who point to the protections of the Hyde Amendment or the president’s executive order, as does Driehaus, ignore the fact that they were already found inapplicable to abortion coverage in the PCIP. Hyde protections, which must be renewed annually by Congress, are limited to funds appropriated to HHS by the annual appropriations bill, and the health-care legislation contains many new authorizations and direct appropriations entirely unrelated to the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.
Let’s be clear: Those who look at the evidence of abortion funding in the healthcare bill and still demur need to ask themselves if they want to remain guilty of the same political partisanship they so often attribute to others.
Published June 27, 2011
Pro-lifers around the nation were surprised when Mitt Romney refused to sign the pro-life pledge distributed by the Susan B. Anthony List to all the GOP presidential candidates.
Romney has been trying to fortify his pro-life credentials since his 2008 nomination defeat to Sen. John McCain. One reason Romney fell behind McCain during the primary battles was the skepticism among pro-lifers and social conservatives about his commitment to the pro-life and pro-marriage cause. This skepticism was rooted in Romney’s actual record as governor of Massachusetts and his explicit rejection of the pro-life label during his gubernatorial race.
Romney issued his own pro-life pledge to explain his decision:
“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.”
Romney continues, “The pledge also unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List, issued a statement expressing disappointment in Romney’s decision and her response to Romney’s version of the pledge:
“Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.”
“He seems to indicate that he wants the freedom to nominate pro-abortion candidates for key cabinet positions such as Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is precisely what we want to rule out and it is unacceptable.”
“He chooses to identify non-existent legislation that would defund hospitals as a reason not to sign. Defunding hospitals has never been considered by Congress, is not part of public debate, and is not part of the pledge. 95 percent of abortions are performed outside of hospitals. Instead, we outlined existing pieces of pro-life legislation that address taxpayer funding of abortion. We would like to know where he stands on each measure.”
In short, Dannenfelser rejects Romney’s argument that signing the SBA pledge would lead to the defunding of “thousands of hospitals across America.”
What Dannenfelser doesn’t say is that this argument is precisely the one being used by Planned Parenthood and its supporters to defend itself against the growing movement to withhold state and federal funding from its abortion clinics.
What Romney himself admits is that he doesn’t want to give up the option of appointing pro-abortion members of his administration to positions like Secretary of Health and Human Services, if elected president.
It remains to be seen how pro-lifers in the grassroots will react to Romney’s decision to ignore the SBA List pledge. Some may view it as a simple disagreement among friends, as Romney obviously wants it to be seen, others may see it as another example of why the former governor of Massachusetts cannot be trusted as the 2012 GOP nominee.
Deal W Hudson
“Social conservatism” has long been the Good Housekeeping brand in pro-life politics. Its usefulness, however, has come to an end, not because the moral commitments it signifies are any less important, but because politics is about attracting voters. A new language that in no way compromises the principles of life, marriage, and authentic freedom needs to be cultivated, one that encompasses more than a handful of issues, no matter how important, and one that connects to the larger culture.
“Cultural Conservatism” has been suggested, as I have discussed in previous columns, and I applaud the direction that would take those of us who want to unite the pro-life convictions with a concern for “social justice.” I understand the skepticism readers might feel at this suggestion, so I promise to sort through just what social justice really means in Catholic teaching in a future column. The point, however, is a simple one; social conservatism is not seen as generous, compassionate, or interested in the wide range of issues that impact our well-being, and that has become a political liability.
Some critics refer to social conservatives as “single issue” voters. It’s not a fair characterization but is a troublesome one. Those of us who believe that some issues are more important than others and should be given top priority in considering a candidate’s qualifications, should be viewed not as single issue voters but as “dominant issue” voters. These are voters who take into account the urgency of addressing issues of social injustice in the culture but see those issues arranged vertically not horizontally.
The life issues—including abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem-cell research, and cloning—are at the top of that hierarchy. These issues should be considered dominant in determining how to vote for two simple reasons: First, the protection of life—the right to life—is a moral principle that sits at the foundation of morality itself. And it’s one of the three foundational rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. There could be no right to liberty or happiness unless there were a living person in the first place.
Second, the injunction of natural law and the Church to oppose abortion is unqualified: Individuals are not required, or allowed, to make prudential judgments of the principle to a specific case. Appeals to private “conscience” cannot override this infallible teaching. In his 2002 Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Public Life, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
“In this context, it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good.”
Opposition to abortion, therefore, admits of no exceptions. There is no question, then, that as the dominant issue, a politician’s position on abortion qualifies him or her for the Catholic vote. From the perspective of the Church, not all the policy positions taken by candidates are of equal importance. Catholic voters, by understanding themselves as dominant-issue voters, can preserve the hierarchy of values at the core of Church teaching while not ignoring the legitimate spectrum of issues important to political consideration.
Furthermore, by understanding the dominance of life issues, Catholic voters will overcome their confusion about the difference between moral principle and prudential judgment. Unlike the admonition against abortion, most of the general principles proposed in Church teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways; it’s simply a mistake to assume—as the Left often does—that one kind of implementation is more “Catholic” than another.
As has been noted many times, the USCCB’s habit of issuing dozens of policy recommendations during every congressional session, on issues ranging from broadband legislation and immigration to minimum wage and partial-birth abortion, results in confusion at the grassroots. Unfortunately, the average Catholic doesn’t discriminate between simple policy recommendations made by the Conference and doctrinal statements, and often wrongly assumes that they have equal authority.
Using dominant-issue language can help to close the unnecessary divide between pro-life and social justice Catholics. There’s a clear continuity between providing someone with food and shelter and the willingness to defend his life when it’s threatened. The Church often employs the phrase “social justice” when addressing “the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of “authority” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928). A cultural conservatism, if it is to emerge, must reconnect what never should have been disconnected — because to care about life is to care about everything.
The demands of social justice, then, begin with the right to life and end with the right to be protected from euthanasia or the temptation of assisted suicide. It’s a mistake to detach the idea of social justice from the protection of vulnerable life: The source of moral obligation to protect the unborn and to feed the hungry is one and the same—the inherent dignity of the human person.