—from Sex, family and the liberty of the Church by Archbishop Charles Chaput at the University of Notre Dame on September 15, 2016 (Emphasis in BOLD was added by The Five Minute Catholic.)
We now live in a country where marriage, family and traditional religion all seem to be failing. And — inevitably — support for democracy itself has dropped. Fewer than 30 percent of U.S. millennials think that it’s vital to live in a nation ruled democratically. Nearly a quarter of those born in the 1980s or later see democracy as a bad way to run a country. And nearly half of Americans surveyed feel that experts, not government, should “make decisions according to what they think is best for the country.” Undemocratic feelings have risen especially among the wealthy.
This didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen by accident. We behaved ourselves into this mess by living a collection of lies. And the essence of those lies is summed up in the so-called “mystery clause” of the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey Supreme Court decision upholding the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision.
Writing for the majority in Casey, Justice Anthony Kennedy claimed that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” This is the perfect manifesto of a liberal democratic fantasy: the sovereign, self-creating self. But it’s a lie. It’s the very opposite of real Christian freedom. And to the degree we excuse or cooperate with it, we make ourselves liars.
The Gospel of John reminds us that the truth, and only the truth, makes us free. We’re fully human and free only when we live under the authority of the truth. And in that light, no issue has made us more dishonest and less free as believers and as a nation than abortion. People uncomfortable with the abortion issue argue, quite properly, that Catholic teaching is bigger than just one issue. Other urgent issues also need our attention. Being pro-birth is not the same as being pro-life. And being truly “pro-life” doesn’t end with defending the unborn child.
But it does and it must begin there. To borrow some words from one of Notre Dame’s distinguished alumni: Abortion has been “the beachhead for an entire ethic that is hostile to life, hostile to marriage and, as we see from the [HHS] contraceptive mandate, increasingly hostile to religion, religious Americans and religious institutions.” Abortion poisons everything. There can never be anything “progressive” in killing an unborn child, or standing aside tolerantly while others do it.
In every abortion, an innocent life always dies. This is why no equivalence can ever exist between the intentional killing involved in abortion, infanticide and euthanasia on the one hand, and issues like homelessness, the death penalty and anti-poverty policy on the other. Again, all of these issues are important. But trying to reason or imply them into having the same moral weight is a debasement of Christian thought.