Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried this week to include hundreds of millions of dollars for “family planning services” in the new Congressional economic stimulus package.
Pelosi is Catholic and therefore, as a matter of Catholic faith and morals, should oppose diverting tax dollars to groups that promote artificial contraception and abortion.
But her plan was thwarted only after President Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion president ever to occupy the White House, called for the family-planning funds to be dropped from the stimulus package in order to make it easier for it to win Congressional approval.
The question arises: How did it come to pass that a Catholic politician who likes to boast of her strong commitment to her Catholic faith sees nothing peculiar about out-Obama-ing Obama himself, when it comes to the promotion of anti-life initiatives with taxpayers’ dollars?
About.com:Catholicism columnist Scott Richert suggests Pelosi’s blithe attitude can be traced to the pernicious misinterpretation of the “seamless garment” concept formulated in the mid-1980s by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago.
The “seamless garment” approach, as articulated by Cardinal Bernardin, posits that the Church’s teaching regarding the necessity to protect the sanctity of unborn human lives should be situated within the context of a “consistent ethic of life” that encompasses a broad array of other social issues like education and the alleviation of poverty.
“While that name is rarely heard today, the concept lives on — especially around election time, when voters weigh the role that abortion should play in their voting decisions,” Richert writes.
“From the very beginning, the problem with the seamless-garment approach was that, in practice, it turned the issue on its head,” he continues. “Confronted with the consistent teaching of the Church on abortion, yet desiring to vote for particular candidates who supported abortion, a significant number of American Catholics pointed to the seamless-garment approach to justify casting their votes for politicians who would not only protect ‘abortion rights’ but even expand them and provide taxpayer funding for abortions.
“In other words, rather than elevating the Church’s teaching on other social issues to the severity of her teaching on abortion, voters used the seamless garment as an excuse to quit considering abortion when they entered the voting booth. And, if exit polls are to be believed, Catholic voters did so in November 2008, in casting their votes for Barack Obama.”
Richert adds that “the chickens are coming home to roost”already, in terms of the implementation of anti-life policies by the politicians Catholic voters helped to elect last fall.
“We can debate whether Cardinal Bernardin was right or wrong in formulating the seamless-garment approach, but this much we know: He did not intend for it to be used to justify balancing the federal budget on the backs of the unborn,” Richert says.
“Yet today, and for the foreseeable future, that is the practical effect of Catholic votes for Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and other pro-abortion politicians.”
Concludes Richert, “When we reduce abortion to a nonissue in order to elevate other areas with which Catholics are concerned, the poor and defenseless suffer. And there’s nothing Catholic about that.”