Over at The American Catholic there is an entry by my friend The Motley Monk which needs your close reading.
An auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, Most Rev. Robert McElroy, has argued – to the delight and support of Fishwrap and the Cuomo/Kmiec/Pelosi/Biden/all Kennedys – catholics that poverty and abortion should be on an equal footing as social issues which require our action.
Catholics must be interested in the poor and must defend the unborn.
But these two moral imperatives are not on equal footing. Not all moral issues are on the same footing as abortion.
Mark my words: The liberal response to this fellow’s post will be a string of ad hominem attacks about you “hating the poor” or being “cold” or lacking “compassion” or being “against mercy”. Watch. It’ll happen. That sort of explanation, while predictable, is nonetheless without any basis in reality.
We know that the killing of the unborn is wrong. We are not to do it. That is, we avoid doing it because it is evil. It is a negative command, – THOU SHALT NOT – which makes it narrow and easy for us to see clearly.
On the other hand, to alleviate the plight of the poor, we take positive actions. That leads to choices about how best actively to help the poor. Helping the poor in the best way for the poor brings us to make choices between strategies, moral contingent choices, about which we can disagree. We have a panoply of options. You and I can, for example, disagree that burning basket loads of money in inefficient government programs is the best way to help the poor. We can strive to help the poor through other means. Choose some, but choose some!
Furthermore, you don’t even get to be poor if you haven’t yet been born. So, NO, defending the unborn and helping the poor are not on equal footing.
The Motley Monk, however, in his piece does a little more when looking at Bp. McElroy’s latest argument.
He goes back and looks at what now-Bp. McElroy wrote in the past about pro-abortion politicians and Communion, and how we mustn’t be too hard on them lest we appear to have a political agenda (i.e. appear to be Republicans), while, on the other hand, now we ought to be hard on politicians if they don’t do something about the poor (through government programs)…. Get me drift?
So, here is the first part of the piece. You can read the rest over there. My emphases and comments. Some of the original formatting has been lost, but you’ll figure it out.
Published Thursday, October 24, 2013 A.D. | By The Motley Monk
Way back in 2005,  then-Msgr. Robert W. McElroy wrote an article published in America[where else?] in which he argued that Catholic public officials who endorse the legalization of abortion should not be denied communion. The then-Monsignor’s fear? He wrote:
The imposition of eucharistic sanctions solely on candidates who support abortion legislation will inevitably transform the church in the United States, in the minds of many, into a partisan, Republican-oriented institution and thus sacrifice the role that the church has played almost alone in American society in advocating a moral agenda that transcends the political divide. [So, let's give pro-abortion catholics a pass, let them continue to commit scandal on a national level, lest we look like Republicans. Got it.]
Msgr. McElroy must have had then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in mind when writing that gem.
Well, that was then and the-now Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, the Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, is once again writing in America. This time, he’s arguing that the Church in the United States “must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as the pre-eminent moral issues the U.S. Catholic community pursues at this moment in the nation’s history.” [Because, as you know, people dashing to embrace this message are going to give 50% of their effort to defending the unborn, along with building up the poor. And there's no danger at all of appearing partisan with this sort of rhetoric. Nosireee.]
With Pope Francis serving as his inspiration, Bishop McElroy writes:
If the Catholic Church is truly to be a “church for the poor” in the United States, it must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as the pre-eminent moral issues the Catholic community pursues at this moment in our nation’s history. Both abortion and poverty countenance [?] the deaths of millions of children in a world where government action could end the slaughter. [Government action. I am sure the Obama Administration, and Nancy Pelosi, also from SF, would find common ground with that.] Both abortion and poverty, each in its own way and to its own degree, constitute an assault on the very core of the dignity of the human person, instrumentalizing life as part of a throwaway culture. The cry of the unborn and the cry of the poor must be at the core of Catholic political conversation in the coming years because these realities dwarf other threats to human life and dignity that confront us today. [I think the one dwarfs the other.]
Arguing that “both abortion and poverty countenance the deaths of millions of children in a world where government action could end the slaughter,” Bishop McElroy asks his readers why, if the sanctity of the unborn human life is a doctrinal issue of the Church and, therefore, requires faithful Catholics to defend it in the public square, Catholics do not feel equally compelled to demand that their government fund social justice programs in the United States and abroad?
[The writer now does out homework for us...] To answer that question, a brief review of the reasons McElroy provided in 2005 regarding why political leaders who support abortion legislation should not be denied Holy Communion is necessary [not be denied... clear?]:
- it would be perceived as coercive;
- it would identify abortion as a specifically Catholic issue and play into the hands of those who accuse the pro-life movement of imposing religious tenets upon Americans;
- it would make it appear that abortion defines the church’s social agenda; and,
- it would “cast the church as a partisan actor in the American political system.” [Read: make us look like Republicans. It sure wouldn't make us look like Dems.]
That was then, but now when the issue is “poverty,” McElroy writes in his current piece:
Choices by citizens or public officials that systematically, and therefore unjustly, decrease governmental financial support for the poor clearly reject core Catholic teachings on poverty and economic justice. Policy decisions that reduce development assistance to the poorest countries reject core Catholic teachings. Tax policies that increase rather than decrease inequalities reject core Catholic teachings.
Bishop McElroy’s conclusion? The ”categorical nature of Catholic teaching on economic justice is clear and binding.”
Economic justice trumps justice for the unborn?
In The Motley Monk’s estimation, Bishop McElory is dead wrong for two reasons:
First: In the 2004 memorandum to the U.S. bishops titled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles“ then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: [BTW... just because Francis is Pope now, that doesn't make everything that Card. Ratzinger/Benedict XVI did wrong.]
3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. [...]
You can read the rest of the arguments over there. I hope you will. Here below are links provided at the end of the entry.
To read Bishop McElroy’s recent article in America, click on the following link:
To read then-Msgr. McElroy’s article about not denying Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, click on the following link:
To read then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memorandum, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
Finally…. here is the danger that this line of argumentation runs into.
Aside from the fact that it will pit bishops against each other, publicly, one of the reasons why it is important to pay attention to this is that this sort of argumentation weakens the Church’s Magisterium.
If we are told that we are obliged morally to support specific government programs, and yet we know that these same programs are wasteful and ineffective, we will eventually conclude for ourselves that the Magisterium is just plain dumb and that we don’t have to listen to what the Church teaches.