At the beginning of the month Archbishop Cupich wrote a column in response to the undercover videos regarding Planned Parenthood and Stem Express. His column started out fine and dissolved to weak-tea moral equivalence.
While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want.
No less appalled?
He is obviously appealing to a previous Chicago archbishop Cardinal Bernardin and the “seamless garment” argument. Unfortunately he is misusing it like so many have that instead of a hierarchy, it is flattened down so that everything is on the same level.
“I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a ‘basic right’ of the individual.”He went on to say, “I know that some people on the left, if I may use that label,have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not all that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don’t hold anybody’s feet to the fire just on abortion. That’s a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it.” (June 12, 1988)
That quote is from Cardinal Bernadin who saw the misuse of this idea in his day. Usually we get what I call the “Shameless Garment” argument of moral equivalence totally unlike the Cardinal’s original espousal of the consistent ethic of life with various levels treated separately. This same Cardinal refused an invite to deliver the invocation at the Democratic National Convention because of their support for abortion.
As a remedy to this weak column, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote a column mentioning the seamless garment without the moral equivalence.
Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.
The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.
… But of course, children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care. Humanity’s priority right — the one that undergirds all other rights — is the right to life.
As in most cases there is a proper both/and here in that Catholic social teaching is not just one or two issues and that you get to pick which ones you prefer to support.
“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care … But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.