This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Crossroads comes to Washington, but why?

Last Sunday in my parish, we had a guest speaker from Crossroads speak to us after Communion. Crossroads is a young people's ministry which has as its mission "Building a culture of Life." They were inspired by Pope John Paul II's challenge to take the cause of life to the streets. They have taken it literally by walking for across the country in Pro-Life tee shirts, with their journey ending in Washington, D.C. They also have regional and Canadian walks.

This is all well and good, however aside from providing a witness to the "cause of Life" they don't really define what that means. This is the second time they have visited my parish at the conclusion of their walk and they have never defined the term Pro-Life. In order to do complete research for this article, I checked the Mission Statement on the Crossroads web page at http://www.crossroadswalk.com/Mission/. Again, there is not definition of what it means to be Pro-Life. Considering that they are asking for financial support, you would think that they would have some kind of agenda to support. They don't. This leads me to ask the question, are they trying to change the law or the culture? While ambiguity is fine when you are trying to recruit partners and funders, it does not help at election time when you are trying to determine who to vote for. If the agenda is not defined, everyone can be considered pro-life by saying so, unless of course they say that they respect the equally vague term "a woman's right to chose." This makes the term "pro-life" more a matter of tribalism than a term with actual meaning.

The question I would like to ask the leadership of this organization is, what do you mean by Pro-Life? Are you witnessing to young women who may be thinking that abortion is an option? If that is your goal, it is an admirable one. I share that goal. Most people share that goal, since no one (not even most providers) really like abortion. If you have other goals, however, you should put them out there for all to see if you are asking us for money.

I am not just picking on Crossroads here. Many people, especially pro-life politicians at election time, like to say that they are Pro-Life. They often do not say much more. Sarah Palin got caught in this quandary when pressed by Catie Couric as to what she meant when she said she was pro-life. The fact that she fumbled her answer was the first clue to many that she was unprepared. We shouldn't be to unkind to former Governor Palin, however, since most Pro-Life politicians and activists are in the same boat. They don't like abortion but they are not specific about what they would do about it. If pressed, many say that they believe in a federalist solution, letting the state's decide. Federalism is a separate issue, however. One can be against abortion and think that the federalist solution which many in the movement cling to is code for a states' rights posture that goes back to the antebellum south and more recently to opposition to the changes of the civil rights movement and even more recently to opposition of any federal recognition of the rights of gays and lesbians. One should not have to agree with such policies to be considered pro-life, especially since many of us on the left consider this concept of federalism to be constitutionally abhorrent.

The Fourteenth Amendment is rather clear on who is in charge in saying who can and who cannot grant legal recognition to persons. While the default provision is birth, which the Court relied on in Roe v. Wade, the Congress has enforcement power, including the power to alter who is and who is not protected under the Constitution. Rather than continuing to insist that the goal of the movement is the overturn of Roe, especially on federallist lines, it is well past time for the movement to focus on congressional action to protect the unborn at some stage during pregnancy, as specified in the Constitution itself. The President said as much himself in his last debate with Senator McCain. As Catholics, we should not only support the President in his desire for a legislative solution, but encourage him strongly to get to work on one, especially those of us who voted for him.

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