Ohio State Representative Robert Hagan* of my home town, Youngstown, received a phone call from the Mercy School of Nursing** letting him know that George Murry, SJ, bishop of Youngstown, had requested that they rescind the invitation to have him speak at their commencement tomorrow.
Hagan, who is Catholic, put this statement on his Facebook page:
I have fought for social justice my entire life and today, I am one disappointed Catholic. After being invited to give the commencement speech at Mercy Nursing School here in Youngstown, I got a call telling me that the Bishop has overruled their invite and they have rescinded the invitation because of some of the political positions I have taken. I am saddened that the work that I have done to feed the poor, clothe the naked, help cure the sick, and to bring an end to the Death Penalty has fallen on deaf ears. I guess being an altar boy for 6 years didn’t qualify me for dispensation. I will write to the Bishop.
“…fallen on deaf ears”? hardly.
Bishop Murry’s statement after the report hit the news said in part:
While I respect and appreciate many of the social justice positions taken by Rep. Hagan, it remains a fact that he also has consistently voted for pro-abortion legislation, policies and funding.
Note to Catholics interested in social justice: the garment is seamless, but abortion is always and everywhere intrinsically evil, while the exact composition of social safety nets and precise levels of funding for social services established to help enrich lives are negotiable based on prudential judgments. So while Catholic social justice tenets require us to assist all persons in the ways they need assistance they do not dictate the exact policies that ought to be implemented. In other words, reasonable people can disagree on the best way to achieve this goal. Abortion, however, can never be countenanced. Reasonable people, if they are Catholic, cannot disagree. Murry’s statement reflects that reality; Hagan’s statement raises the former to utmost prominence and wholly ignores the latter.
Think of it this way: the fabric is life itself, every other social justice issue is the weaving craft that makes the fabric into a garment. If you deny the very fabric then you have nothing to weave.
In other words, without the right to life no other rights make sense.
Not even six years of being an altar boy gives one a dispensation from protecting life.
*Hagan, you might recall, referred to someone with the term “buckwheat” during an online disgreement early last year.
**Mercy School of Nursing could have prevented this whole embarrassment, of course, if they had just remembered that they are Catholic. Of course, the silence of the bishops for too long on these topics likely gave them enough reason to believe they’d get away with it. But still. And in a way I’m glad it happened, so that we all have a nice teachable moment. Public embarrassment is not a bad thing for those who cause public scandal, whether they are public officials or Catholic nursing schools.