A few TV seasons ago, there was an episode of “Seinfeld” in which Jerry's dentist was a new convert to Judaism. With a hand firmly planted in Jerry's mouth, he cracked one insulting Jewish joke after the next. Finally Jerry objected, but the dentist insisted that, as a Jew, he was entitled. Anyway, he added, humor is how “our people” have always made it through difficult times. Jerry was not amused.
I find my own sense of humor lacking while the Catholic version of this scenario plays itself out at the United Nations and in your local paper these days: Catholic-bashing from a group calling itself Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC). The occasion is CFFC's current efforts to have the Holy See stripped of its permanent-observer status at the United Nations.
Headed by a former abortion clinic manager and founder of an abortionists’ trade association, CFFC gets away with caricatures of the Catholic Church, its bishops and its pope, that would simply not be tolerated from a source that did not have the word “Catholic” in its name. Ordinarily, the apparently intrachurch nature of the squabbling would put the news media to sleep. You'd expect them to say, “It's just an internal Catholic squabble, and that means big-time boredom.” But — hello! — we're talking about abortion and family planning and sex here. (How do you spell r-a-t-i-n-g-s?) Furthermore, thanks to careful strategic positioning by CFFC, there's the appearance of a struggle between some scrappy, progressive women and the male hierarchy. News media heaven!
What seems to have escaped otherwise-intrepid reporters, however, is the fact that CFFC is not a Catholic outfit. At least, not in the sense that its operators are Catholic, nor that it has a Catholic membership, nor, perhaps most importantly, in that it has Catholic funding. A former spokeswoman/Ph.D. theologian for CFFC, after her departure, offered a revealing look at the organization's leadership: “When I was involved with CFFC, I was never aware that any of its leaders attended Mass,” she admitted. “Furthermore, various conversations and experiences convinced me they did not. I myself did not. Today, I see this failure as proof that I was not actually a Catholic for a Free Choice. … I now see CFFC's agenda as the promotion of abortion, the defense of every abortion decision as a good, moral choice and the related agenda of persuading society to cast off any moral constraints about sexual behavior. I don't think this is a Catholic or pro-woman agenda whether you are liberal or conservative, pro-life or pro-choice.” Later, CFFC acknowledged that it is not a “membership organization.” In fact, fewer than 400 recipients of its magazine even pay for their “subscription” and no one has any idea if any of these are Catholic.
As for funding, the heart of the matter, it comes from wealthy foundations which support overseas population control, plus a group that supports the Chinese Family Planning Association (long associated with the brutal practice of forced abortion), and even at one time from the Playboy Foundation.
There is nothing the least bit Catholic about Catholics for a Free Choice.
And so it appears that CFFC's statements about ousting the Holy See from the United Nations shouldn't receive any of the deference accorded to Church “insiders” who are presumed to care at least something for the well-being of the group to which they say they belong. CFFC is comprised of individuals who care nothing at all about the Church — and everything, as it happens, about advancing a pro-abortion agenda.
With this veil removed, it is infinitely easier to see their remarks for what they are: demeaning anti-Catholic bigotry.
Imagine how you'd react if a non-Catholic uttered, or reproduced in printed materials, quotes like these. “If the Vatican is a state, then Euro Disney deserves a seat on the Security Council.” … “If [the Holy See] had its way, a million people would get the HIV virus, there would be more and more unwanted pregnancies, more and more illegal abortions, and more and more mothers dying as a result of illegal abortions. That is the position they are trying to work for.” … “Booting the Holy See out of the U.N. will save women's lives.” … “The Holy See doesn't truly support the rights of woman as fully equal, competent moral agents.” … “The Holy See is comparable to the Politburo of the old [Communist] Soviet Union.” … “The Holy See's denunciation of violence against women is made vacuous by its praise for service as a Christian female vocation; such a message enables domination and makes women vulnerable to exploitation.” … “For the Church, submissiveness is what counts.” …
Only a deep distrust, even loathing, of the Church enables a group to so twist Catholic statements on women, family planning and human rights. And only the most ignorant or the most gullible reporter (and I believe there are very, very few of these) would reprint this sort of stuff uncritically. Those who say such things and those who recklessly repeat them play and root for the same team: the Anti-Catholic Bigots.
Helen M. Alvare is director of planning and information of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.