A New Day Shines – The Tower, January 19 2010
On February 4, former President George W. Bush received the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Legatus, an organization of Catholic businesspeople. They praised Bush for appointing Supreme Court justices who opposed abortion and denying international healthcare agencies funding if their services included abortion.
They should also praise him for his many other accomplishments. As governor of Texas, he led the nation by executing a Child of God every two weeks. As President, he condoned torture, practice violent policies against the poor and the environment, and started two of the longest wars in American history.
Tragically, awarding a war criminal a “pro-life” award is viewed as a legitimate action on the part of some American Catholics. Denying other life issues their due, the anti-abortion movement oftentimes poses being “pro-life” as revolving around this singular issue.
Instead of a focus on integrating and unifying the numerous causes in the broader Catholic social justice movement, including abortion, the “us-them” division pervades dialogue. What the People of God really need is a “we” mentality to conquer all forms of violence contrary to the life and dignity of the human person and of all creation.
On our campus, a microcosm of this wider division exists. Catholic University promotes itself as adamantly “pro-life.” Yet, the question needs to be asked whether or not our university lives up to the “pro-life” standard it sets?
If our understanding of the term “pro-life” means opposing abortion, then the university community overall has done a strong job. If, however, our understanding of “pro-life” means practicing an unwavering commitment to defending life at all stages and in all its forms according to Jesus’ message, then we have much work to do.
At present, we miss key opportunities for responding to our communal call to seek justice. Academically, we lack integration of the rich Catholic Social Tradition throughout each discipline. For student life, the university fails to fully support student organizations working for justice in pursuit of the common good, outside of the anti-abortion movement that is. Institutionally, we allow for unsustainable environmental policies glossed over by token actions. We allow for an overly friendly attitude towards the military in contradiction with Catholic teaching. We allow for a presentation policy where the sole litmus test is the presenter’s stance on abortion.
All that said, I believe in this university and have tremendous hope radical change, rooted in the Gospel message, can be brought about. As an intern at an organization working with Catholic Higher Education, I do not see many colleges or universities with a commitment to charity and service like that found at Catholic. It was utterly umpressive that the university community responded so quickly towards the disaster in Haiti.
It is time to dream, to build upon our accomplishments, and to achieve on this campus what the greater Church has thus far been unable to – the “we” mentality. Integrating anti-abortion efforts and the wider Catholic movement for the common good would allow the university community to engage in the social analysis and advocacy just as necessary as charity to defeat structural violence.
Thus, I present the challenge to each member to reach out beyond their own cause, to cooperate with those with differing perspectives, and to change both the policies and realities of our university community and those of the greater world. No longer can we continue to debate the value or dominance of this cause or that one. The time for a unified response to all affronts on human life is now.