“Not because I hate bishops, because I love them.”

I have made the argument that John Paul II slowly shifted the character of the episcopate in the USA.   Eventually, the balance shifted.  The balance is shifting in presbyterates.  The balance is shifting in seminaries.

When the numbers grow high enough, something happens.

This brings us to Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, who usually has good arguments about things.

From Youth Defense:

Kreeft: It would be wonderful if 100 bishops got thrown in jail for marching with graphic images
Sep. 16, 2011

The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform released a new video, [below] in which famed Catholic philosopher and author Peter Kreeft says it would be “wonderful” if one hundred bishops were arrested for marching with graphic images of aborted babies. Recently, some Canadian bishops decided to withdraw from pro-life events after the organizers couldn’t guarantee that there would be no graphic images of abortion.

“What is wrong with exposing people to the truth?” Kreeft proposed. “Suppose you were allowed to show the horrors in Auschwitz to the average German citizen. It might have toppled Hitler earlier. If something horrible is happening, covering it up is more horrible.”

Kreeft said that the images are “probably going to be illegal. You’ll probably be thrown in jail.

He then recounted a story about a pro-life activist who picketed with a graphic image as President Bill Clinton entered the 1992 Democratic Convention in New York, and was arrested despite being well outside the 10-foot limit.

“None of the TV cameras filmed that incident. Well, if a hundred people did that, the TV cameras would have to film it,” he said. “If a hundred bishops marched with those pictures and got thrown in jail, the newspapers would have to headline ‘100 bishops thrown in jail’.”

“That would be wonderful,” he continued. “Not because I hate bishops, because I love them.


A pretty edgy suggestion.

I am trying to imagine this being discussed at the next plenary of the USCCB, or the CEI, of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales (even though they don’t have 100 bishops).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. oldCatholigirl says:

    Peter Kreeft has a gift for speaking truths in an arresting manner. Thank you for this post.
    That said, cynic that I am, I am afraid the media could indeed ignore/gloss over even the arrest of 100 bishops. Look what happens at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

  2. Kerry says:

    Before the election of President O-green-jobs-ma, my wife and I stood at a prominent intersection with matching signs and images, “A vote for Obama is a vote for dead children”. Someone griped to me about the photo and I said “Sorry, all the nice pictures of murdered babies were taken.”

  3. I am a big fan of Peter Kreeft’s works. However, on this one I don’t quite agree with him.

    There are two problems I have with using graphic images of abortion in the open public:

    1) Young children, who are not of age, have no need to see such images, and there is no guarantee that they can be shielded fast enough. A 7 year old in the back of a car at a red light does not need to see a giant picture of a mangled, cut up baby. Children can have trouble sleeping after seeing a fake horror on film. How much more does it affect them when it is an image of a real murder.

    2) People seem to think that if a person feels there are more effective means than exposing just about anyone to graphic images, they are somehow less than pro-life. We cannot deem it to be “cowardice” when a bishop does not want graphic images used in his diocese, but perhaps a matter of feeling that there are other, more effective means to win souls without exposing small children to things they have no need to see.

    I would encourage all bishops to speak with Archbishop Vigneron in Detroit about his experience with the Helpers of God’s Preciuos Infants of Michigan. He just led a vigil with about 300 in the drenching rain last Saturday, the 10th. I don’t want to drop a link in here lest my comment end up in moderation, but go to my blog for a September 10 or 11 entry and you will find it. At the bottom will be links, with images to other vigils in Detroit (there are 4 per year).

    Further, the HGPI, trained sidewalk counselors work daily in front of the mills handing out material to those going in. I have personally witnessed many of these people take the material (it is not forced on them). They are handed a Rosary.

    HGPI has a very high success rate in turning women away, voluntarily, from their abortions. They are referred to local crisis pregnancy centers.

    Go to YouTube and paste in Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and/or Monsignor Reilly (the founder).

  4. Joseph-Mary says:

    While we do, thanks be to God, have bishops with that kind of courage—I daresay there are not 100 of them.

    If there were, then things in this country just might change and perhaps the slide down the slippery slope would slow.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    As to whether to use horrible photos or not, I would state that the reason for the display is the deciding factor. If one is in a political format of a demonstration, I do believe that these images are necessary and effective. If one is counseling, and I have worked somewhat, as a prayer warrior, for HGPIs mentioned above, the photos are not only not necessary, but contradict the counseling work, which should be one on one with trained counselors, with the women who are going in for abortions. People are trained for this.

    As to bishops being involved, getting the dear bishops of England and Wales involved in pro-life activities is very difficult. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the SOLT have been involved here with HGPIs. Notice, however, that both of those orders do not originate in England, but in the States. Few priests and bishops have involved themselves here.

    As to children seeing images, I do not mind this, as children, unless they are kept in a bubble, as bombarded with violent images daily. I believe that my own child benefited and did not have nightmares from early introduction to abortion images. He was praying the rosary at the age of eight outside the abortion clinic with me and other members of the parish and school. Why not? If your child goes to a home where someone is playing computer games, he or she will see worse. Why not seeing something for a good cause? I also took my son to funerals, and let him see news on children suffering from famine around the world. I saw images of dying and sick babies when in Catholic school and it only created empathy in me and the other students. In those days, the 1960s, parents did not complain of horrible images of death and suffering.

  6. lucy says:

    I agree with Diane, however, I think more good could be done by every priest and every bishop supporting the preaching of sin as sin. I have rarely heard a sermon or homily that even remotely gets to the point of discussing sin (outside of our traditional Mass, that is). I remember once hearing our Vicar General getting so close as to call abortion a sin, but he didn’t quite go as far as he should have. Even though there are myriad ladies sitting in the congregation who have experienced abortion, that’s no reason not to speak about it. One could follow up this fact of it being a sin with a comment on how Jesus would like those who have participated in this sinful act to come to him in confession and be forgiven. Also Rachel’s Vineyard has a beautiful retreat most everywhere in the country where this can be worked through and the woman can forgive herself. I just wish we would hear priests speaking about sin. When o when?

  7. catholicmidwest says:

    With Diane, I’m not sure whether I agree with Prof. Kreeft on this matter. However, I think that’s pretty much immaterial anyway. It will not happen in the forseeable future on this continent that 100 bishops get arrested for marching against abortion, pictures or not. Or birth control. Or the morning after pill. Or much of anything else, to be honest. It won’t happen in Europe either.

  8. Cathy says:

    If 100 bishops did this, the jails would overflow, for not only they, but an entire legion of faithful people would follow with the same. As for children seeing the images, I have often wondered why so much anger is directed at the thought of children seeing these images while so little is directed at ourselves for not abolishing the practice that, in reality, produces the image. Abortion should be a nightmare, for it is an unthinkable crime. Unfortunately, it is a reality that, in our own country, destroys our posterity at the rate of 3,ooo children each day.

  9. Alan Aversa says:

    Finally, somebody defending Fr. Pavone and CBR!

  10. cjcanniff says:

    I am a student at Boston College, and I am taking a course with Prof. Kreeft this semester. He is a great man from what I have seen so far.

  11. jarthurcrank says:

    Graphic images of aborted babies do very little to change people’s hearts. In fact, they tend to harden people’s hearts the other direction – – they tend to double-down in their support of abortion because of the offense at being more or less compelled to look at the images, such as when the images are lined up on a busy highway or street.

    For the same reason, Kreeft is also incredibly naive if he believes that shocking pictures of murdered Jews would have caused the Hitler regime to crumble faster. In the wartime psychology of the time, the Germans would have by and large have been of the opinion that the Jews got what they deserved, particularly in light of their collaboration with Germany’s enemies (Soviet Union, England, U.S.). He also strengthens the arguments of the Pius XII detractors.

  12. Kathy C says:


    My first thought would be to agree with you. However, would you have thought it more important to show pictures of Auschwitz, or to hide them in order to protect innocent German children from having nightmares?

  13. Kathy C says:

    And Peter Kreeft is magnificent. Read Jesus-Shock.

  14. bookworm says:

    I agree with Diane’s assessment, plus I’d like to add a third point: the effect such images may have on someone who has had an abortion and now regrets it, or is still grieving.

    I personally believe that post-abortive women (and men) MUST become an integral part of the pro-life movement if it is to succeed; and they will be the key to reaching those who do not yet agree, as they are able to speak from bitter experience. To flash such images in front of them without advance warning could trigger PTSD like symptoms or serve only to convince them that it they will never be welcome in the pro-life movement — just like peace activists flashing around graphic images of corpses on a battlefield in front of someone who has PTSD from being in combat probably is NOT going to make them eager to join that movement.

    I know someone personally who was involved in an abortion many years ago and even though he is very pro-life, he does not like to participate in or attend anti-abortion demonstrations such as this because they arouse too many painful memories. He could have been a very strong and devoted participant in the pro-life movement, but tactics like this have turned him off, perhaps permanently.

    Abortion has become so prevalent in our society that one should ALWAYS assume that any public presentation on the subject — including on a blog — will be read or viewed by someone who has been personally involved in an abortion. I believe there is a place for graphic images of abortion but ONLY with advance warning and people being free to decide whether or not they want to see them.

  15. Kathy C asks: Diane – My first thought would be to agree with you. However, would you have thought it more important to show pictures of Auschwitz, or to hide them in order to protect innocent German children from having nightmares?

    I have a problem with these “all or nothing” arguments. Is using giant signs in plain view of anyone, including small children, the only way to effectively use graphic images such grave injustices against humanity?

    I think it would have been quite appropriate and, and a matter of justice, to circulate photos of what went on at Auschwitz to adults and mature teens. Moreover, it’s more likely that that one would live to see another day, in that time period, to circulate more graphic images to other adults, if they were prudent enough not to stand on a street corner use giant, graphic signs.

    One might argue that children at that time period saw all kinds of gruesome things during the war. And I would ask, how many of them were traumatized by what they saw? Perhaps some were unphased, but can we say that all children react the same way to graphic images?

    I believe there is a time and place for use of graphic images. For example, I have linked to some websites which offer graphic images of abortion, but I usually tell readers that if they are going to take a “pro-choice” position, to have the guts to look at what they are choosing to support. When I have done this at my blog, I have actually seen outclicks to those sources. But, I did not force it on them, and I did not subject others to seeing the images who have no need to see them.

    And, I agree wholeheartedly with bookworm, that the third reason is that there are men and women who have suffered immensely after realizing what they did when they chose to abort their baby. After I invite pro-choice people to look at graphic images of an abortion, I always follow up by encouraging those who are grieving and in pain with their “choice” to visit the Rachel Vineyard site, and the website for those who regret their abortions.

  16. Jenice says:

    Peter Kreeft is such a clear thinker. My favorites are his Philosophy of Tolkein, and Handbook of Christian Apologetics, the 2nd edition of which is the Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

    However, the way I read the documents of Vatican II, politics is the apostolate of the laity, not the bishops. WE are to convert the world to Christ. The bishops are to form the laity for our work in the world. So, instead of 100 bishops being arrested, he should have encouraged 100 lay people or 1000. Admittedly, 100 bishops would get more attention than lay people. But you have to start somewhere. This is no to disparage the work of priests like Fr. Pavone, or the message of courageous bishops, but simply to point out that it is our job.

  17. Bender says:

    Nobody cared when tens of thousands of peaceful pro-lifers were arrested overall as part of Operation Rescue. In fact, a good-sized proportion of the pro-life community turned their backs and opposed such efforts.

    Even if it would work with 100 bishops, if they are going to engage in direct action and be arrested, then they should do it for something that is actually effective for the pro-life cause, rather than being completely counterproductive. And the graphic photographs that we have all seen are counterproductive. They do not soften the hearts of pro-abortionists, they harden them. They lead them to raise their defenses so that they are no longer willing to listen to reason at all.

  18. Nerinab says:

    Well, this is one former “pro-choicer” who was converted instantly upon seeing a graphic abortion picture.

  19. benedetta says:

    But of course we must read this carefully and not misunderstand Prof. Kreeft. He is not advocating that everyone who prays at a clinic employ graphic images, or that they are the only or best thing, he is saying that he would like to see a group of Bishops march with graphic images, and, in an act of civil disobedience and peaceful resistance, be thrown into jail for it. He is advocating the Bishops together witness to, not only the truth about abortion and prolife but witness to the Church’s role, witness to religious freedom, to freedom of speech and assembly. That is a big difference. Obviously if such an event were held it could be organized such that minors (and anyone else who did not care to see, either, evidently, the images or the Bishops) were not subjected. Look, all of the major news outlets have standards with respect to graphic images of war and casualties and these change and the news execs agree at different periods to not photograph or broadcast certain things for whatever state interest, it has happened in recent past as a matter of fact. It is hard to listen or watch any news program these days without having to be ready to shut it off for fear of something disturbing towards children and for that reason a lot of people simply no longer bother. But news announcers do routinely say, “We warn you that what you will see is graphic…” Further in courtrooms every day juries must view and take in graphic evidence to see to it that justice has a fair hearing. Adults should be aware. And adults have the responsibility to shield children from certain realities until they are spiritually mature enough to comprehend.

    No one is saying that children must consume these images. But given all that is out there for adults to consume it seems a little ridiculous to say that these are best censored. If a Bishop opts for different ways then one would hope that he is active about pursuing different ways to show how the culture of death dehumanizes all. Adoration and rosary for life do not require any use of graphic imagery. Although there are certain images which could be construed that way, on the cross, and, in the Word.

    We don’t need graphic images. What I think would be a nice way to go would be to have required in health/sex ed classes at high school level ultrasound/sonogram footage. Or to run a video of the film footage of developing life. How beautiful. Also encourages young adults to respect themselves and one another, to realize that with the awesome gift of human sexuality is an immense responsibility as cooperators with God’s glory. Scientifically accurate and informative. Does not cause nightmares. Uplifting and hopeful. And all can see in that footage exactly the way they themselves started out, builds self-knowledge, empathy, tolerance and insight. For Bishops who disdain graphic images they could advocate for these sorts of steps as worthy alternative.

  20. MikeM says:

    The problem with graphic images, and even the signs-and-yelling forms of pro-life activism is that it makes pro-lifers less approachable. This becomes a hinderance when our witness can matter most. Is a woman considering an abortion going to go hear out the volunteers from the crisis pregnancy center if she’s already afraid of them?

    I think it makes sense for bishops to try to harmonize the pro-life ministries within their diocese. If you have sidewalk counselors at one clinic trying to talk to women, while you have demonstrators at another with a more aggressive posture, they wind up making each others’ work more difficult.

    I can’t think of a good justification for the bishops avoiding a march for life, though…

  21. Kathy C says:

    Diane, I am usually in agreement that all or nothing isn’t usually a necessary approach, but we’ve had almost 40 years of millions of abortions with no end in sight.

    Consider if you would have risked giving 1000 German children nightmares in order to save 1000 Jewish children. Don’t make it a theoretical question. Think, “It’s happening now, do I care so deeply about those little German children’s fright that I’ll just let Jewish children be tortured, mutilated, and murdered so we can address the subject with proper nuance. If my small grandchild was terrified by a picture of a mutilated baby, I would hold her and tell her that she was safe, but let her know that there are horrible things in the world that must be stopped. Teach her that she’s not a victim, but she needs to take a stand with all people. A child who learned that lesson would grow up thinking “never again,” instead of “oh, get over it. It’s not your business.”

    We’ve had too much nuance, too much consideration of the tender feelings of the people who don’t want to know. I’ve had it. Are their feelings more important than the incoherent terror of a 4½ month fetus being cut apart limb by limb, burned by saline abortions, left in a garbage can or closet to die alone, or put down the garbage disposal at the “clinic?” This is happening to our children, by the hundreds, every day. To our children! How can I get across the screaming rage I feel about people who declare that it must be done delicately. We’ve been doing that!

    I know, the truth probably lies in the middle, but I’m sick to death of nuance and worrying about the feelings of people who are either too delicate to see what is being done in their name, or have been associated with abortions. I don’t hate them. Jesus forgives. There are good resources for those people, and I want them to know that freedom is as close as the confessional. Beg forgiveness and then forgive yourself. If you just want to wail that people are being mean to you then I guess you’ll remain miserable and in your sin.

  22. Nerinab says:

    Benedetta, exactly! I think it would be great to see our Bishops witness, en masse, about anything, frankly.

  23. Bender says:

    There is an aspect to this that has not yet been raised. And that is that nearly 40 years since Roe, there are some people today who think that they are inventing the wheel here.

    Sorry, the graphic picture wheel was invented about nearly 40 years ago. This is NOT a new idea. This is a tactic that has been tried. Again and again and again.

    Having people arrested — good people, honorable people, people of high-stature — that too has been tried. Operation Rescue involved tens of thousands of law-abiding people being arrested, myself included.

    Graphic pictures and being arrested are not new tactics. They are not some brilliant idea that someone only just now came up with. The pictures were abandoned because real life experience shows that they are counter-productive to one-on-one efforts to reach pregnant women seeking abortion, as well as to the pro-life cause overall. Operation Rescue was abandoned because the rest of the pro-life community abandoned them.

    As for saving Jews in Nazi Germany, there were thousands of Catholic priests who did oppose the Nazis and were consequently arrested and imprisoned. In addition to people seeing for themselves the Jew-hate spewed by the Nazis, Catholic churches preached against these things, including preaching against the killing of those “unworthy of life.”

    These efforts did touch and convert a few, but sadly, they did NOT awaken the slumbering conscience of the vast majority of Germans.

  24. p2rp says:

    I have no problem with our Bishops and pro-life demonstrators publicly using graphic images accurately and truthfully portraying the horror of abortion. Using the same logic regarding how these images may stigmatize kids, shouldn’t compassion also dictate that kids be kept out of Church to prevent their exposure to the graphic representation of our Crucified Lord hanging on Cross? Perhaps, out of compassion, the display of all Crucifixes should be removed from our Churches so as not to scandalize our kids?

  25. Kathy C says:


    Graphic images were a proposed tactic, they aren’t the goal. Because, after all, we tried that and after a number of years we decided it wasn’t working and so we’ve been making nice for a few decades. How’s that working for you? Real productive I see. We’ll wait patiently to do it properly while the children are being butchered.

    I know I don’t have any new ideas. Showing people what they are assenting to is so 1970’s, and violence was never a solution. Offering polite negotiations tells the pro-aborts that they’ve got more time to indoctrinate the (surviving) children and transform the political image of their opponents into that of ignorant, selfish, vicious rubes. So you tell me to put my anguish away; it’s unseemly and it’s useless and unsophisticated. Maybe it is, but I’ve got more passion than nuance. I want those bishops out there in the street, telling us that the conscience excuse is out of date and won’t shield us anymore. I have no respect for the subtleties of my social and intellectual superiors. I repeat, I’ve had it with effete weenies.

  26. Bender says:

    Kathy — how would it “work for you” to adopt a tactic that has been shown to be counterproductive and actually makes the situation worse? How does that reduce the number of children being butchered?

    There are reasons for not using these that has absolutely nothing to do with being effete weenies.

  27. p2rp says:


    Can you offer us any statistics or evidence for your below statements? Many of us here don’t have or can’t solely rely on your apparent considerable gift for seeing into the hearts and minds of pro-abortionists.

    “then they should do it for something that is actually effective for the pro-life cause, rather than being completely counterproductive. And the graphic photographs that we have all seen are counterproductive. They do not soften the hearts of pro-abortionists, they harden them. They lead them to raise their defenses so that they are no longer willing to listen to reason at all.”

    “a tactic that has been shown to be counterproductive and actually makes the situation worse?”

  28. Kathy C says:

    I said I discussed pictures because that was what was being discussed, not necessarily because it was the best or only solution.

    Pictures of shredded children harden their hearts, huh? Why would that be? Where is your evidence? Until I see some I’ll continue to believe that anti-graphics people want to soft-pedal to avoid the criticism that they are low-class ignorant womyn h8ters.

  29. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley
    I have read the above comments, and I have been disappointed with those who use he term “pro-choice.” Unfortunately I too often see persons on EWTN using this same language. We must not lose the language war. The proper wording is “pro-abortion.” This is the reality.

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