Sunday, October 05, 2008

Beyond The Womb

Today was "Respect For Life Sunday" for the Catholic Church, a chance for the more fundamentalist elements of the Church to "throw their weight around". I will give my priest credit for at least making a passing mention to war, but the focus was on denying women their reproductive choices.

But something I got at a "Catholics For Obama" meeting has we wondering how well the Church, and perhaps other Christian denominations are living up to the ideals of the man they claim to follow.

A card on "Catholic Social Teaching" brings up seven themes. The first is "Life and Dignity of The Human Person". Now in addition to voicing opposition to abortion and euthanasia, cloning and stem cell research, and the death penalty, there's also the following:

The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching calls on us to work and avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means.

Pre-emption and "Shock and Awe", and other components of the "Bush Doctrine" that so many of the "pro-life" politicians of the GOP, as well as our "go it alone" approach, against the opposition of the world seems to fall in violation of this principle.

The next theme that the card brings up is a "Call to Family, Community and Participation". This takes the idea of the first point and expands it to society as a whole, speaking of all people having a ". . .right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. . . ." But it seems to me that many Americans feel that their voices aren't heard, drowned out by the power of corps and their CEOs. Efforts to mobilize these people through registration and education, as well as working to reduce to political pull of corporations and the wealthy would help advance this component.

Further expanding on this call is a call for commitment to "Rights and Responsibilities"; a call to protect basic human rights. Now these same people who would grant a fetus the same rights as a human seem more than willing to condone torture and denial of rights that are seen as components of basic justice in the name of "National Security".

The story of the "Last Judgment", in which the question of how the "least of the brethren" were treated, provides that basis for the next point of "Option for The Poor and Vulnerable". Now this is a case where the Catholic Church, and many other faiths have done great work for the poor, but have done little to deal with the machinery of poverty. Continuing to favor the interests of the wealthy and CEO's over the needs of moderate and low income people seems to put many who call themselves "Christians" more in the camp of the moneychangers than the masses.

Besides opposition to war and violence, the other area where the "pro-life" movement has truly failed is "The Dignity of Work and The Rights Of Workers". For decades, we have seen the power of organized labor decline, and jobs shipped out by CEO's to countries where labor is cheaper and more exploitable. Wages have declined in terms of earning power and a "McEconomy" of low-wage, part-time, limited-benefit jobs has sprung up. All this while the wealthy have seen their fortunes and their power grow and grow.

Working in "Solidarity" is the next point, and this too, may be an area where some work needs to be done. A country that feels it can invade a country under a false pretense, and in opposition to the rest of the world, and allies itself with dictators and despots, so long as they "play nice" with us, does not seem to be living up well to the message of Pope Paul IV; "If you want peace, work for justice".

Lastly, according to the Bible, we were appointed as "Stewards of the Earth". Alas, we seem to act so often more as dominator's than stewards. Our culture of consumption, based on greed, seems at times to show little "Care for God's Creation". The fact that neither major candidate seems to wish to make conservation a real part of an energy plan shows how deep this "culture of consumption" reaches.

If Catholics, or any other faith or denomination, wish to make opposition to reproductive choice the main point of their agenda, that is fine. But then they need to work beyond the womb, or else the quote of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) will only seem all the more true:

To a pro-lifer, life begins at conception and ends at birth.