In solidarity with the 55 million children who have been killed by abortion over the last 40 years, and the hundreds of thousands of people marching in their honor today, I'm joining several other bloggers in "going dark" from blogging and social media. In my absence, I'll pray our country will soon protect the dignity of all human beings, especially the smallest and vulnerable among us, those forced to "go dark" without choice.
See you next week!
Last night's Vice Presidential debate was filled with memorable moments. There were Paul Ryan's one liners, Joe Biden's giggling, and some great discussion on foreign and domestic policy. But the most poignant and significant exchange took place near the end, when the topic turned to abortion.
Biden and Ryan are both Catholic, yet the two hold dramatically different views about abortion, faith, and legislating morality. Both positions were on full display last night, and in light of Catholic moral teaching, both contained serious flaws. Ryan echoed the popular notion that "abortion is wrong, but legally permissible in some situations like rape, incest, and danger to the mother." Biden's errors were more grievous.
So I decided to re-work some of the debate transcript, mostly on Ryan's side, to present an answer more faithful to the Catholic view. Here's how I wish the abortion debate would have gone:
MARTHA RADDATZ: This debate is indeed historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this, and I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And please, since this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country, please talk personally about this if you could. Congressman Ryan.
REP. RYAN: I don't see how a person can separate their public life from—
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: (Chuckles)
REP. RYAN: (Harried, sideways glance) As I was saying, I don't see how a person can separate their—
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: What my friend here doesn't understand is that—
MARTHA RADDATZ: Mr. Vice President, please. This is a debate; not the VMA awards. Please save your interruptions and give Vice President Ryan a chance to answer.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: (Eye roll, exaggerated hand raising)
REP. RYAN: Thank you, Martha. As I was saying, I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life, or from their faith. Our faith informs everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, about how to make sure that people have a chance in life.
Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course, but it's also because of reason and science. Open any embryology textbook and you'll learn that life and human development begin at conception. That's not my subjective opinion; that's not a religious belief. That's objective, factual, verifiable science.
Now, if human life begins at conception, as we both agree, then terminating an embryo, which is an innocent, human life, is the gravest evil you could perform.
Don't get me wrong. I understand this is a difficult issue. And I respect people who don't agree with me on this. I also understand that some want to make exceptions for extremely tragic situations like rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is threatened. Let me briefly address those three situations:
Rape is a horrendous crime that is evil enough itself. We don't need to plague the mother with the additional trauma of abortion, nor the evil of killing an innocent child. After all, the child should not be killed for the crime of his father. The same holds true for incest.
Yet what about the extremely rare situations where the life of the mother is threatened? I want to make this very clear: saving the mother's life, even with the unintended effect of losing the child, is in fact not abortion. Abortion is the intentional killing of an unborn child. However, under certain extremely rare scenarios, it is morally permissible to save the life of the mother even while unintentionally taking the life of the child. This is not abortion, and we're therefore not against it. So let's be very clear: I'm not advocating we let any mother die a preventable death.
But here's my bigger problem with all this. The greater threat surrounding abortion is this administration's unprecedented assault on religious liberty. By forcing churches, hospitals, orphanages, schools, and social services to provide items that violate their moral consciences—things like contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs—they are blatantly violating the First Amendment. This should not happen. In a free society like ours, nobody should have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties.
This is not a question about abortion. And It's not about contraception. It's about this administration forcing people to disobey their consciences. Today it's the Catholics, tomorrow the evangelicals, but who's next? Mormons? Jews? Atheists? It's a dangerous, unconstitutional precedent we can't afford to set.
MS. RADDATZ: Vice President Biden.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Look, my religion defines who I am. And I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, people who need help.
In regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a de fide doctrine—the highest level of infallible truth. Life begins at conception. That's the church's judgment, and I accept it in my personal life.
But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, Muslims, and Jews. I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the Congressman.
I do not believe that we have a right to tell women that they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view. And the Supreme Court—I'm not going to interfere with that.
With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy, or any hospital, none have to prescribe contraception. None have to pay for contraception. None have to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.
MS. RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan.
REP. RYAN: With all due respect to the Vice President, he's wrong across the board. Here's why:
1) The Vice President claims he agrees with the Church's position on abortion. Yet the Church's position is that it is never OK to publicly and politically promote abortion. Therefore, at best, he misunderstands Church teaching. At worst, he's deceiving us in saying he agrees with it.
2) He says he personally believes that life begins at conception. And I'm with him there. But let me reiterate that this fact is totally objective; it's not a belief. It does not hinge on God, Divine Revelation, Church teaching, or preference. It's not a subjective equivalent to someone saying "I believe chocolate is better than vanilla." Anyone can know this fact, that life begins at conception, by reason or science alone.
Yet while agreeing that human life begins at conception, the Vice President still thinks it should be legal for any women to kill that innocent life. Now this I find morally reprehensible. I can commiserate with someone who defends abortion on the grounds that we're not talking about human life. After all, if it's just a "clump of cells", no big deal—do what you want. But if this is an innocent human being, which we both agree it is, alongside the scientific community, there is no scenario under which it is morally OK to intentionally kill an unborn human. In essence, the Vice President is saying, "I believe this is murder, but women should be free to choose whether to carry it out."
We don't say that about other forms of murder. We don't even say that about stealing, perjury, or speeding in your car. We can't say that about abortion.
3) Vice President Biden claims we shouldn't impose our beliefs on other people. Ignoring the fact that he's imposing this very belief on us, I do agree that in light of the First Amendment, nobody should impose their religious beliefs on others. For instance, I would never force people to read the Bible under penalty of law.
But abortion is not a religious belief. It's a scientific fact which concerns the common good of all— those religious and non-religious, born and unborn alike. The fact that life begins at conception does not depend on whether I follow the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or The God Delusion. It's an objective truth grounded in science. And these objective truths, things like "killing is wrong" or "nobody should steal," are rightfully imposed on all society for the sake of the common good.
I don't think any of us would agree with someone in the 19th century saying, "I'm personally opposed to slavery, but I would never impose that belief on anyone else." That's because we all recognize slavery as objectively wrong, for all people, at all times. The same is true here. To reject the killing an innocent child is not imposing belief on anyone; it is honoring the objective moral law for the sake of the common good.
4) Finally, Vice President Biden claims that no religious institution will have to prescribe, pay for, or be a vehicle for morally objectionable items like contraception. He claims this as a fact. However, through his own administration's HHS mandate, along with its strangling "religious" exemption, precisely the opposite is true. Catholic hospitals, large and small, will be forced to provide insurance that covers objectionable items like contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs at no cost to employees. That's surely a "vehicle." Yet also, small Catholic businesses, newspapers, and social services, many of which are self-insured, would be forced to foot the bill themselves for these same items. Contrary to the Vice President's claim, they would be forced to directly pay for items which prohibit their "free exercise of religion," that right so enshrined by the First Amendment.
But ignoring all that, one fact alone betrays the Vice President's claims: over 100 individual lawsuits, from religious groups of many persuasions, have been leveled against the federal government because of this mandate. This legislation is the most egregious violation of religious liberty our nation has ever known. In a country where religious liberty ranks first among all freedoms, we cannot stand for that.
How would you have said things differently?
Early in The Lord of Rings, there's this climactic scene where leaders from every race gather at Rivendell. They are called in response to a common threat, an enemy which intends to destroy all of Middle Earth. Yet each character arrives leery. Histories of oppression and abuse plague their relationships and each wonders whether they can fight together.
But then Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, speaks:
"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle Earth stands upon the brink of destruction; none can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom. Bring forth the ring, Frodo."
Recognizing their shared destiny, they unite. And the enemy falls. But why does this matter?
Because the same thing is happening right now among Christians.
Several Protestant groups, long divided from the Catholic Church, are now joining her in an unprecedented fellowship to battle for religious liberty. Reuters breaks the story in an article titled, Bishops Plan Big Birth-Control Battle Expansion
"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops plans to work with other religious groups, including evangelical Christians, on an election-year public relations campaign that may include TV and radio ads, social media marketing and a push for pastors and priests to raise the subject from the pulpit.
Along with the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals stands ready to contribute money and manpower to the bishops' campaign, said Galen Carey, an association vice president.
The group is also considering the unprecedented step of asking pastors of every evangelical denomination across the country to read their congregations an open letter protesting the contraception mandate as an assault on religious liberty."
For those like me who yearn for Christian unity, this is not just delightful: it's downright invigorating. Sherry Weddell, a fellow convert from Evangelicalism, shares my joy (from Facebook):
"Every evangelical denomination protesting the contraception mandate (something that very few believe in) on the behalf of the Catholic Church? Stunning. Miraculous. Ecumenism on a level that we haven't seen before."
I'm always fascinated at how the darkest moments in history galvanize people the most. For example, hurricanes in Florida pull disconnected neighbors into community and earthquakes in Haiti reveal that solidarity is still alive.
The HHS's current assault on Catholic belief is doing the same thing. It's uniting disparate tribes. It's launching an ecumenical movement that Christians have long been waiting for. And, as Tolkien wrote, it has now tied each Christian tradition to one fate.
As he did last year, the gifted Marc Barnes made a highlight reel from the annual March for Life. The March took place yesterday and depending on your source, somewhere between 200,000-500,000 people braved the inclement weather to support life in our nation's capitol.
If there's one thing that's clear it's this: the culture is turning toward life. Look at the people in this video. They're young, joyful, and filled with hope; that's the future of this country. On the other hand, the pro-abortion radicals are few and far between. They're the polar opposite: they're mostly old, angry, and sullen and their own philosophy--that children are a burden, not a gift--is the very thing that's led to their own demise. Simply put, the pro-life movement is growing while the culture of death is sterile.
I'm convinced that in my lifetime we'll see the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the most deadly and misguided legislation in the history of our country. And I don't think we'll have to wait much longer.
The Rebellion has already begun.