I think, for example, that we need to look at things like increasing federal funding to support paid family leave and child care. The majority of women (61%) who have abortions already have one or more children. Many of these women are single mothers who already have to strike a difficult balance between work and family and it’s hard for them to contemplate adding an additional child to the mix. It should be noted that low-income women are the only population for whom the abortion rate has increased over the past five years.
You don’t need to create new federal entitlements to do this. There are existing block grants that states could use to design programs that fit their needs. They could use a little bump in funding. If you want to keep costs under control, the programs could also be targeted to families below a certain income threshold.
These are just a few ideas. I don’t claim that any of them are original, or even very good. And I haven’t included any ideas for preventing crisis pregnancies in the first place, which is another—if you’ll excuse the term—fertile area of inquiry. But I'll leave that for another time.
Prayer is not a question of insight, of being smarter than anyone else; nor of will, of being stronger than anyone else; nor of emotional restraint or sexual aloofness, of being less passionate than anyone else; nor of withdrawal, of being less exposed to temptation than anyone else. Prayer is a question of unity and surrender, of uniting one's will with someone else and surrendering one's will to that other. Prayer is the desire to be in union with someone, especially in union with that other's will.
In A Place at the Table, the Bishops reflect on the persistence of poverty in the United States and in the world. The document sketches out some general trends in domestic and international poverty, and affirms the role of four key institutions in combating poverty: 1) families and individuals; 2) religious and community institutions; 3) the private sector; and 4) government:
The debate about how to address poverty in the United States and abroad too often focuses on just one of these four foundations and neglects others. While these four elements work together in different ways in different communities, a table may fall without each leg. Some emphasize family responsibility or the role of religious and community groups. Some insist the market can solve all our problems. Others see a government solution for every challenge, while still others see government corruption as an insurmountable obstacle to development. These narrow positions are not our tradition. The Catholic way is to recognize the essential role and the complementary responsibilities of families, communities, the market, and government to work together to overcome poverty and advance human dignity.
The Bishops also issued a revised version of their pastoral statement on domestic violence, When I Call for Help, which was first issued in 1992. The statement speaks forcefully against misunderstandings of scripture and faith that are used to justify domestic violence:
As bishops, we condemn the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love. Beginning with Genesis, Scripture teaches that women and men are created in God's image. Jesus himself always respected the human dignity of women. Pope John Paul II reminds us that "Christ's way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women."
Men who abuse often use Ephesians 5:22, taken out of context, to justify their behavior, but the passage (v. 21-33) refers to the mutual submission of husband and wife out of love for Christ. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own body, as Christ loves the Church.
Men who batter also cite Scripture to insist that their victims forgive them (see, for example, Mt 6:9-15). A victim then feels guilty if she cannot do so. Forgiveness, however, does not mean forgetting the abuse or pretending that it did not happen. Neither is possible. Forgiveness is not permission to repeat the abuse. Rather, forgiveness means that the victim decides to let go of the experience and move on with greater insight and conviction not to tolerate abuse of any kind again.
Earlier in the week, the Bishops issued a statement on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade entitled A Matter of the Heart. While strongly condemning the decision and reaffirming the Church's defense of human life in the womb, the statement also reaches out to women who may be considering abortion or who have had abortions:
Among those who defend abortion, there are many who do so despite the pain abortion has brought into their lives, or even sometimes because of it. Many contemplating abortion believe they have no other choice. We listen to them, we understand their sense of isolation and despair. We must strive to know their hearts.
We renew our offer of assistance to anyone considering abortion: If you are overwhelmed by the decisions you face, if you cannot afford medical care, if you are homeless or feel helpless, whatever your needs, we will help you. The Church and her ministries, inspired by the word and example of Jesus Christ, will help you with compassion and without condemnation.
Roe v. Wade has left a trail of broken hearts. Through Project Rachel and other ministries, we will continue to help the broken-hearted. Those who resort to abortion out of a sense of desperation often find the cruel reality of abortion too difficult to bear. But it is too difficult only in a world without God and therefore without hope. We must reach these hearts and give them hope. These are the converted hearts that will at last bring an end to abortion.
You can find links to all these statements, plus some others, by clicking here.
BACKSTAGE WITH THE BISHOPS:John Allen does his usual good job at rounding up on-the-record and off-the-record comments from the Bishops at their just concluded meeting. Allen notes that while the new norms do give the bishop the right to remove a priest from active ministry, canon law will still allow those priests to appeal to Rome:
I played out this scenario for one U.S. bishop in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. He granted its logic, then responded with grim determination: “They’re not going to force me to reinstate a man against my will. It’s not going to happen.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:Eve Tushnet suggests that my post on abortion overlooked what other parts of the pro-life movement are doing to combat abortion. I did not mean to do so. My post was focused on the pro-life movement's political strategy, but Eve is right that the movement is engaged in many other kinds of work as well: crisis pregnancy centers, post-abortion counseling, etc. Check out Eve's site for more details. But I did want to excerpt one of her paragraphs that I particularly liked:
Among the most important things you can do to prevent abortion: Reach out to women in need. (In case it's useful for people, here's a quick list I wrote with characteristics of a great pregnancy center.) Support marriage-based education. Feminists for Life's college outreach program is one of the best efforts--it changes minds, and also provides immediate practical help for women at high risk of abortion. Be a mentor--work with young people. Young women--and their boyfriends, very much so--need someone they can talk to when they're facing an unwanted pregnancy. And they need someone they can talk to about their relationships, or simply someone to provide a model of responsible and loving womanhood or manhood, so that the unplanned pregnancy doesn't happen in the first place. If you're an employer, be sensitive to the needs of families; I've seen several high-achieving women feel like they had to choose between their children and their future, and no matter which they choose it's not pretty.
There were hot links in that paragraph that I didn't try to replicate, so if you want to read them, click over to Eve's site.
NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK:Fr. Andrew Greeley opines on the new norms. Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link. After reading through the new norms, I think I generally agree with Greeley and, while I have a few quibbles, I think that the new policy will do as much as any policy can to protect children while preserving the due process rights of the accused. It's not perfect, but I can live with it. What about the rest of you?
Now, no one is suggesting that all Christians should turn in their car keys and start hoofing it. This is not a nation of extremists--religious or otherwise. But there are undeniable costs to the consumer choices we make every day, and spiritual leaders should absolutely remind their flock that treating Earth as your own personal garbage dump isn't exactly being a good steward of the land over which God has ostensibly given us dominion. When we make bad choices, we deserve to feel guilty. And God-fearing, church-going suburbanites could stand to hear a few guilt-inducing lectures about precisely how bad their nasty little SUV habit is for all God's creatures. You--yeah, Mrs. Sunday School Teacher ferrying your two kids to choir practice in the Ford Expedition (lest Chevy feel unfairly targeted)--you are gratuitously destroying the miracle of nature for the sake of a little extra space, comfort, and status. (You are also lining the pockets of corrupt, oppressive, petrodollar-dependent regimes throughout the Middle East, but that's a sermon for another day.) With every mile you drive that monstrosity, you are thumbing your nose at God's glorious world. Appalling really.
For the record, our family car is a 1994 Saturn 4-door sedan and I'm getting pretty freaking tired of being unable to see anything around me on the road because I'm surrounded by vehicles the size of an Abrams Tank. The parking lot at the train station is packed with these things, all of which were driven there by one person. Someone tell me what the point is of having a vehicle with 60,000 cubic feet of cargo space and having it sit all day in a train station parking lot. Okay. Rant over.
WHICH STRATEGY FOR SOULS? An interesting article in this week's Tablet talks about recent changes in how the Catholic Church in England and Wales is supporting evangelization. Should the historical focus on parish missions be retained? Or should the Church be supporting small church communities within parishes or new ecclesial movements that cross parish boundaries? The article makes for interesting reading.