Deal Hudson, of InsideCatholic.com, is at it again. He has published an article accusing two groups, Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, with being "fake Catholics" because of their support for health care reform. He admitted to "journalistic hyperbole" in making the charge in an interview with Dan Gilgoff, but then went on to defend it. "This has to do with a nonnegotiable teaching of the church," he said.
The term "nonnegotiable" derived from a voting guide issued in 2004 by the group Catholic Answers, a group that does not, last time I checked, enjoy any magisterial authority. The five "nonnegotiable" items on their list conveniently dovetailed with planks in the Republican Party platform. It involves a sleight of hand. There is a difference between being an abortionist and being a legislator. The latter task involves weighing a variety of concerns, applying principles to concrete situations, and finally trying to achieve the common good while working with those who do not necessarily share one’s worldview. It is a moral task, to be sure, but people of good will and good conscience can sometimes reach different conclusions and, besides, legislation is all about negotiating. Sometimes, negotiations are the only way to convince others to see your own point of view.
To be clear, I do not see how anyone can be pro-abortion and Catholic. The charge of "fakeness" is not, a priori, an impossible one to level. Indeed, the group Catholics for Choice seems to me to deserve the charge and Hudson conveniently fails to note that Catholics for Choice has consistently attacked Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for being too pro-life. And both Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance have consistently stated, and publicly stated, their opposition to federal funding of abortion.
But, the deeper falsity of Hudson’s charge lies in the crimped analysis he brings to his task of political evaluation. Hudson reduces religion to ethics, not just politics. The reason abortion is of such integral significance – integral is a key word used by Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate – is because it offends not just Catholic morality but it offends Catholic anthropology. There is not a single moral claim in the Creed, but the Creed does claim, "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." Catholics cannot abide abortion because it cannot be reconciled with the idea that life, all life, is created and creation is received as a gift. It is not the product of our strivings. Liberal Democrats are the not the problem here. Modernity is the problem here, and Hudson is smart enough to know it. The modern worldview sees man as the creator of his own world, his own values, his own ethics and just so it is a deceit. But, it is a deceit that is found just as easily among the Republicans as it is among the Democrats. Unsurprisingly, Hudson does not want to have that discussion.
Hudson’s charge would also carry more weight if his on-line journal had not been so utterly indifferent to the needs of the uninsured, especially to the plight of poor women who lack health insurance and for whom the prospect of carrying a pregnancy to term is unbelievably daunting. She, too, is created in the image and likeness of God. But, Hudson passes by on the other side of the road when he sees that woman in need. His slavish devotion to the free market trumps his concern to help poor women, and he fails to see that the Catholic belief in subsidiarity requires the government to care for its citizens when the private sector fails to do so, and that the federal government must step in when states and localities fail to meet their obligation to care for the health of their citizenry. All that gets shunted aside because it is more important to hand President Obama a defeat.
It is not clear what the final language on abortion funding will be. It is quite clear that the obstructionist tactics of anti-reform zealots like Hudson have made it harder, not easier, to achieve pro-life health care reform because if they are going to oppose health care in any event, there is no reason for Congress or the White House to listen to them. I have been quite clear that if there is federal funding for abortion in the reform, I would vote against it if I had a vote. But, I can see how others see it differently, and that difference does not make them fake Catholics.