Connecting the Dots Between Contempt for Life and Contempt for God

The deeper crisis we face in this country is about adoration, not abortion.

A woman holds a pro-abortion sign at a demonstration in Seattle on Oct. 8, 2022.
A woman holds a pro-abortion sign at a demonstration in Seattle on Oct. 8, 2022. (photo: Jason Redmond / AFP via Getty Images)

For anyone out there following the daily round of news — who are not yet depressed enough by events in the public life — here are a couple of items to help fill your bucket list.

Starting with an important vote in the U.S. Congress earlier this month condemning violence against pro-life facilities around the country. It passed. So, that’s good news, right? I mean, every Republican voted for it, leaving all but three Democrats to oppose it. No surprise there.

But here’s the thing. Among those 209 Democrats refusing to take a stand against violence inflicted upon people and property helping pregnant women, a stunning number — 66, to be exact — are professed Catholics, which means the teaching of the Church means nothing to them. 

Should that surprise anyone? Well, consider what it is they went on record as refusing. Not an outright ban on abortion, mind you — the violence of which they wouldn’t dream of deploring, much less passing laws to prevent. No, that will never happen without widespread metanoia across this great land of ours. 

But the sponsors of the bill had nothing of that sort in mind. They weren’t proposing anything as radical as actual protection of unborn babies. All they wanted to do was issue a modestly-worded resolution aimed at “condemning the recent attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches.” 

How controversial can that be? Especially, one would think, in light of the increased number of attacks in recent months. Since May of last year, we are told, there have been at least 78 attacks on pregnancy care centers across the country, along with 100 or more attacks on Catholic churches. In other words, efforts by ordinary citizens to assist pregnant women in bringing their babies to birth have faced violence and intimidation on a scale which, not since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, have we seen in this country. 

And only one Catholic among 209 Democrats in congress could be found willing to denounce it? What are these people afraid of? Is it babies in the womb that are threatening members of Congress? And so efforts to assist their mothers in bringing them to birth must be stopped? Here’s a thought. What if the resolution had been worded in such a way as to condemn acts of violence directed against members of Congress? How would they vote then? Can anyone doubt but that the right to life would most assuredly be applied to them? It is only those sinister fetuses, you see, along with their mothers, that they are so frightened of. 

Do you see how it works now? In order to eliminate every possible incentive for mothers to carry their babies to term, the government will simply have to allow acts of violence not only to go unpunished, but unreproached as well. 

Is this what we have come to? Is this the new litmus test for loyal Democrats, for pro-choice politicians — that under no circumstances will they allow anyone to offer help to women with problem pregnancies? And nearly every Catholic member of the party agrees with this?

So, there’s some news for you that is certain to depress. And not just because so many Catholic lawmakers have betrayed their calling, but because they appear to be getting away with it. And why shouldn’t they continue doing it? Who’s going to stop them? Not the voters apparently, who keep returning them to office. Will the bishops sanction them for abandoning the unborn, whom God sees as the least of our brothers and sisters? It is not going to happen — not with the state of the hierarchy in this country.

Besides, what available sanctions are there to persuade the impenitent? Withholding Holy Communion? Why should that matter? If they don’t believe in the Real Presence anyway, it won’t make any difference to be denied the sacrament. Any more than passing laws against blasphemy would make a difference to someone who has no faith. The blasphemer will go out of business, Chesterton reminds us, the moment real belief begins to fade. If you doubt this, he adds, just sit down and try seriously to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. In other words, telling someone he cannot receive the Holy Eucharist until he repents of his sins against life works only if he already recognizes life in the womb and, more to the point, the divine source of that life. Whom he encounters in that most sacredly terrifying mystery of all, that takes place every day on the Altar at Holy Mass. Why should he genuflect before the one when he has no reverence for the other? 

Which brings us, of course, to the other piece of news, which is even more depressing. And that would be the findings of the latest Pew Research Center report, confirming what many of us have long suspected about Catholic life and piety in this country. And that is the doleful fact that as much as 70% of us haven’t a clue about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Either we’re wholly unfamiliar with the teaching, or, knowing what it is, we flat out deny the truth of it. It simply has no relevance in so many of our lives.

Are the two pieces of news connected in any way? Of course they are. Which is why, at the end of the day, the real crisis we face in this country is not about abortion — it’s about adoration. It is not about the womb, where babies live, but about the worship, where God lives. It is a crisis of faith, not of morals. Restore the one and you will soon remedy the other. It is that simple.