Is Pro-Life Politics A Waste of Time? A Response to Dr. Jeff Mirus

One of my followers on Twitter sent me a provocative article by Dr. Jeff Mirus of CatholicCulture.org entitled “The End of Pro-Life Politics” which I think is worth discussing.

His thesis, greatly condensed, is that the pro-life political movement has been largely a failure for these past 40 years and that the resources dedicated to the pro-life political movement would be better spent elsewhere, for instance, on crisis pregnancy centers and education efforts, like his own (he is careful to provide full disclosure and I completely respect that).

I want to say at the outset I largely agree with much of what Mirus says. I agree that the pro-life political movement has reason to be frustrated, that it (and all of us) urgently need to rethink what we are doing (not necessarily to re-start from scratch, but at least to honestly assess where we are at and to learn from our defeats). I agree non-political pro-life grassroots efforts are woefully underfunded, as are our pro-life educational initiatives. And I totally agree that Catholics owe a first service to building up the Church.

But Dr. Mirus is simply wrong about his main thesis. It is simply wrong to claim the political pro-life movement has accomplished “almost nothing.”

Prof. Michael J. New and others, have written article after article demonstrating the success of pro-life laws nationwide in driving down the abortion rate and encouraging women to choose life. The Hyde Amendment alone has saved millions of babies (h/t: Steven Ertelt). It was pro-life political efforts over the last couple years, for instance, that have defunded over $60 million from Planned Parenthood. That’s because we have the most pro-life Congress in history since abortion was legalized as well as the highest number of pro-life politicians in state houses and senates across the country. All of that isn’t nothing, it’s saving babies.

Yes, we have an abortion epidemic, but even that would pale in comparison to what unfettered, tax-subsidized abortion-on-demand would look like. People who are unsatisfied with the pro-life political movement’s win-loss record this year must recognize that as awful as losing is we simply have no choice but to fight, considering what is at stake. And Mirus forgets that pro-life activism, when properly done, is also pro-life evangelization and witness. Politics gives people a platform to have a discussion with their fellow citizens that ordinarily is much more difficult to prompt.

And as someone who works with pro-life political outfits, I can say frankly that there isn’t much of pro-life political movement. Here’s what I mean: compared to the pro-abortion political apparatus, our pro-life structure and reach is totally outmatched. Planned Parenthood alone spent $15.5 million on the 2012 election and I bet that’s more than all the pro-life political groups put up combined.

So it’s not as if there are massive pro-life political expenditures sucking all of the cash out of the system. We are thin everywhere, and the more you get involved in any one of these good works, be they political or otherwise, the more you realize how thin we are, wherever you look.

(As an aside: if Catholics were to develop a better system of philanthropy and did a better job of encouraged responsible giving, we would see a rising tide of financial support that would lift all pro-life boats, political and non-political. That’s a better future to pursue than simply squabbling over the limited resources we have at our disposal now to divide among everyone.)

Meanwhile, I believe the growth of pro-life culture building and pro-life culture shaping have increased apace with pro-life political expansion. The examples are too numerous to provide a complete list, but a start would be to mention pro-life pregnancy centers, 40 Days for Life, pro-life arts, pro-life campus activism, pro-life media, etc.

What does Mirus think is protecting all of these pro-life initiatives, especially the continued existence and survival of pro-life pregnancy centers and the right of the Church and Catholics to engage in pro-life activities? Successful pro-life political efforts to pass and defend pro-life laws and protections!

Here’s my view of why pro-life politics remains important on a cultural level.

Politics should not and is not everything, but it is a benchmark of the culture, and it is a proxy for the struggle between our view of the human person and the alternatives proposed by relativists and aggressive secular liberalism. Pro-life laws, where they exist, reflect a culture that is pro-life, and if we give up the fight to promote pro-life politics, that will be a sign of our own capitulation to the culture of death.

Mirus argues that American culture itself makes pro-life (and pro-marriage) laws unsustainable and impossible right now.

This is also not the case.

Consider Ireland and France — cultures not so different from our own, and even worse than ours when it comes to the vitality of the Catholic Church in each country and when you observe the far more widespread abandonment of religious observance in both countries.

Nevertheless, consider the successful pro-life effort to keep Ireland abortion free, despite huge outside pressure to cave, and the pro-marriage movement in France which last weekend staged country-wide pro-marriage rallies featuring literally hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and women and is in the process of derailing an effort to legalize gay marriage there for the first time.

What’s the difference between Ireland, France and us? One difference is that the Irish and French have managed to protect the reflection of their pro-life and pro-marriage views in law via politics. And they have refused to give up, even when the odds were severely stacked against them.

They are holding the line barely, but just barely, where as we are in danger of losing the ground we have gained if we give up now. We tend to forget the progress that has been made. Pro-life politics is one of the reasons why we have a Supreme Court that is more pro-life than the one that decided Roe in the first place, and pro-life politics is also one of the reasons why the Supreme Court is far less likely to fabricate a “right” to gay marriage when it takes up the question in the next term, to name two important examples.

These and other reasons I have given are why it would be totally imprudent to throw in the towel now, nor can we ever be willing to give up, because that’s not what we’re called to do. If we decide to step back, sit down and wait for the culture to spontaneously promote pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom laws without ourselves proposing and promoting them, we shouldn’t be shocked if they never, ever, ever happen.

Instead, if we asymmetrically disengage the same forces now fighting us on pro-life will move on to their next target: religious freedom and the civil rights of Christians. Secularist groups are already attempting to promote the meme that the Church does not deserve its non-profit tax status and that it constitues a burden to the public purse. What we must realize is that the pro-life political movement is key part of the pro-freedom movement in general, and that these freedoms stand or fall together. If we were to disengage now we would be amazed how quickly things would turn from bad to simply disastrous, on unexpected multiple fronts.

Mirus’ lesson drawn from the early Church, finally, falsely characterizes the evangelization of the pagan world as a process of gradual osmosis via personal witness, when actually Christians throughout this whole time were constantly, vigorously proposing the truth of their faith and evangelizing through every and all means at their disposal.

In fact, they were so open about their faith that they were forced into the catacombs by the pagan powers, who felt threatened by them.

Do you think the pagan powers that exist in our age feel threatened by us enough to attempt to push us into hiding? They should be, and if they aren’t, it’s our fault.

So why preemptively push ourselves back into the catacombs when the early Christians wanted nothing more than to leave them and share their faith in the daylight again? They earned the right to be Catholic in the light of day, so we owe it to them to keep what they have won for us and that includes, yes, fighting for the unborn, for marriage and family, and for our religious freedoms in the political arena as well as in the culture.

I think this is an important discussion to be having so I’ll leave off my thoughts here to see what my readers and fellow CatholicVote contributors have to say.

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76 thoughts on “Is Pro-Life Politics A Waste of Time? A Response to Dr. Jeff Mirus

  1. Cynthia says:

    I have believed for a long time that the pro-life groups should come together to create one group that way the money raised would be with one group rather than spread out amongst many and we would be speaking with one voice.

    1. Duke says:

      I have believed for a long time that if that Catholic Church could stop spending millions on ads that demonize gay people that they could probably still do some good in the world. Unfortunately, the church does not listen.

      1. Tom says:

        The Church loves homosexuals but will never give to them false consolation by teaching that homosexual acts are good.

  2. NOM lies says:

    368 comments on the gay marriage artcle. 4 comments on this article. I deduce that Catholics believe that banning gay people from getting a marriage license at their local City Hall is much more important than saving a child from being murdered. Hmmmm.

    1. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

      NOM lies, what have you done to save preborn children?

      1. NOM lies says:

        Maybe you should ask what the Catholic Church has done? In the last few years, they have spent $15.6 MILLION DOLLARS from Church coffers to keep gay couples from being able to put their names on a piece of paper and secure the legal rights to protect their families.

        How many innocent lives could they have saved had they used that money in more productive ways? Why won’t they devote themselves to saving the unborn with the same fervor as they dedicate to oppressing gay people?

        1. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

          Marriage to you is only a piece of paper, NOM Lies? Riotjock argued similarly yesterday. Why do homosexualists pursue homosexual “marriage” and then claim that it is only a piece of paper?

          1. You are right. Marriage is about love and devotion to another person. Here are the traditional wedding vows that I’ve heard numerous times in both religious and civil ceremonies that I’ve attended:

            “I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

            Now what part of those vows are gay couples unable to fulfill that makes you believe that the law has to ban them from making that commitment and having it recognized by our government?

          2. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            It isn’t this part, Philip. The difficulty is that two men and two women can’t image the Bridegroom and the Bride. That is what marriage is about: unity and procreation.

          3. Procreation isn’t mentioned anywhere in the marriage vows. Never has been. If procreation was so important, why was it never mentioned (until gay people wanted to get married)?

          4. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            It doesn’t have to be…it was expected that husband and wife were receptive to children…and they were, until the 1960s.

          5. So you admit that procreation hasn’t been a requirement of marriage, at least since the 1960′s, so your argument is nonsense and a fabrication.

            What part of the marriage vows are gay people unable to fulfill that the government should ban them from marriage using the force of law?

            and more importantly, why do Catholics waste such large sums of money trying to ban gay people from marriage instead of using that money to help the poor or to save the unborn?

          6. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            You have got to kidding, Philip. Openness to procreation has always been required for those getting married. The Catholic Marriage Rite asks before the text that you quoted about the openness to children. But whether civil law requires that to be part of the ceremony doesn’t mean that openness to procreation is optional.

          7. But you said that openness to procreation hasn’t been a requirement for marriage, at least since the 1960′s. That was your statement, not mine.

            And we are talking about marriage licenses that are handed out by government clerk. Clerks don’t ask straight couples if they are open to procreation before handing them their marriage license. Why should the law ban them from giving a marriage license to a gay couple?

          8. Making Things Visible@blogspot says:

            “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”

            Taken directly from the text of the Rite of Marriage in the Catholic Church. Not only is it known by reason that marriage is by it’s nature is meant for the procreation and upbringing of children, but the Church reiterates it in her teaching. Jesus proclaims it in the gospel of Matthew (19), and the vows speak to it. Your position Phillip is not only unreasonable but completely untenable. You are arguing for something that by the very nature and design of the human person does not exist. And reasonable people do not need the Church to tell them that. Though we can be grateful to the Church for reiterating it.

          9. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            Just what I tried to tell Philip when I wrote:

            “The Catholic Marriage Rite asks before the text that you quoted about the openness to children.”

            Thank you, Making Things Visible.

          10. Duke says:

            NO, NO NO!

            The priest then questions them about their freedom of choice, faithfulness to each other, and the acceptance and upbringing of children.

            The following question may be omitted if, for example, the couple is advanced in years.

            Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?

            You don’t even know what it actually says, or you are intentionally lying about what it says to try to make your point. Irregardless. We arent’t even talking about Catholics or Catholic marriage. We are talking about laws that apply to everyone, even people who aren’t Catholic. Stop using our faith as a stupid excuse to hurt other people.

          11. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            Read what I wrote, Duke. I thought that you wre for the Golden Rule.

            No it isn’t Patback, only if there is a couple who is clearly beyond
            childbearing age. But even that couple would need to be receptive to
            God’s Holy Will.

          12. Duke says:

            Guest, I did read what you wrote, and it’s false. The section of the marriage rite that asks the couple if they will accept children is clearly optional. If it’s optional for straight Catholics getting married in a Catholic church, why the hell would it be required for gay non Catholics getting married in a different faith or at city hall? You are being stupid and ridiculous. Do you think it’s funny? I think it shows everyone just how stupid any argument against gay marriage really is. You should spend your time doing something constructive instead of trying to ban gay couples from getting a marriage license like everyone else does.

          13. Fr. Joseph says:

            Duke, that section is only optional if the couple is beyond in years. I have witnessed may Weddings.

          14. Duke says:

            No, it says its optional with an example of a couple that is beyond in years. I’ve been to at least 20 Catholic weddings and I’ve yet to hear it once.

            Further, if it’s optional for Catholics “beyond in years”, why the hell can’t it be optional for gay couples that are getting married in another church. The answer, it’s more fun to discriminate against those nasty gay people than it is to discriminate against grandma and grandpa.

            Careful father. Your hate and prejudice are showing for everyone to see.

          15. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            But Duke, homosexuals persons can’t “marry” one another.

          16. Tom says:

            Duke, come home where you belong.

          17. Tom says:

            Openness to procreation is necessary for marriage. Since homosexuals can’t procreate, they can’t marry.

          18. Kathy says:

            This is not true, as has been proven above. Simply repeating false arguments over and over doesn’t make them fact.

          19. Tom says:

            Kathy, where does the right for two homosexuals to marry each other derive?

          20. Guest says:

            But Duke, homosexuals can’t marry one another.

          21. Patback says:

            Nope. That passage is optional in the rite of marriage. It’s OPTIONAL. that’s right. Procreation is optional. According to the church herself. Please stop with this nonsens. It helps no one. Gay couples should be able to get married. Anything else is just stupid.

          22. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            No it isn’t Patback, only if there is a couple who is clearly beyond childbearing age. But even that couple would need to be receptive to God’s Holy Will.

          23. Tony Love says:

            Homosexual persons can’t marry one another5.

          24. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            You wrote that procreation isn’t mentioned in the marriage vows. I responded by saying until the 1960s, it was presumed that couples were open to procreation. The, you stated that I said that procreation isn’t required. Philip!

          25. Duke says:

            Yes, so people that get married, TODAY, may not be open to procreation. So, your procreation argument is based on something that you yourself admits doesn’t exist. Do you see the big hole in your argument? Everyone else does. Get off this board. You are making Catholics look like morons.

          26. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

            I haven’t admitted any such thing, Duke. To be married, one must be open to procreation.

          27. Guest says:

            Your unkindness is showing, Duke.

          28. Guest says:

            Are you honest, Philip?

          29. Duke says:

            Philip=Duke?

          30. nope. why don’t you have an honest conversation instead of trying to defame other commenters.

          31. Guest says:

            Please be honest Philip.

        2. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

          I’ll try again: what have you done to save preborn children. Instead of pushing an impossibility, why not do something great for Christ and His Church?

    2. GREG SMITH says:

      Dear NOM – Actually Catholics hold opinions about gay marriage in about the same proportions as other Americans. Are you a Catholic? If so, ask what the people at your parish think. Thomas and Dr. Miris are doing a good thing throwing out this new idea and ought to be commended for it. I expect I’ll also have some comments tomorrow. Greg

        1. GREG SMITH says:

          Good! Please get behind this new movement. – Greg

        2. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

          You may be a baptized Catholic, but you show by your adherence to grave error that you are not connected in any significant way to the Church. You dissent from the authoritative moral teaching of the Church. Hence, it seems clear that your communion with Her is very dubious.

      1. Duke says:

        Thomas is arguing against this new idea, so I’m not sure why you would commend him for anything. He just wants to force his religious beliefs on others using law to deprive them of their rights. Whatever the cause of the day is. Same. Stupid. Arguments.

        1. Guest says:

          Duke, there’s no right to homosexual acts. The are immoral.

          1. Duke says:

            Guest, you are being ridiculous. Pornography is also immoral. Last time i checked, I could buy “jugs” and “penthouse” at my local 7-11. When are you going to start trying to ban that?

          2. Guest says:

            We have tried.

          3. Duke says:

            Really? When? How much money was spent by the church to ban pornography? How much money has been spent by the church to ban gay people from getting a marriage license. I see from these boards that it’s in the millions of dollars. Really? Pathetic.

          4. Guest says:

            We will always be there, Duke, to fight evil, including homosexual acts.

          5. Duke says:

            That’s just not true at all. The Catholic church has been an accomplice to evil and they are trying to use gay people as a distraction so that no one notices. It’s pathetic and you are falling for it.

          6. Guest says:

            Why are you a Catholic, Duke, if you dissent from the Church’s Teaching?

          7. Tony Love says:

            So untrue, Duke. Those who promote the homosexual agenda are accomplices to evil.

        2. GREG SMITH says:

          Duke – Thomas is coming around.- Greg

          1. Duke says:

            I’ll believe it when I see him apologize for all the discrimination that he has caused and when he quits working for the group that seeks only to deprive others of freedom.

          2. Guest says:

            But, Duke, there is no “right” to homosexual “marriage.”

          3. Kathy says:

            There is a right to marriage, and gay couples deserve access to that right, just like everyone else.

          4. Guest says:

            Homosexuals can’t marry one another, Kathy.

    3. Ed Schultz says:

      So abortion is murder, NOM lies? Why would you claim such a thing? You mean there is Truth? Did you know that the same Church and the same Natural Law that conclude that abortion is wrong also conclude that homosexual acts are always and everywhere wrong? Hence, you also accept that homosexuals acts are wrong, right? You are consistent in your thinking, right?

      1. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

        Homosexual acts are always evil, Philip.

        1. Thank You All says:

          I am very thankful for this website and its loyalist commenters ensuring that Democrats will be in control of the White for many years to come. Thomas Peters and crew are the best, mysteriously doing God’s work.

          1. Paula Lewis says:

            We’d rather go to Heaven and then win an election.

      2. Frank says:

        A. Could be a doctored picture. B. We don’t now that he is a Catholic Priest. C. And even if so, once faithful people can defect.

    4. Joe M says:

      Such a flimsy deduction helps to explain your other untenable claims.

  3. TimRohr says:

    Very disappointed in Mirus. Ridiculous thesis. Rethinking my donations to his deal. Thank you for taking him on.

    1. greg smith says:

      Tim – Please redirect your donations here http://www.colfs.org ~ Greg

  4. Stef Ofhfs says:

    I think that Dr. Mirus is battle-weary, like many of us, and needs our prayers most of all.

    1. NOM lies says:

      I think that Dr. Mirus is honest and truthful.

  5. carol yeager says:

    Someone wrote that the pro-life movement has always been successful one person at a time, and one can never measure what gains are made during this political season with those who have been exposed to the pro-life, pro-woman movement. What we can see are the new relationships that developed among pro-lifers which gave them new energy and a realization that there are many of us out there. The battle will never be done, as long as there are people; and if the election had turned out differently, we may have sat back on our heels with a false sense of success. So congrats to all pro-lifers and continue in your quest until the ends of time. I think of the stories of abortion promoters and the long exposure they had to our message until they finally made the decision to come to the light. That has to give you affirmation and confidence.

  6. Fr. Joseph says:

    I’ll let others reply to Dr. Mirus’ idea in this regard, but I am pleased to say that he is a longtime hero on many fronts. (We remember, for example, Trinity Publications from the mid-1980s.) No one could accuse him of being anything other than pro-life.

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