Caitrin, one of the friends of this blog, posted an excellent comment in the Communion to Pro-Life story. I post it below, together with my response. I invite comment upon my analysis of the situation.
Thanks for your help in exploring these arguments and suggestions.
Justin Trudeau seems to think that he can support abortions rights and call himself Catholic.
Fr. Tim, people hate pro-lifers. The church hierarchy is not too fond of pro-lifers or "conservative' catholics ( a descriptor I dislike because truly there is only orthodoxy or heterodoxy) either. So it is not surprising that politicians, who want people to like them, abjure church teaching. The liberal party has long ago become hostile to pro-life members.
To proclaim your pro-life beliefs is to instantly discredit yourself as a politician in this country.
My husband and I have attended the Life Chain for many years and have brought along our children from very young ages. Many years we have not even one priest in attendance. What are we to make of that? I was happy to see our Bishop attend in May but frankly, I think the pro-life community feels very abandoned by the church.
Fr. Tim Moyle said...
Caitrin: I fear that the answer to you question and comment is not entirely easy to understand, but I believe that there are two or three motivations that together explain the lack of reaction and support from clergy.
1. As priest, we are the instruments of God's mercy and forgiveness. We are the people to whom people confess such sins as abortion. We know that, with very few exceptions these people are not "bad" people - that they should not be defined as evil because of what they did. When we hear the anguished voice of a parent who brings to God their guilt over obtaining an abortion for their young daughter; when we watch them being torn apart by their love of their child, menaced by fears of a lost future coming into conflict with their faith, we feel immense compassion. We would be poor examples of the priesthood if we were not moved by these moments of brokenness.
As Bishop Fulton Sheen was known to often state: we as clergy of the Church are called to practice a ministry guided by the principle "mercy in truth". If we neglect either side of this important method, then sin prevails. Being priest demands of us fidelity to the teachings of the church and we must minister within all of the facets of her message. The prayerful skill that is needed is the be faithful with God's mercy and judgment.
2. Further to this, there are clergy who are sensitive to the vox populi, which in Canada seems to speak of support for the status quo. They do not want to be seen as "extreme" or "out of the mainstream" as they fear that this will result in the loss of many of the faithful who practice their faith. Think of this as the"water in the wine" school of thought: better to have lots of people hear some teaching than for fewer to hear all of it - a spiritual law of diminishing returns.
Again the error here is that if we continue to accommodate these secular drives (framed as they are as being manifestations of the "right to self-autonomy"), then soon we will find ourselves in a corner where no one will come to church because we stand for nothing.
3. Finally, I can also see the same political wisdom that Ted Kennedy followed throughout his career in the Senate (never bad to learn from one's opponent) of make compromises that bring you incrementally closer to your ultimate goal - kind of a "reverse" inculturation against the forces of secularism.
All of this being said, I understand as well that no matter what our tactics might be in bringing about a more just and moral society, we must be vocal and clear as to our ultimate goals - in this we have no choice - if we wish to be faithful to the voice of the the Successor to Peter and stand for LIFE!
Might I suggest the following: write to your Bishop and ask him to consider mandating participation of the local clergy at next years "Life Chain" (something that his "Council of Priests" could discuss). If he will state publicly that he himself will attend, as will the majority of the area clergy, this would serve to lift the profile of the Life arguments of the Church - for it would garner some notice in the local and Catholic press. This simple act of education and respectful request placed before your Ordinary can be presented as the laity bringing to the attention of their church a challenge to their faith, an approach that will most likely be warmly and positively received.
The pro-life community has indeed been left to fend on its own, with only token support from priests and bishops. But you have succeeded in keeping these important issues on the public agenda. Imagine what you could accomplish if you could unite your efforts with the witness of the clergy of the church. In dioceses where this has happened, it has served to stiffen the resolve of the Church and benefited the cause of life.
Google the news stories from various dioceses in North America. Put together a presentation package for the Bishop that he can bring to his Council of Priests. Help to bring the clergy into the fold by tuning your message to be heard amongst the clammer of daily ministry. You won't get them all... but you will get enough. That's all that Christ, our High Priest has promised, but that's all that we will need.
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