Jan 31, 2009

Problems in trying to combine parish pro-life and social justice committees

The new issue of The Tidings carries a column (click on this post's title) by Vincentian Fr. Richard Benson of St. John's Seminary, "Understanding a 'good' society."

Father's article is obviously well-intentioned. He says parishes should not have separate social justice and pro-life committees but should combine them, because Catholic morality and social teaching do not separate our concern for all persons, born and unborn.

That suggestion does have some problems, though. As a practical matter: Lay volunteers can only spare a certain amount of their time, effort and donations, so trying to merge the activities of two committees into one is going to double the load of the volunteers involved or else cut it in half, and in either case that will hurt the volunteers' effectiveness.

Also, if a particular parish's social justice committee's idea of Catholic social justice is to follow the Obama-Democrat platform, that is a problem. Catholic social teaching is not synonymous with liberal Democrat politics, after all, nor, in general, is smaller-government conservatism in conflict with Catholic social teaching.

What is more, Catholic teaching places the right to life above other matters, in that directly taking the lives of innocent preborn babies and the elderly, ill and infirm is intrinsically evil and never debatable. But far-left, ACORN-type political agitation, to which more than a few Catholic clergy and laity subscribe, is certainly debatable.

So it is right to ask Catholic social justice advocates to start taking part in anti-abortion activities, but it is not right to ask Catholic pro-lifers to start engaging in ACORNism, saving whales, etc.

The two types of activities are on a different plane, a different level, and one (right to life) is an inherent part of Catholic doctrine but the other (far-left political activism) is not.

It is also an extremely bad idea, as Ole Q has said here time and again, to imagine, as some social justice activists (not Fr. Benson, of course) do, that pro-lifers somehow "don't care about people after they are born." That is not only a lie, it is a centerpiece of abortion propaganda, and the pro-aborts love to spread it all the time.

Even if all pro-lifers were conservatives, which they are not, that would not mean they "don't care about people after they are born." Contrary to liberal political propaganda, conservatives believe in a safety net, and Catholic conservatives support true Catholic social teaching.

But mainly, the average parish committee can do only one thing at a time, and that is why they are separate.


Anonymous DAve said...

But the pragmatic truth though is unfortunately that the "social justice" crowd is overwhemingly liberal Democratic socialists and the prolife crowd is pretty much exactly the opposite.
Make no mistake that the whole point of consolidating these two groups is to undermine and subsume the pesky prolifers.
Certainly not the first time that the utopian visions of Catolic intellectuals creates a path to practical diaster.
*Got liberation theology?*

5:40 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Dave,

You're sure right that the liberals would love to co-opt us pro-lifers and mute our message of saving babies. As we know, the liberals want us to be quiet and go away.

I do think Fr. Benson is not one of those people; I think he is sincere, but his idea is just not practical.

10:07 PM  

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