Tom O'Toole
Palin's pro-life failin'? What a long, strange "Tripp" it's been
By Tom O'Toole
December 31, 2008

Reading the announcement yesterday of the Dec. 27th birth of Sarah Palin's 18-year-old unwed daughter Bristol's baby, it dredged up memories of the many triumphs but more failings of the McCain/Palin campaign. Alas, the fact that the story of the coming into the world of 7 lb., 7 oz. Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston (the rad-dad's last name) was a "People exclusive!" did not make me particularly happy, as the online version of the blessed event juxtaposed the picture of the allegedly joyful couple with that of a woefully overweight 44 lb. cat. But, while Bristol and boyfriend Levi now understand that if you're gonna take People's 5 or 6 figure payoffs, you will have to share your fifteen minutes of fame with the likes of "Prince Chunk," hopefully Sarah learned if you're gonna let feminists, pseudo-Christians and the MSM dictate what you're gonna say, your pro-life message is going to be confused, then buried.

When Sarah Palin was first announced as John McCain's running mate, I'll admit I was pleasantly surprised. Her introduction speech was short but electric, and her Republican convention talk was no letdown. Sure, it was short on pro-life and probably catered too much to the Hillary Clinton feminists, but her down-home humor and candor certainly made up for that. And who could be more visibly pro-life than a mother of five who recently decided to keep her Down syndrome (pronounced "mistake" in Obama-ese) baby despite her busy schedule as governor?

The soon-to-be-leaked-by-Democrats "scandal" that her unwed daughter was pregnant AND keeping her baby backfired on Barack and only made Palin's platform stronger. But Obama, the "Man of Lies and Smiles" was not done yet, and his underlings' further attacks, coupled with her own team's unclarity, proved her undoing.

For although Sarah Palin did go on to make some powerful pro-life speeches, such as her Johnstown, PA "Every innocent life matters" manifesto, these proved to be the equivalent of Rick Warren's pro-family talks to his own congregation, and were of course widely ignored by the mainstream media, except to twist a phrase or two out of context. And then, when she did use the MSM, she chose Obama minions such as Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, who not only undercut her "Hockey Mom" strengths, but like the cynical reporters did to the hero of Capra's classic movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, made her look silly. But unlike the Jimmy Stewart character, Sarah did not have the last say, for when she did have the chance to hammer Obama or Biden on abortion or other life issues, she rarely did, and by making the economy — not morality — the main issue, the Democrats of Death won handily.

But how could this be so? Certainly, if you were running against Hitler, you wouldn't leave the Concentration Camp issue alone, but keep pounding away until everyone realized that "relocation" was merely another word for "extermination." No doubt part of the problem was McCain himself; just as his own lack of a consistent home church or denomination probably led him to back off the relevant Jeremiah Wright question, his failure to grasp all the aspects (such as embryonic stem cell research) of the pro-life question probably made him tell Palin to focus on other issues besides abortion — except when, such as at Johnstown, she was preaching to the choir. And yet, as strong as Palin's pro-life stance was, I wonder if Sarah, too, did not have one small deficiency (perhaps due to her own church hopping?) on this issue, and this little chink in this "Christian Chick's" armor proved fatal.

Although she was baptized a Catholic, Palin has not only left this church but also switched Protestant denominations several times, including the Assemblies of God and, more recently, a non-denom bible church. Since these churches do not have a definite stance on the issue, one would have to conclude that this contributed to Palin's in-some-ways-confusing position on contraception. While originally stating she wanted abstinence-only sex education taught in public schools, she later changed (or as they say in politics "modified") her position, stating, "I'm pro-contraception, and I think those who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues." On the other hand, her original house of worship, the Roman Catholic Church, has a very decisive teaching on this question, being against it (as the Church is with abortion) in all instances, even inside the marriage. Just as James taught, "Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death" (Jas 1:15), so Pope Paul predicted (in the landmark 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae) that the contraceptive mentality would not only lead to increased divorce but wholesale legalized abortion, two prophecies that have sadly come to pass. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love... The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle ... involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality." In other words, since contraceptive sex cannot by its very nature be an act of total self giving, it will always be in some respects selfish; not being open to the procreative aspect of the act will eventually destroy the unitive aspect as well. Thus, while I agree with Sarah Palin (and disagree with the Democrats) that her daughter's decision to have relations outside of marriage was dreadfully wrong, and her choice to deliver the baby was wonderfully right, I do not believe Bristol and hopefully soon-to-be-her-husband Levi Johnston's decision not to use contraception was an additional sin.

I most certainly wish Bristol and the little Tripp-ster well, and, despite their dubious windfall from the country's leading rag-mag, it sounds like her fiance, who dropped out of high school and whose MySpace recently read, "I'm a ... redneck" and "I don't want kids," will need my prayers too. As for Sarah, besides being a devoted wife and mom, she is definitely an astute politician, and I'm sure she in another four years will be completely caught up on foreign and domestic policy if she decides to make another national run. Still, I hope Sarah comes to complete terms with that one questionable position in her otherwise stellar pro-life profile, if not for the nation's sake, at least for her daughter's. As Humanae Vitae states, "Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law." Thus, while there are many things Sarah could do to help make her daughter's thus-far shaky union sacred, contraception isn't one of them. Because Sarah Palin is no longer Catholic, I realize (unless someone sends her this column!) she will probably not find her answer to the contraception question in Humanae Vitae — but I know she definitely won't find it in People.

© Tom O'Toole


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Tom O'Toole

Thomas Augustine O'Toole was born in Chicago and grew up in a devout Catholic family with five brothers and two sisters. He was the sports editor of Notre Dame's Scholastic magazine, where his story "Reflections on the Game" won the award for Best Sports Feature for the Indiana Collegiate Press Association... (more)


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