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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Big, Mean, Nasty Dead Baby Pictures: What Good Can that Stuff Do?

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"Abortion fails to respect humanity and dignity", Cardinal Sean's Understatement of the Century "Abortion fails to respect humanity and dignity", Cardinal Sean's Understatement of the Century

You know, there are times when I wish the real world were less like satire. I wrote the following fictional news piece as a joke with a friend, a fellow journalist, on Facebook as we were anticipating (still waiting, by the way) the official response from the USCCB on the ongoing revelations of the Planned Parenthood videos.

The appalling ghastliness of the videos revealing the world’s largest abortionist organisation’s baby-parts business, I felt, made the usual bland, boilerplate, bishopspeak rhetoric seem even more absurd and outrageous than usual. We were having a good (though somewhat grim) laugh, lowering, en-blanding and enfeebling the tone with each revision. Sorry if it seems an odd way of relaxing. Gallows humour is a well-documented phenomenon among journalists:


(Washington, D.C.) Bishops in the United States have taken to heart Pope Francis’ merciful and holistic approach to life issues, emphasizing the importance of raising the minimum for workers, while refusing to “obsess” over abortion. Despite attempts by anti-abortion advocates to distract from social issues by releasing heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing life-saving tissue donations, at a press conference, the bishops kept the focus on low-income workers, pointing to a letter they have issued to Congress demanding action.

Responding to persistent questioning about the Planned Parenthood videos, a spokesman for the US Bishops’ conference expressed concern about the content of the videos and the method of obtaining them, saying they are concerned that there are some elements in the pro-life movement care more “about a ‘gotcha’ moment, winning a rhetorical war against a major ideological opponent.”

"We are worried that the release of these videos could give the impression that people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ really don't care about women, particularly those who have themselves suffered the tragedy of abortion. How many women, even if they don’t see the videos, will be triggered, re-traumatized by hearing people talk about abortion?” the bishops’ spokesman told media today.

He emphasized that the US Bishops offer a number of programs for counseling for women who might be traumatized by talk of the videos. “If we are truly ‘pro-life’ we must not focus solely on fetuses, but turn our attention to the whole interconnected complex of life issues, including maternal care, jobs for young people, just wages, and care for creation and our common home.”

In the middle of all this fun and frivolity, someone sent me the full text of the comment from Sean Cardinal O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and a member of Pope Francis’ privy council of nine cardinals. Suddenly, our just-for-fun parody wasn’t as funny:

Pope Francis has called abortion the product of a widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many. The recent news stories concerning Planned Parenthood direct our attention to two larger issues involving many institutions in our society. The first is abortion itself: a direct attack on human life in its most vulnerable condition. The second is the now standard practice of obtaining fetal organs and tissues though abortion. Both actions fail to respect the humanity and dignity of human life. This fact should be the center of attention in the present public controversy.

If the Planned Parenthood news coverage has caused anyone to experience revived trauma from their own involvement in abortion, be assured that any and all persons will be welcomed with compassion and assistance though the Church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel. If you or someone you know would like confidential, nonjudgmental help, please visit [Project Rachel website].

“Both actions fail to respect the humanity and dignity of human life…” For some reason, the image popped into my mind of a sound engineer in a recording studio, saying to the good cardinal in his humble Franciscan habit, “That was great, your eminence. Can we do it once more, and this time get it a little more monotone? I think we could go a little more bland…”

I was involved in the pro-life movement for about 15 years in various professional capacities, mainly writing and research, and in that time I learned a lot of things that I rather wish I didn’t know, particularly about the internecine problems within the movement, and most particularly about the terror most pro-life people have of confronting the world forthrightly with the outrageous horror that abortion really is.

Broadly, the pro-life movement can be divided into two distinct categories: those with deep empathy for emotional pain and who are gravely concerned about the suffering of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies, who gently and delicately suggest that abortion might not be the very best choice for women, and want to encourage them to seek more life-affirming alternatives; and those who want to see the law reflect the reality that abortion is an unholy crime of the willful and grisly murder of a totally innocent person, and who hold that one of the best ways to return the world to a semblance of moral sanity is to demonstrate the hideous realities of it in forthright and undeniable terms. Guess which one I was.

And I’m going to venture that we can pretty easily guess which one Cardinal O’Malley is, along with nearly all the other members of his episcopal species. To men of this stripe, particularly clerics who have little contact with women other than professional lobbyists, it seems unthinkable that it might need to be said that women who abort are themselves morally complicit in this crime. The idea of the screeching and howling that would ensue should they make even a suggestion of this is probably the stuff of their worst nightmares.

No man likes to face a hysterical woman having a fit of self-righteous rage, and this rule goes double for clergy with a big stake in being liked by the feminine ruling class of the contemporary American Church. I can only imagine that a warm and compassionate guy like “Cardinal Sean” now and then looks longingly across the pond to Europe where, though abortion rates remain staggering, the bishops are never forced to deal with this non-issue.

It is this problem – the liking of being liked – that has created much of the opposition among the “warm and compassionate” end of the movement, to one of the most successful, in real terms, of all pro-life strategies, namely the Genocide Awareness Project. That’s the one where a team of people – well-trained pro-life apologists – will bring to a university campus a collection of huge posters showing photos of infants – dismembered, decapitated, eviscerated, burned and disemboweled by abortion – and engage passers-by in often very lively conversations.


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The Warm and Compassionate pro-lifers, the nice pro-lifers, regularly denounce such efforts as “lacking compassion”. The verifiable fact that the GAP has a tendency to turn people’s minds around, alerts women to the reality of the horrors they may be contemplating and increases phone and foot traffic to pro-life emergency pregnancy centres, usually by hundreds of percentage points, is immaterial to such people. Effectiveness be damned! Someone might be offended! Someone might be made to feel bad about having aborted a child!

Frankly, I was disgusted with the good cardinal’s message, particularly the craven second paragraph. It demonstrates everything I’ve always said about the strain of thinking in the pro-life movement that strives more to give cover to the guilty than to actually save anyone’s lives or souls. The fact that he has used the release of these videos as a pretext to get a stab in against the people who work every day to stop abortions from happening by demonstrating their reality, is one of the more vile examples of episcopal cowardice and self-serving I’ve yet seen.

Dear Cardinal Sean, please allow me to clarify something that you might have missed: the reason women suffer emotionally after abortion is that they become aware of having committed an unthinkable, unspeakable crime, wanton murder – and in a most horrifying fashion – of their own child. The “suffering” one experiences after being confronted with that reality is indeed acute. But your not-very-veiled suggestion that those who release the videos are guilty of some offence against such women is to suggest that the reality should never be spoken or shown, and that the world, and the guilty women, are better off never being confronted with that reality.

Allow me to let everyone in on a little feminine secret: women use tears and emotional excess to deflect attention from their own culpability. They cry when confronted with wrongdoing. There is a branch of the pro-life movement that has latched on to this habit and turned it into a small industry. I’ve investigated activities like Project Rachel, and found them to be long on the lachrymose tissue-clutching and amateur pop-psychology, and rather short on forthright confrontation with the realities. [Yes, yes, cue the screeching feminine indignation… Go ahead dears, let it out…You won’t mind if I check my email while you tell me how much rot I’m talking…]

The goal of these organisations seems largely to be to make the woman feel better. Which is a bit of a pity, since it is only by becoming aware of the nature of any sinful act that a person can come to repentance and seek reconciliation through the Sacrament of Confession – in a sense, to be transformed from a perpetrator at odds with God into a penitent held in His healing embrace. This is spiritual direction 101, but of a kind that has been mainly abandoned in the Church. As long as we keep patting her on her wee head and telling her she is a victim too, no genuine healing is possible.

Whatever these organisations do or do not do for women, however, one thing they certainly do accomplish is to provide cover for politicians and clergy. They have neatly built a little back door escape route for “nice” pro-life men like Sean O’Malley to be both pro-life and “pro-woman” according to the world’s (feminism’s) standards. “No, no no! We’re not in the business of condemning… you poor darlings…We’re the nice pro-lifers.”

Women in our time have been trained by the feminist movement to use victimhood as a means of deflecting culpability, and bishops and politicians (…but I repeat myself...) have clamped onto this notion that women who abort are victims so they can have a comfortable way to avoid forthrightly condemning their actions.

But, simply put, it is moral cowardice of a particularly loathsome kind, one that clearly has the speaker’s own interests at heart, and not the real needs of women. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better example of the way this “post-abortive woman” dodge – what I have called the “wailing women” routine – has regularly been used throughout the movement to avoid actually talking about what we’re talking about. The fear of offending or “re-traumatizing” post-abortive women (based on no psychiatric evidence whatever) has effectively paralysed the movement.

I’ll go further and say that it is, indeed, “neoCatholicism” in a nutshell: terrified of the truth and doing everything possible to hide the uncomfortable realities of sin and the necessity of repentance.

It is indeed a pity, since the effectiveness of the use of the horrible graphic images has perhaps never been more unambiguously demonstrated. Edward Morrisey wrote in The Week, all about “How the Planned Parenthood videos expose abortion for what it truly is”. And he is being joined by a chorus of people who have said that the shocking reality of the images have made it impossible for these people to continue to hide behind their polite, carefully constructed bird-blind of euphemisms.

Morrisey writes, “The true danger to Planned Parenthood [from the videos] and the entire industry is the exposure of their hypocrisy. The two positions of ‘clumps of cells’ and negotiating over human organs from abortions are mutually exclusive. One cannot extract human organs from ‘a pile of goop,’ or from tumors or undifferentiated ‘clumps of cells.’”

“The videos cut through all of the misdirection, all of the antiseptic generalities used in defense of abortion, to expose its true nature — and that's what has Planned Parenthood panicked over the videos… Expose the lie, and let's finally have the conversation about the value of human life in all its stages that we have spent the last 42 years avoiding.”

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Christian Schneider wrote, “The entire abortion industry coasts on a game of linguistics. In an article that forever euthanized satire, the New Republic called aborted babies ‘products of conception’ and said referring to ‘baby parts’ was an attempt to ‘anthropomorphize’ the human fetus.”

“If doctors are willing to call the organs harvested from unborn children ‘brains’ and ‘lungs’ and ‘kidneys,’ they can’t then deny that they are getting them from a ‘baby.’ Harvesting human organs but then denying they come from a human is weapons-grade cognitive dissonance.”

The revelations have so shaken the Planned Parenthood Goliath that they are running for the cover of a crisis management PR firm. The movement in the US Congress to remove their half-billion a year of public funding – which would effectively shut them down – has never had so much momentum. Four short, horrifying videos, and it might just bring down the world’s largest purveyor of the Culture of Death, a global titan of the Sexual Revolution.

The princes of the Church can act as though this is a bad thing because someone out there might be shocked into the realization of what she has done. In fact, I hope they continue issuing statements that reveal their real orientation; not that of Christ with the penitent Magdalene, but that of a modern politician desperate to protect his own popularity – Herod, in short, frantic to silence an aggravating voice of truth.

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Last modified on Sunday, August 2, 2015
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.