Last year on the day of the annual “March for Life” in Washington, DC, I wrote a blog post titled, “Why I do not support the (so-called) March for Life.” It received a lot of attention, including an article in the National Catholic Reporter that same day, “On this March for Life day, a reasoned discussion on abortion,” which generously praised my essay for its “reasonable and calmly articulated approach to an issue which has sometimes led to divisive intra-church arguments.”
On this website alone (DatingGod.org), the post elicited 139 comments that express a variety of opinions. This week I have been asked by a number of people whether I would write another post today on the same theme, but have decided not to do so. There are several reasons for this decision; the first of which is that I do not have much more to say on the subject, at least at this point. I still struggle to make sense of the resources, time, and energy that go into this particular event each year, while other equally pressing issues go unaddressed, unacknowledged, or unfunded. As I say in the introduction to this essay, I am not suggesting that there is anything inherently wrong with taking a public stance against abortion as women and men of faith, but I do continue to have questions about the manner and means by which this effort is currently executed. Here’s what I say in the essay, now published in the book, Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays:
To begin, I have no problem with people of faith taking a public stance against abortion. You will never find me supporting abortion legislation nor encouraging those with and for whom I minister as a Roman Catholic cleric to support abortion. I believe it is a legitimate issue against which, as a Christian and Roman Catholic, I feel should be a thematic feature of social transformation. However, it is not, at all, the most important issue, nor is it the single issue upon which Catholics – or anyone – should focus their attention s in an exclusive manner.
Abortion belongs to a series of social sins of a systemic degree that include capital punishment, war and violence, limitation of social services for the least among us, economic inequality, abject poverty, and other threats to the dignity of human persons in our culture and globalized world (72-73).
As you can tell, I recognize very overtly the ostensible impetus for the “March for Life” and affirm the place it has among those social and individual sins that are in need of address. However, I’m not at all willing to subordinate the rest of the seamless garment of the consistent ethic of life in order to elevate one issue. It can be misleading, which is why I suggest in this essay that there are many reasons why one can be sympathetic to the cause but withhold support for the event.
Among the various reasons one might chose to omit him or herself from participation, I wish to highlight three: (a) the event’s moniker is incomplete at best and disingenuous at worst; (b) the mode of protest has proven ineffective; and, following the second point, (c) the ‘march’ and its related events are a self-serving exercise in self-righteousness, self-congratulatory grandstanding (72).
Today, while many gather in the United States capital for Masses and marching, perhaps it is worth considering what it is we’re really doing, what purposes and people are served by what we’re doing, and whether or not we should consider other ways to do something more constructively, more open to a consistent ethic of life, and more humbly.
The full text of “Why I do not Support the (so-called) March for Life” is available in the book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, which can also be found for the Kindle and at Barnes and Noble.