There is no 'either/or' approach to Church teaching
Monday, April 23, 2012 1:10 AM
I attended a conference recently where one of the speakers urged Catholic pro-lifers and Catholic social justice advocates to work together. The speaker, Capuchin Franciscan Father Daniel Mindling, academic dean of Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, noted that Catholics are "being asked to favor social programs or pro-life teachings."
Catholics, he said, are being placed in an untenable position where we can give "service to the poor only if we abandon the Gospel of Life." Because of that, Father Mindling warned, "the light of the Gospel is dimmed by an either/or approach to social justice and pro-life teachings."
Sadly, we see that what Father Mindling has said is true.
Within the past week, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a Catholic, wrote a letter to New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urging the bishops to throw their weight behind a federal budget that favors the poor and needy.
In a follow-up interview with the Catholic News Service, the lawmaker said the Catholic Church's "moral standing in society would lend a strong voice" to shaping a just budget.
"My church, the Catholic Church, needs to speak out loud on this issue," she told the Catholic News Service.
While it is good that Rep. DeLauro recognizes the moral standing of her Church, it is sad that she herself sometimes ignores the Church's "strong voice" of which she is so complementary.
As the ranking Democrat on the House's Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. DeLauro actively worked against the Church's efforts to be exempted from an HHS mandate that requires Catholic institutions to violate the Church's moral teachings and provide health insurance coverage to employees for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization.
She worked for the defeat of the proposed Blunt Amendment that would have allowed religious institutions to follow their own moral precepts in those matters.
The lawmaker at the time said exempting religious institutions because of "vaguely defined moral convictions" from the HHS mandate was part of a "war on women's health."
She said that the amendment would "turn back the clock on women's health, taking us back to a day when family planning was not an opportunity for every woman."
It's lamentable that Catholic lawmakers like Rep. DeLauro are willing to follow Church teaching when it advocates outreach to the poor and needy, but ignore Church teaching when it comes to defending life from the moment of conception.
This is exactly what Father Mindling warned about last weekend.
He warned of politics that "exploits a tension in the Catholic community between those who put the decisive emphasis on issues around abortion and the sanctity of life and those who prioritize the dignity of life: health care reform, urban poverty, education, unemployment, ecology, or immigration reform."
He added that politicians would seek "to split the Catholic vote and thus dim the Catholic witness."
"We've been under pressure to either continue our service to the poor or abandon the Gospel of life," Father Mindling said. "We have to hold up the light of the Gospel. There is no 'either/or' approach to the Gospel."
The Gospel of Life must always guide lawmakers as they consider laws that affect all of us. As Rep. DeLauro said, "My church, the Catholic Church, needs to speak out loud on this issue."