Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catholics for a Free Choice: Dossier

Catholics for a Free Choice, a pro-abortion group, is part of a tightly networked group of organisations promoting abortion around the world; they recently took part in an international pro-abortion conference in London. The role of CFFC in this group is to undermine the opposition of the Catholic Church to abortion, by suggesting that the Church is not united on the issue, may be about to change her teaching, and so on.

The pro-contraception campaign by leading liberal theologians in the late 1960s and 1970s shows that when internal dissent reaches a certain pitch (and determined leadership from the Pope is lacking), bishops can lose the will to keep pushing an issue. If every time they open their mouths on an issue, they are attacked by 'Catholics' holding prestigious positions in 'Catholic' universities, household name 'Catholic' politicians etc., understandably they become reluctant to do so, and the Church's teaching disappears from public debates. This is what the CFFC would like to achieve with abortion; happily, however, their strategy has been an almost complete failure, thanks to the fact that the extreme pro-abortion position they advocate is far beyond what even the most 'liberal' Catholic theologian or politician could subscribe to, with a very few exceptions. Liberal Catholic politicians, for example, continue to claim 'personal' opposition to abortion ('every abortion is a tragedy, but I don't think the state should make it illegal': this seem to be the position of Ruth Kelly); they know that to support abortion on demand, and to say that abortion is actually a 'good thing', simply puts them outside the Church in public perception (as well as reality). Everyone knows the Church is 'against abortion', even if they know nothing else about her. CFFC has the unusual distinction of being formally condemned by the US Bishops' Conference (May 2000); the Catholic Bishops of Brazil have just followed suit (March 2008).

Another spectacular failure was the CFFC's 'see change' campaign, intended to oust the Vatican from the United Nations. This failed to gain any traction in the international community.

CFFC remains dangerous, however. The media can always go to them for a 'Catholic' voice to counter the pronouncements of Church spokesmen, which lessens the perceived force of the Church's teaching. The CFFC constantly claims that 'ordinary' Catholics are not opposed to abortion, and that the Church's teaching is imposed from above by a clericalist, male, hierarchy out of touch with the real world. And their enormous resources, from the liberal charitable trusts in the United States which support all the pro-abortion groups, give them the ability to make a media impact, and sponsor court cases, out of proportion with their level of support. These resources also seem to attract the usually rather amateurish Catholic dissident groups; many Catholic feminist websites link to CFFC, as does 'We Are Church'. In this way CFFC helps to create a network of mutually supporting dissident groups (most of whom are single-issue crackpots, however).

They are planning a UK campaign. They are determined to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and to prevent the Scottish Parliament gaining control over abortion in Scotland. They want to neutralise pro-life voices like that of Cardinal O'Brien of Edinburgh, and distract attention from successful Catholic pro-life initiatives like the the late Cardinal Winning's, run by the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.

The arguments they use. (See also our comments on a recent press release.)
1) Abortion is supported by the laity, but opposed by an oppressive male hierarchy.
Answer: the pro-life movement is lay-led and has often felt frustrated by the lack of support from the hierarchy. Often bishops prefer a quiet life. Practicing Catholics are overwhelmingly against abortion.

2) The Church is about to change her stance on abortion; after all it is inconsistent to allow women to have treatment for cancer which endangers the life of a foetus, and not allow abortion.
Answer: pro-abortion dissent within the Church is extremely rare, as noted: it is a lunatic fringe. The Church's position on life-saving treatment of pregnant women which endangers the life of the foetus is long-standing (it was expressed with great clarity in the 19th Century), consistent (this is not action with the intention to kill the foetus) and is not about to change. The unchanging teaching on abortion was restated infallibly by Pope John-Paul II in Evangelium Vitae 62 (1995):

Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

3) The Church is obsessed with abortion and sex-related issues. She is failing to get her 'positive' teaching across.
Answer: CFFC is far more obsessed with abortion than the Church. The link they make with sexual morality is interesting. Abortion is necessary, in their view, to guarantee women's immunity from the consequences of an immoral lifestyle; in the Church's view, abortion is simply the killing of the innocent. The killing of millions of unborn babies every year is a major issue of justice, and warrants the attention the Church accords it.

4) Abortion is necessary as a form of public health provision; it should be provided in Northern Ireland as everywhere.
Answer: it is not part of health care to kill infants in the womb. The proposition makes no sense.

5) Without 'safe, legal' abortion, there is simply backstreet abortion.
Answer: either backstreet abortion is extremely safe, or legalisation vastly increases the number of abortions. Pro-abortionists can't have it both ways; the statistics for abortion-related deaths and complications before and after legalisation don't support it.

6) Abortion is necessary for women's rights, equality, justice.
Answer: abortion hurts women.

CFFC's weaknesses.
All pro-abortionists hate initiatives to give women genuine choice: telling them the facts, offering them counselling, telling them about alternatives to abortion, and giving them material support to keep their babies, like Cardinal Winning's initiative. This exposes the hypocrisy at the centre of the 'pro-choice' argument. They don't want choice: they want abortion. They want abortion because of their commitments to eugenics (against the disabled and against the poor), to population control, and to a militant feminist rejection of family life.

CFFC in particular has to maintain the impossible fiction that its leaders and supporters are 'Catholic' (few, if any, go to Mass; they have no grass-roots membership to speak of), while simultaneously claiming that the Catholic Church is a force for evil in the world, ought to be ejected from the UN, from her role in education and health care, etc. etc.. This really doesn't make sense. What parts of Catholicism do these people support?

In reality, CFFC is simply a tool of the international pro-abortion movement. It gets neither money nor membership from Catholics. Their success in spreading confusion and embarrassment about the Church's position depends on Catholics and especially the media taking them at face value.
To counter them, they must above all be exposed. More information can be found in this book.


CatholicLawyer said...

Thank you for this excellent post. Your observations about CFFC are spot on. The likes of Jon O'Brien are wolves in sheep's clothing; O'Brien is an intellectual featherweight (and that's being charitable); CFFC' s positions are theologically weak and morally unsound. Have they heard of the discipline of moral philosophy? I doubt it. They are interested in promoting laws which are based not on an objective, unchanging standard of morality, but in laws which are based purely on power: abortion "rights" which give humans the absolute dominium over the life of an innocent unborn. CFFC is increasingly trying to advise Marie Stopes and Bpas on strategies for promoting abortion rights in the UK. But as long as we keep praying the rosary peacefully out with dignity outside their abortion chambers they will have no victory over us. It has been said by Marie Stopes' employees in Bristol that when Catholics stand outside praying the rosary, people are loathe to go inside. They lose money. We save lives. Let's keep praying.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! And let us all do as you say. The Rosary is the best weapon!

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen