Saturday, February 11, 2012

An Ill Wind Blows

Get used to being an outcast. Get used to being viewed as an extremist, even an enemy. Get used to being ridiculed, persecuted, targeted, and chastised. Get used to be isolated, lonely, forgotten, and ignored. No one will take you seriously. You will be a joke, a punch line, or a punching bag. That is where we Catholics and many Christians now find ourselves. Fasten your seatbelts because we are being driven recklessly down a dark road without lights.

So much has happened in the past few days to demonstrate this reality. The Obama mandate for religious institutions to provide contraceptives, some of which are abortifacients, is an obvious abuse of religious freedom. No longer can we be confident that such an abuse of the first amendment will not stand up in court. The immediate terse response from most Catholic Bishops has been encouraging. If a silver lining exists, perhaps it will serve to awaken people to what is happening.

About three weeks ago, I spoke to my CCD students about ethic responsibility when it comes to understanding where our money goes. While some charitable organizations may seem worthwhile, we have to be concerned with how they spend our donations. As the anniversary of Roe v. Wade was approaching, I used the example of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Many of the products we buy will display pink ribbons indicating that a portion of the profits go to the Komen foundation to fight breast cancer. Sounds wonderful, but we have to realize that Komen in turn supports Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the country. They may argue that Komen money only goes for cancer screening, but by funding Planned Parenthood, they are potentially freeing other money to be used for killing unborn babies. Are there no alternative ways to perform breast cancer screenings in this country other than via an abortionist?

This past week, the Susan G. Komen foundation announced they would no longer fund Planned Parenthood. Alleluia! Our voices have been heard! Even though, Komen denied bowing to political pressure from Pro-life activists, this came as a welcome surprise. But wait! A public outcry followed. The media jumped all over Komen printing stories about poor women whose lives may have been saved by screenings performed at Planned Parenthood. How could Komen be so heartless? A few days later, this Komen foundation that had not bowed to pressure from Pro-life activists, appeared bow to pressure from Pro-choice activists, and resumed funding of Planned Parenthood. Again I ask, are there no alternative ways to perform breast cancer screenings?

I am going to digress for a moment. It is often said that we Pro-lifers should not use the term Pro-choice. Rather, those who would allow abortions are actually pro-abortion or pro-death. In our zeal to emphasize what abortion actually does, we want to use the strongest terms possible to make our point, but I am not sure this is totally honest or productive. I do not smoke cigarettes. I do not like cigarette smoke. I do not think anyone should smoke cigarettes. It is a filthy habit and bad for your health. Yet, I do not think cigarette smoking should be illegal for those who, despite the warnings, want to smoke. Just do it far away from me. When it comes to smoking, I am pro-choice. I am not pro-smoking or pro-cancer. Therefore, I do not object if people who favor the legalization of abortion want to call themselves Pro-choice, as long as they understand that one of the choices they are permitting is murder.

The religious right is portrayed in the media as the enemy, not caring about women’s health. Reports on the Komen situation were sometimes accompanied by information on what people can do to support Planned Parenthood. Donations to both organizations reportedly increased this week. Some Pro-lifers may have wished to support Komen after their courageous announcement, only to regret where that money may now end up. Susan G. Komen is under no obligation to fund Planned Parenthood, yet they find themselves in a situation where their mission to end breast cancer is placed in jeopardy by negative publicity spewed at them by the media and Planned Parenthood. They should have never attached themselves to Planned Parenthood in the first place.

Planned Parenthood is known for attacking anyone who would dare cut their funding. The State of Tennessee is now being sued by Planned Parenthood for denying funds based solely on an aversion to abortion. Like Susan G. Komen, they now find themselves being threatened.

Recently, a story on talk radio stated that 50-something percent of couples have sex on the first date. They attributed this to social media which allows people to become intimately acquainted before they actually meet. Stories like this are presented by the media as curiosities, but not necessarily detrimental to our society or personal well-being. Contraception of some sort is just assumed. A story on television this morning said that the average person in Japan does not have intercourse until past the age of 19, about 2 years later than in this country. The story was presented in such a way to indicate that Japanese teens are postponing sex, not that American teens start too young. Again, the story is treated as a curiosity, but the underlying message to teenagers is that starting young is the norm, so I might be an oddball if I do not. Secular society no longer even acknowledges that some people might find such behavior as immoral. Concern for the soul is not even on the radar.

While faithful Catholics hold true to unchanging beliefs, the secular world continues to stretch moral boundaries beyond their breaking point. Perhaps without realizing it, we have moved past a fork in the road where societal division will eventually lead to a cultural war. We are no longer all headed in the same direction. Yet, we cannot go our separate ways. Our paths are intertwined. Those of us navigating by a moral compass find ourselves viewed as obstacles in the roadway, obstacles that must be brushed aside and kept under control. A firm anchor in the faith is essential for us and our children if we are to persevere.