Matt C. Abbott
The tattered but 'seamless garment' of social justice; Carson, Trump and abortion
By Matt C. Abbott
August 14, 2015

(A version of the following column originally appeared at the American Thinker Blog.)

Informed Catholics (and, in all likelihood, at least some politically and socially conservative non-Catholics) of the last few decades are familiar with the so-called seamless garment philosophy, espoused by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as an attempt – his supporters would scoff at this, of course – to water down Catholic orthodoxy in general and the right-to-life issue in particular.

The seamless garment philosophy, which essentially equalizes various moral and ethical issues under the banner of social justice, was music to the ears of liberal, pro-abortion Catholic politicians (mostly Democrats, but some Republicans as well). They were, in effect, given a loophole to support the legalized killing of the preborn. They could now claim to be "good Catholics" since they were, and are, advocates of several Catholic-friendly social justice issues.

Yeah, they're "pro-choice," but abortion is just one of a number of moral issues, they say. And woe to those right-wing fanatics who are concerned only with that single issue, a procedure that's legal and even vital to women's health! (Ahem.)

Bernardin – who reportedly had attended several banquets to benefit Planned Parenthood contributors – winked at liberals while conceding that abortion should be the primary concern over the myriad of other moral issues. But the insidious philosophy would soon inflict tremendous damage within, and outside, the Church.

Recently, Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. In that op-ed, the archbishop, who was addressing the Planned Parenthood scandal, sounded like he was channeling Bernardin.
    While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.
Thankfully, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote a response (of sorts), taking issue, albeit indirectly, with Cupich's assertion.

    Here's a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There's a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.

    The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that....

    A case is sometimes made that abortion is mainly a cultural and moral issue, and politics is a poor solution to the problem. The curious thing is that some of the same voices that argue against political action on the abortion issue seem quite comfortable urging vigorous political engagement on issues like health care, homelessness and the environment.
I should note that in his column, Chaput does give a nod to Bernardin and the seamless garment philosophy. I won't hold it against him, though. There's no way he or any other non-retired Catholic bishop would be publicly critical of the "saint" of the American Catholic Church.

There have been a couple of troubling developments in regard to the apparent pro-life positions of GOP presidential hopefuls Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

Dr. Carson reportedly "told Fox News' 'Your World With Neil Cavuto' on Wednesday that he 'would hope' that in cases of rape and incest, a woman would go to the hospital and get RU-486, a drug that causes abortion."

In addition, Dr. Carson reportedly used "fetal tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research in the early 1990s. But the way in which the former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon received and used the tissue is very different from how Planned Parenthood obtains and sells its fetal tissue, he claims."

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, had this to say in response to the two reports:
    Both of these stories indicate the need for both medical and moral clarity. As for fetal tissue research, we cannot kill a baby, no matter how small, for any perceived medical benefit. The end never justifies the means.

    As for abortion in the case of rape, it is never justified. RU-486 is not used to prevent a pregnancy, but rather to end one that has already begun. It starves the baby. It is morally licit, however, for a woman to take steps to prevent a rape from resulting in a pregnancy (understood as starting at fertilization).

    As for what Dr. Carson and the other candidates believe is legitimate in these cases, I will leave it to them to clarify their positions more specifically.
In recent weeks, Donald Trump stated his support for defunding Planned Parenthood; however, in the last few days, he's become more noncommittal about doing so, ostensibly buying into the disinformation that abortions account for only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's "services."

Father Pavone had this to say about Trump's vacillating on defunding Planned Parenthood:
    Whether with Donald Trump or any of the candidates, we need to continue helping them understand more deeply what the abortion industry, and Planned Parenthood, is really like. I am grateful for Mr. Trump's comments on how horrible abortion is and how it should not be funded. But beyond that, as I've always said, you can't practice vice virtuously.

    The entire moral framework of the abortion industry is flawed. If you're blind to the dignity of a baby, you're blind to the dignity of an adult, too. If you think women's health includes killing their children, your whole view of women's health is seriously off-balance. I wouldn't let someone who dismembers children touch my body for any reason whatsoever, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone else allow it – or fund it – either.
© 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. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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