Politicians Grammar

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  7/3/2000
 

A few years ago, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles wrote a stirring column in his Archdiocesan paper The Tidings entitled, "Complete the sentence, please…" Reflecting the experience of so many of us across the country, he said, "So often I hear candidates for political office proclaim their great support for "a woman’s right to choose…." But choose what? As the many political races begin to heat up across the country, I am growing increasingly confused and frustrated by those candidates who seem unable to finish a simple English sentence."

In some talks, I have asked the audience to engage in a simple exercise. "On the count of three," I told them, "I want you to choose. Ready? One…two…three…choose!…" You, dear reader, may do the same right now as well.

Now on the one hand, this phenomenon constitutes an implicit admission that abortion is indefensible. It is the same phenomenon one sees when "clinic escorts," leading women inside to get abortions, wear vests that say "Pro-choice escort" rather than "abortion escort."

On the other hand, the incomplete sentences of the "pro-choice" crowd are more than an unwillingness to state something. On a deeper level, they express a much more frightening statement, which summarizes the deepest spiritual perversion symbolized by the phrase "pro-choice." It is the assertion that what I choose does not matter, because the rightness of my choice does not depend on what is chosen, but only on the fact that I choose. In other words, it is the concept of a self-validating choice. My choices don't have to conform to any moral norm other than me.

The Scriptural reference is Genesis 3:5, "You will be like gods, knowing good and evil" ("Knowing" here means the power to decide the difference between good and evil. See Pope John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, n.35)

The Supreme Court reference is Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992): "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" [505 U.S. 833, 851].

The Magisterium reference is what our Holy Father writes in The Gospel of Life, "…freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth" (EV 19).

This indeed is the problem, and you'll see more evidence of it when you notice how politicians who defend legalized abortion combine their incomplete sentences about "choice" with incoherent sentences about "belief." "Let everyone believe what he or she wants about when life begins," they essentially say, "It's not up to the government to decide those things." The problem, of course, is what to do with the person who comes along and doesn't believe that the newborn is human, or that you are human.

No "freedom" or "belief" should be used to justify killing the innocent. And no politician should be allowed to continue to confuse the issue.