by Nick France
In June of 1858 Abraham Lincoln gave his famous "House divided" speech to the Illinois Republican State Convention that had just nominated him to be their candidate for the U. S. Senate. Lincoln lost the Senate race that year but the principles of his now famous speech live on today. A house divided is certain to collapse, Lincoln asserts, and in this case, the house was the United States. The cause for division was slavery in 1858. Two short years later, South Carolina seceded from the Union, the first of several states, which would lead to the Civil War.
In many ways, our troubled past revisits our great country with an equally damaging and divisive threat in the form of abortion. I don’t believe it will resort to Civil War, but I am certain that it is destroying the moral and cultural fabric of our society.
Are we Catholics, a "House Divided" today?
Slavery, like abortion, had become more than just a political issue, and surfaced as a struggle between good vs. evil. Proponents of slavery, like today’s pro-abortionists, hide the realities behind lies and euphemisms. Many of the arguments for slavery in 1858 are the same for abortion today. "Blacks are not human," said many, just as pro-abortionists’ claim of the unborn today. Proponents of slavery spoke of "states’ rights", pro-abortionists speak today of "reproduction rights."
This issue pitted brother against brother as today’s issue places Catholic against Catholic. I can not rationally explain why many Catholics defend, support and even take part in abortion, but the sad fact is that they do. I guess it’s for the misguided reasons mentioned above –and I pray they change their thinking, and come to know the teaching and guidance of Catholic morality.
Like the parallels of the past and present regarding slavery and abortion, division of Catholics must and should be addressed. In what can only be explained as a calling from my conscience, I am drawn over and over to write about the social climate of our beloved country. This election year is certainly increasing the importance of this discussion, as I am filled with a sense of urgency leading up to November.
I know there are a lot of issues facing the country today, but I focus on this one, because it hinges on the moral climate of our nation. The decisions of the leaders we elect this November will affect our laws and culture for many years to come.
Where do Catholics fall on this issue?
They’re divided. That’s right –long gone are the days when Catholics thought alike, voted alike, and believed alike. And Catholics are worse off for it. We no longer have the political power we once enjoyed, because we are divided. We’re divided politically and we’re divided spiritually, and politicians know it. That’s why the Catholic vote doesn’t count the way it used to.
Catholics used to be predominately Democrats, but that’s when the Democratic Party had a conservative wing. It’s now practically all liberals. While that may still bode well for fiscal issues, it does not bode well for social issues. There seems to be a push for secularism in the Democratic party like never before; and I can’t speak for you, but as for this Catholic, I don’t like it. When you start removing the “Divine Creator” from the government you end up with something similar to the mess they have in Europe today.
What, if anything, is the Church doing about this? Things haven’t changed much over the years. The Church has always struggled with imparting its wisdom to the culture. Not for a lack of will or wisdom, (the Church is very wise) but rather a reluctance from society to accept it’s wisdom. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclical letter (Rerum Novarum/On the condition of Workers) spoke to moral issues and to fight morality. This caused the Church to defend it’s right to fight societal evils against those trying to divert the discussion to the "separation of church and state."
But what is the Church doing today?
As I reported in the March Knightly News (see Catholic Lawmakers take Heed) St. Louis Archbishop, Raymond Burke, bars all Catholic lawmaker in his diocese who favors abortion from receiving Holy Communion. Now it seems there are two Bishops speaking out and taking action. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska is also refusing Holy Communion to dissenting Catholics. In a recent column, Catholic activist and writer Barbara Kralis reported that Bruskewitz agreed with the position of Archbishop Burke, saying, "We agree completely with Archbishop Raymond Burke in the action he has taken and we would take the same action in the Diocese of Lincoln with regard to manifest, persistent, obstinate sinners, including politicians, regardless of which diocese they are from."
How is it that the Church has let this situation escalate to this level? And is it just the politicians that are disobeying the teachings of the Catholic faith, or is the laity falling away as well? The fact is that the Church has been turning a blind eye to this problem for a long time. The good news is that the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops has formed a committee to acknowledge and deal with this problem, seek forgiveness, and rectify our nation’s sinful behavior.
Short of asking each parishioner if he or she is involved in supporting abortion, and then somehow marking them, how can a priest or a minister of the Eucharist know who is supporting the "culture of death" or not? Well, the answer is… they can’t know. But to identify dissenting Catholic politicians is a much easier thing to do, as they are readily identifiable by their legislative voting record.
The personally opposed argument
I remember quite a few years ago living in New York, the then Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo, used the "personally opposed" argument to justify the ratification of his legislative record on abortion. He did this in an effort to stay in the Church’s good grace while pandering to Democratic pro-abortion voters and secularists. You know the argument, it goes like this; I’m personally opposed to abortion (or cloning, or same-sex unions, or whatever,) but: I can not impose my religious beliefs on those who do not hold the same beliefs, and I must be tolerant of all Americans. Or– they say something similar, or there are more pressing issues, or I’m opposed but there are exceptions.
It is rhetoric like this, which starts at the top and trickles down to the many, that determines the climate of all social issues in this country. And if we do not demand that our leaders hold themselves to a higher standard than mere humanism– then more social depravity is sure to follow. And it’ll only get worse from here. First, it was Mario Cuomo and Ed Kennedy, and then Geraldine Ferraro fell away, Now you have to search far and wide to find a Catholic legislator with religious integrity who is in communion with the Holy See in this country.
Here’s another argument you hear from Catholic politicians; "I represent more than just Catholics, surely I can’t impose "Catholic morality" on non-Catholic citizens." The fact is abortion is a life issue and not strictly Catholic– and it affects Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists… all people,
Catholics and the political parties
More and more, Catholics are realizing they are conservatives–particularly on social issues. I said conservative, not Republican; however, polls show the tide is turning in this country for Catholics regarding the political parties.
The results of a recent poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press: Catholic voters, once considered loyal Democrats, are now more evenly divided, the poll found. While in the late 1980s, 41 percent of Catholics identified themselves as Democrats and 24 percent as Republicans. Today, the gap has closed significantly, as 31 percent now claim to support Democrats and 29 percent Republicans.
Why are Catholics leaving the Democratic Party? I’ve heard so many Catholics say they didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Party left them. They go on to say how they can no longer support a party that harbors the "culture of death" and "moral decay" that has become the mind-set of the majority of the Democratic Party.
That’s not to say some Catholics don’t struggle with the Republican Party either. However, Republicans tend to respect life in greater numbers. At least where the pro-life movement is concerned, they are.
Let’s face it, Catholics are divided, the numbers above show this, as does the culture. As Lincoln put it, a "house divided" can not stand. It is time for the Catholic laity to unite, to get back to the teaching of the Catholic faith. It is time that the Catholic leaders unite, and uphold the teachings of the Catholic faith with integrity. And it’s time the Church makes every effort to see that we do. If the Church and laity pull together, in the future it’s possible that American Catholics may not be known as a "house divided." †