Archbishop gives Irish audience ‘do’s and don’ts’ on promoting life

WASHINGTON – The pro-life community must not become too closely aligned to one political party, waste energy on internal bickering or become diverted by false arguments, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver told an Irish audience.

Addressing the Irish chapter of Human Life International Feb. 8 in Dublin, the archbishop offered a list of do’s and don’ts on “building and promoting a culture of life” from the American perspective. Abortion is prohibited in Ireland, except to save the life of the mother.

“Americans now have a kind of schizophrenia about the abortion issue,” Archbishop Chaput said in his speech posted on the Denver archdiocesan Web site. “Most believe abortion is wrong. But most also want it legal under some limited circumstances.”

He strongly criticized the U.S. abortion industry for its “very shrewd political lobbyists” and its “public relations machine that would make George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth look amateur.”

But he also acknowledged that the U.S. pro-life movement has made some mistakes.

“The fast pace of party politics, and the illusion that politics rules the ‘commanding heights’ of our society and can fulfill our Christian social obligations, makes political life very addictive,” he said. “And this illusion gets dangerous when defending the unborn child is too closely identified with any particular politician or, even worse, one specific party.

“The more pro-lifers tie themselves to a single political party, the less they can speak to society at large,” Archbishop Chaput said. “In the United States, Catholics – both on the right and the left – have too often made the mistake of becoming cheerleaders for a specific candidate.”

He also said he has sometimes been “baffled by how much energy is wasted on internal pro-life bickering.”

“Acrimony within the pro-life movement is a gift to the other side,” the archbishop warned. “It’s also a form of theft from the unborn children who will suffer the consequences of our division.”

Another area to be avoided, Archbishop Chaput said, is the creation or acceptance of “false oppositions” or options that involve “either/or” choices. As an example, he cited “so-called pro-life organizations” that have argued for an end to the legal struggle against abortion in favor of efforts to find “common ground” and reduce the number of abortions.

“Did Americans take a gradual, social improvement road to ‘reducing’ racism?” he asked. “No. We passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nor have I ever heard anyone suggest that the best way to deal with murder, rape or domestic abuse is to improve the availability of health care and job training. We make rape illegal – even though we know it will still sometimes tragically occur – because rape is gravely evil.”

Archbishop Chaput also rejected arguments that Americans who oppose abortion should “put this ‘divisive issue behind us.’“

“There’s something a little odd about rhetoric that tells us we are the ‘divisive’ ones, and lectures adult citizens about what we should challenge, and when we should stop,” he said. “In a democracy, we get to decide that for ourselves.”

In his list of “do’s” Archbishop Chaput urged his audience to “keep hope alive,” as Americans do with the March for Life that brings hundreds of thousands to Washington each year, and to use new technologies such as blogs, social networks and YouTube channels to deliver the pro-life message, especially to young people.

“The new Internet, if used well, can break through the wall of silence pro-lifers often face from an unfriendly media establishment,” he said.

But the Denver archbishop also said it was important for pro-lifers to “be strategic.”

“Being sheep in the midst of wolves doesn’t mean we can also be dumb as rocks,” he said, citing St. Thomas More as “a very adroit thinker and a shrewd, intelligent and prudent political leader as he tried to avoid execution.”

That lesson calls for a “big dose of realism” in the pro-life community, he said.

“We should never dream or whine about all the things we could do with the million euros we don’t have,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We need to focus on the 10 euros we do have.

“History shows that guerrilla wars, if well planned and methodically carried out, can defeat great armies,” he added. “And we should never forget that the greatest ‘guerrilla’ leader of them all wasn’t Mao (Zedong) or Che (Guevara), but a young shepherd named David, who became a king.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.