Pro-life advocates in Dallas take part in a March for Life rally Jan. 15, 2022. CNS photo/Kaylee Greenlee Beal, Reuters

Editorial: Where were we?

  • June 10, 2022

In the august pages of a leading American business newspaper, a previous head of government relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has excoriated his former employers for their failures on abortion.

Specifically, Jayd Henricks called out bishops from as far back as 1964 for falling into a trap set by Sen. Ted Kennedy. At a meeting convened by that senatorial warlock of the sulphureous arts, Henricks wrote, Kennedy wangled what he could later palm off as clerical nihil obstat for the Democratic Party to embrace in-womb killing.

Result? The American political party that was once the party of American Catholics is now the party that reflexively sides with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she is refused communion in San Francisco for her stiff-necked refusal to abjure public promotion of abortion.

“What if the bishops had (long ago) recognized that politicians who supported abortion had removed themselves from the Catholic community and responded accordingly?” Henricks asks in The Wall Street Journal.

If it seems at first blush a fair point, reflection makes clear it is manifestly unfair. Why, for starters, are the bishops first and foremost to blame? A second question naturally extends from the first. Where does this confounding Catholic habit come from to constantly lay the political faults of the faithful at our pastors’ feet? True, in the Our Father we ask God to give us each day our daily bread. But no corollary in the prayer our Saviour taught us justifies abdicating our civic responsibilities while simultaneously pointing feckless fingers at the Church.

It is a point as valid in Canada as among our U.S. co-religionists. Why, to Canadianize Henricks’ question, should our Catholic bishops wear the failure of Catholic laity to use our political strength on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, prostitution, poverty, homelessness and right relations with our (predominately Catholic) Indigenous brothers and sisters?

The question is historical, not partisan. Thousands of Canadian Catholics have dedicated their lives to challenging the country’s legal vacuum on abortion — some through formal organizations such as Campaign Life and others simply as individuals. But where was the greater mass of politically engaged lay Catholics during the early 1990s, for example, when the federal Liberal party aggressively purged pro-lifers? A variation can be asked about partisans of all parties who put comfort or career ahead of conscience. Were they expecting figures wearing miters and carrying croziers to show up on election day and extract democratic payback? Memo from the past: that was never going to happen.

It was arms-folded lay Catholics, not Church leaders, who helped pave the way for the Catholic serving as our current prime minister to make anti-abortion sentiment political anathema. Nancy Pelosi looks wishy washy by comparison.

Yet Catholics on both sides of the border snarl and ask why

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