Matt C. Abbott
'Average' Catholics, abortion, and the Notre Dame scandal
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By Matt C. Abbott
April 8, 2009

It seems the crux of the controversy involving the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to be its commencement speaker — and to bestow on him an honorary law degree — is how the act of abortion is viewed by many Catholics. Not how it should be viewed by all Catholics (and any God-fearing person, for that matter), mind you, but how it is viewed by far too many of them.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    'From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a 'criminal' practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.' (no. 2322)

    'Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. 'A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,' 'by the very commission of the offense,' and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.' (no. 2272)

Thus the official teaching of the Church is quite clear on the subject of abortion. Yet many Catholics fail to grasp, or simply don't wish to grasp, the tragedy of politicians, even supposedly Catholic politicians, who condone legalized abortion. To wit: Look at the percentage of U.S. Catholics — about 54 percent — who voted for President Obama. Not to mention all the pro-abortion Catholics currently in office. Scandalous.

Who, or what, is to blame? Besides the proverbial zeitgeist, a significant portion of the blame falls on the shoulders of various neo-modernist theologians of the past few decades, who have made it their living to undermine authentic Catholic doctrine, and at least one very clever prelate, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, whose seamless garment philosophy placed abortion among several social ills of the day. This, in effect, allows Catholic politicians to be "personally opposed to," yet still support and even facilitate, legalized abortion, as long as they support politically-correct social justice issues.

The seamless garment, as Joseph Sobran pointed out in 2005, "has turned out to be nothing but a loophole for hypocritical Catholic politicians. If anything, it has actually made it easier for them than for non-Catholics to give their effective support to legal[ized] abortion — that is, it has allowed them to be inconsistent and unprincipled about the very issues that Cardinal Bernardin said demand consistency and principle."

The reasoning of Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins illustrates said thinking, namely, that it really isn't that terrible to support legalized abortion. After all, many people do (including President Obama) and they're still "good people." We agree with them (including President Obama) on so many other issues. Oh, and we can, er, dialogue with them (including President Obama) on the few issues on which we disagree. But such certainly wouldn't be the case with someone who supports the grave immorality of, say, racism. We know there would be no honorary degree for that individual — nor should there be.

As for the prelates who have spoken out against Notre Dame's invitation, or the more than 250,000 petition-signers protesting the invitation, well, what the heck, Father Jenkins and the Notre Dame administration expected there would be some criticism, so it's no big deal.

It all boils down to this: Abortion is the taking of an innocent, defenseless human being's life. It is, as the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught, gravely immoral, and must be opposed. Just like racism. Yet note the distinction in our culture: If you strongly and vocally oppose abortion, you're deemed a single-issue extremist (or worse) by the tolerance and diversity crowd. If, however, you strongly and vocally oppose racism, you're deemed a good person — perhaps even heroic — by the same crowd. Imagine that.

Pro-life activist Mark Crutcher (who, incidentally, is Protestant), president of Life Dynamics, in blunt and fitting fashion, wrote of those who espouse the seamless garment philosophy in his book On Message: "... [I]f the people who take this approach were the ones who might be sliced open alive and have their heads crushed, it's pretty certain they would suddenly stop saying that abortion is just 'one of many issues.'"

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback and story ideas. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if those emails are marked confidential. Also, if you give me permission to publish a quote of yours, please do not contact me at a later time to request that I delete your name. Only in limited circumstances will I quote anonymous sources. Thank you and God bless!)

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