Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

Call it what it is

I am deeply saddened by President Obama’s duplicitous remarks at a Planned Parenthood function earlier today.  That I am disappointed that the President would so clearly align himself with one side of a polarizing issue is another matter entirely.  Here, I’d simply like to express my disappointment at his choice of words.  Today it seemed that the President chose his words carefully to disguise the nature of the truth.

President Obama said today:

“As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way.  Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.”

That is a great sound bite.  If I didn’t know any better and I had heard that clip on the radio, I’d be filled with pride.  But what do his words really mean?

By “access to quality, affordable health care,” I imagine the President is referring to the Affordable Care Act.  In the context of his speech to Planned Parenthood, he is most likely referring specifically to the HHS mandate, which requires all employers to provide contraceptive coverage to employees. Women’s access to contraception is so important that it has been written into the Affordable Health Care Act, with shallow exemptions in place for those who find contraception morally unacceptable.  As a woman, I am offended by the assertion that offering me “access to quality, affordable health care” means providing me with contraception.  Furthermore, why is men’s reproductive health care not included in the Affordable Care Act?  Why will my employer pay for sterilization for women, but not for men? And why will the Affordable Care Act not cover other methods of family planning, such as Natural Family Planning?

By “we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health,” the President is  most likely referring to a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.  The President really means that I should be able to choose to end the life of my child if I so desire. I should be able to make this decision up until a late stage in my pregnancy. I have the right, as a woman, as a mother, to feel my child’s heart beating inside of me and decide that I can end my child’s life.  I should have access to an abortion clinic, and if my doctor “botches” my abortion and my child is born alive, my doctor should be allowed to kill my child on the table.  To quote a Planned Parenthood official, it has become a “patient-doctor” issue, and to be clear: I am the patient, not my newborn child.

Yet, President Obama did not once use the word “abortion” in his remarks today.  He continuously used the phrase, “right to choose.”  Why, in addressing the nation’s largest abortion provider, did President Obama not use the word “abortion?”

I am not passing judgment on women or men who agree with these policies or those who find value in them.  I am insisting that we use the appropriate language and truly call these policies what they are.  When we rewrite the language, when we say things like “a woman has a right to choose,” we need to finish the sentence. What does the woman have the right to choose? If we can say, out loud, in public, on television, to Planned Parenthood officials, “A woman has the right to kill the child growing inside of her” then I think we would be making an enormous leap toward truth.

Yet we do not use these words, because these words are harsh, difficult, painful.  Perhaps we are afraid to speak the truth. The truth is not pretty; no one wants to hear about the abortion as a life/death issue when we can easily reframe it to be a rights/choice issue.  Between the lack of mainstream media coverage (or sporadic coverage at best) of the Kermit Gosnell trial and President Obama’s remarks today, the need for truthful language is clear.

The President and I can agree on one thing today— I too would invoke God’s blessing upon Planned Parenthood. I pray for them, and for all of us as a society,  that we may start to call things what they truly are. There is power in truth.

Re-Post: Faithful Thomas

Today’s Gospel (John 20:19-31): Jesus and “Doubting” Thomas

I’ve always thought it is wildly unfair that Thomas gets such a bad rap. I mean, the guy had a good point—he needed some evidence. What is wrong with asking for a sign? If I walked into a room and 11 of my friends told me that they had just seen Jesus, I’d think they were all crazy, and you can be certain I would want some sort of sign! But nonetheless, poor Thomas ends up being the poster child for doubt.

Tonight at Mass, the celebrant pointed out something I had never realized: just a few chapters before the doubt incident (Ch 11), Thomas had been the most faith-filled of all the disciples. As Jesus was preparing to head back to Judea, the disciples warned him not to go.  They reminded him that last time he was in town, people tried to stone him.  Thomas, however, was filled with faith in Jesus’ mission.  Thomas said to the other disciples “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That doesn’t sound very “doubtful” to me. In fact, that is one of the boldest statements of faith in the entire Gospel of John.

Why, then, is Thomas remembered as the one who doubted Jesus, and not as the faithful believer?

I think that we need a figure like Thomas. We need to be reminded that even someone who lived and walked with Jesus every day, and who saw him perform miracles all the time, can doubt.  We need to know that even though we have followed Christ in the past, and made radical statements of faith, that we are human. We doubt. And we need signs, and we need serious help. We need to know that we’re doing the right thing, loving the right way.

And you know what? Thomas asked for a sign, and Jesus gave him one. Jesus appeared a week later, and he wasn’t even angry with Thomas for doubting. He knew the poor guy just wanted some proof. So he showed up, showed off his wounds, and said “Do not doubt but believe.”

We are human, after all. And we are deeply loved. And sometimes, even though we’ve seen some great things happen, we just don’t get it. Something is still missing. So we ask for a sign. And then we wait, and pray for the grace to recognize it when it shows up.

the dangers of moral relativism

On April 18, 2005, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, delivered the homily at the Mass for the Election of the Supreme Pontiff.  In his concise yet poignant homily, he warned against what he calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”  The following is an excerpt from his homily:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An ‘adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.”

Each morning as I peruse my usual news outlets, I cannot help but think that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was right. As a society, as a world, even, we are indeed “building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”  There is a loud clamor of voices urging relativism; to speak out against these voices garners one intense criticism–one is labeled a fundamentalist, bigot, or is dismissed as “not with the times.”

Yet where does moral relativism lead us?  The dictatorship of relativism leads us to a Catholic university under threat of suit because of a student-run group distributing condoms on campus.  Relativism leads us to a Planned Parenthood official arguing that if a child survives an abortion, the decision on whether or not to kill the child is a “patient-doctor issue,” not a legal one. Moral relativism leads  a federal judge to allow the morning after pill to be sold over the counter to women of all ages.  Is the right to life an objective truth? Is life itself relative?

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Abolition of Man, talks about the necessity of objective truth in the face of relativism.  He argues that if we fail to pass along specific standards of right and wrong, rooted in objective truth, then we necessarily must accept responsibility for the moral bankruptcy that we ourselves have created.  At the end of Chapter 1, entitled, “Men without Chests,”  C.S. Lewis explains,

“And all the time—such is the tragicomedy of our situation—we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” 

Today, we lament the loss of life, yet we pass legislation that makes life “a patient-doctor” issue, or worse, an over-the counter issue.  We try to teach our young people about the sanctity of life, but insist that they be allowed access to condoms and over-the-counter abortifacients for “protection.”  How can we expect people to honor the dignity and sanctity of life–of every person, regardless of age– when we are willing to discard it when it is too inconvenient?

To borrow from C.S. Lewis, “such is the tragicomedy of our situation.”

Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

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