Applying Andrew Sullivan’s proposal to the highly charged abortion issue, we might consider referring henceforth to the self-described pro-life contingent within the U.S. Christian community as "pro-birth" rather than as "pro-life."
I first heard this idea raised, in a far different form and context, by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, a prolific author and lecturer, on the Easter Sunday installment of NBC’s "Meet the Press."
Many, but surely not all, in the so-called pro-life movement are politically and socially conservative on issues affecting the quality of human life after birth: child care, health insurance, education, housing, safety standards in employment, a clean environment, immigration, non-discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, the right to unionize, equitable tax policies, capital punishment, war and peace.
Indeed, Catholics identified with the self-described pro-life movement have been quick to criticize their own bishops for pressing a consistent-ethic-of-life approach over against one that focuses almost exclusively on abortion, with embryonic stem-cell research, homosexuality, and the continuation of life-sustaining measures (as in the Terri Schiavo case) running not far behind.
Clearly, such Catholics are pro-birth. Whether they are also pro-life in the comprehensive sense that the U.S. Catholic bishops are pro-life is another matter entirely.
It seems that Fr. McBrien becomes even more morally incoherent with each passing column. Now he is spreading the pro-abortion talking point about how pro-lifers only care about pregnant women. Even dumber is that he uses the Terri Schiavo case to buttress his argument that these Catholics are pro-birth and not pro-life. Last I checked Terri Schiavo was already born before they decided to starve her to death. He then goes on to equate support for life with what are quality of life issues. As if abortion and child care are moral equivalents. And of course what he means by child care is a right to demand government funded child care. The other issues brought up are also silly. What was the last time you heard someone who is pro-life demand that the environment get dirtier, that we should discriminate based on race, or that we should have unsafe working environments? These issues are non-sequitors and are thrown out as some kind of proof when it is really evidence of somebody drowned in Democratic party verbiage and who has abandoned reason.
If he is so worried about discrimination based on religion then whey did we never see a column on Massachusetts religious discrimination of Catholic Charities? What about the issue of euthanasia? Why are so-called pro-birth Catholics also against euthanasia? Or is this just a inconvenient fact that didn’t fit in with his column? What about the "pro-birth" Catholics who spend their time volunteering to help the needy? Another inconvenient fact? I don’t know what the actual statistics are, but I would also not be surprised to find that a majority of pro-life Catholics also see the death penalty as something that should be restricted and that it should only be used in very limited circumstances. Looking around just St. Blogs and articles I have read in Catholic periodicals this seems to be the majority opinion on the subject and mostly falls behind the thinking layed out in John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life.
Fr. McBrien has not offered any analysis but a caricature instead and that in no way advances the culture of life. It is no surprise that he uses the term sexual orientation and then goes on to disparage Catholics because they actually believe what the Church teaches. By his argument Catholics who are pro-abortion can I guess be described as anti-birth but pro-life if they support government-funded child care and OSHA. Again last I checked you have to be born first to experience job safety, clean environments, equitable tax policies, etc.
Gerald also has some good commentary on this article.