Saturday, November 17, 2007

Linguistic Sleight-of-Hand

This from the Los Angeles Times:

    Bishops issue guidelines for Catholic voters
    They say church members who back candidates for their support of abortion or other 'assaults on human life' are guilty of cooperation in 'grave evil.'
    By Theo Milonopoulos, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

    November 15, 2007

    BALTIMORE -- -- Catholic voters who back candidates because of their support for abortion or other "assaults on human life" would be "guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil," according to a statement adopted Wednesday by U.S. Catholic bishops.

    The bishops defined what they called "threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life" as human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, racism, torture and genocide. (The rest is here.)

And away we go again.

Well, first off, I do wish the bishops of my church could scrape up equal concern for "the sanctity and dignity of human life" when it comes to those who, as children, were sexually abused by a trusted parish priest--and, for all I know, those children who are still in harm's way. From where I sit, rhetoric aside, the bishops have done a better job of blaming the victims, obstructing justice by playing musical-priests, and insisting that anyone who wants justice in the matter is somehow "anti-Catholic." But evidently that's neither here nor there.

Second, I'm always intrigued by what I have come to think of as linguistic sleight-of-hand in "pro-life" parlance. There's the term "pro-life" itself, of course, adopted in place of the original "anti-abortion" label when some members of the we'll-make-your-decisions-for-you crowd thought that "anti" sounded negative. Which of course it does. So--presto!--they dub themselves "pro-life," 'cause they're in favor of life! Well, sometimes. Not too choked up about those guys on death row, you know. And not exactly incensed about innocent lives lost in a misguided and pointless war in Iraq. Nor are we quite as fervent, quite as organized, quite as "pro" about the people of Darfur. And so on.

So, really, not so much pro-life. per se, as...well, anti-abortion.

Or, more honestly, anti-choice. Abortions are still going to happen, legally or otherwise, just as they happened before Roe v. Wade. The question inevitable comes down to who gets to make the decision.

The other aspect of this linguistic sleight-of-hand (or, if you prefer, dishonesty) is in labeling those of us who support a woman's right to make her own health-care decisions as "pro-abortion."

For the record, no one is pro-abortion. I'm so confident in that statement that I'll say it again: There is no such thing as someone who is "pro-abortion." There is no woman on the planet who takes the decision lightly. There is no one who thinks it's a "good" idea. Those are fabrication invented by the anti-abortion lobby*, a way of demonizing those who hold a contrary opinion.

So, too, is all this "culture of death" nonsense. If you're worried about a "culture of death," dear bishops, then have the stones to really, really come out against a war that was built on the lies and incompetence of the denizens of Pennsylvania Avenue. Be as forceful about it as you are about abortion: Tell politicians that they put their immortal souls in peril if they do anything at all to support this illegitimate war. Ditto fro capital punishment: You've spent the past quarter-century "urging" governors to refrain from employing the death penalty. Gutless. If you're really "pro-life," if you're really concerned about a "culture of death," then start telling these governors that they're going to hell if they throw the switch or jab the needle. And start preaching to your congregations that they're going to hell if they vote for a politician who favors of capital punishment.

Fair, after all, is fair, and honesty is honesty. If you're pro-life, then be pro-life. If you're "pro-life" but also pro-death penalty, then you're not pro-life, are you? You're just anti-choice, and you should have the courage to identify yourself as such.

And so it is that despite my bishops' best efforts to control my thoughts, heart, and consciene, I will continue to use the gifts God gave me to weigh and measure that which is put before me, thank you very much, in full confidence that my soul is not imperiled by my belief that a woman who faces the decision to undergo an abortion is in the best position to decide for herself what she must do--a better position than a bishop, a priest, a legislator, or the nutbar who is so "pro-life" that he's getting ready to blow up the women's clinic.

Indeed, I believe that our souls are more at risk when we abandon those gifts of the Creator--conscience, reason, rationality--and surrender our intellect to someone else. I'm enough of a Catholic to believe in Judgment Day, and I believe that when that day rolls around, it will not count in my favor that even thoughconscience, reason, rationality, and simple humanity told me that X was right, I ignored it because a priest, pastor, a televangeist succeeded in bullying me into doing Y.

And since I am not "pro-abortion," no matter how anyone may wish to tar me, I shall continue in my fervent prayer that our society might someday, somehow reach a point where no woman is confronted with that no-win decision.

* I use "lobby" purposely, for I have come to believe that there exists a whole industry built on anti-choice, "abstinence only," I-know-what's-best-for-you philosophies. Indeed, I am cynical enough to believe that the last thing these people really want is for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, for it would take away a goodly portion of their reason to exist. If there's no "enemy" then we have nothing to fight, and if we have nothing to fight then people will quit sending us money to fight it. It is in their best interests to be constantly "at war." Ditto for the right-wingnuts who insist on portraying Christianity as "under assault." Nonsense. But everybody loves an underdog, and the "under assault" fiction is invariably followed by the pitch for money to "keep fighting for Christ." As they say, follow the money.

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