Not long after I posted on the need for some pro-lifers to learn the democratic and Christian art of civility, the Catholic News Agency -- not to be confused with the highly respected, Church-run Catholic News Service -- ran an item provocatively entitled, "Murder of Michigan pro-lifer a ‘non-story’ for Obama Catholics". The premise of this "news" piece was to berate various organizations considered to be both "pro-Obama" and "Catholic" for failing to mention the recent murder of a pro-life activist, Jim Pouillon.
There were three organizations singled out by the self-appointed mob: Catholics United, which promotes the Catholic social vision in the bishops' Faithful Citizenship document, and two Catholic weeklies, the National Catholic Reporter and, you guessed it, America magazine -- specifically two contributors to 'In All Things' -- MSW and me.
Here's how the charge was laid at my door:
The Jesuit weekly, America Magazine, also completely ignored the murder of the Michigan pro-life activist. None of the magazine's news or blog postings made a mention of Pouillon's murder. Instead, few hours after his murder, America posted an entry from blogger Austen Ivereigh titled “Lessons in radicalism and civility.”
In his post, Ivereigh quoted former Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland, who in his recent memoirs accused “some parts of the pro-life movement” of lacking civility.
The CNA reporter tried very hard to build a story from that by contrasting our apparently ominous silence with the fact that Catholics United, NCR, and America had earlier spoken out on the murder of Dr Tiller, expressing various degrees of shock.
The implication -- never stated directly, for this sort of insinuation naturally shrinks from the light -- was that we "Obama Catholics" (as opposed to what? Roman Catholics?) have double standards: we care about the killing of a pro-abortion doctor, but not a pro-life activist. And why would that be? What exactly would be the reason behind this inconsistency? CNA leaves it to its comment box, where the mob can unleash their suggestions. Sure enough, the slurs quickly accumulate: "It should come as no surprise that those on the left politically, and those in the Church that espouse heretical views are silent on one murder and incensed by another," suggests Doug from Portland. "After all the goal of unfettered abortion must not be derailed."
For the benefit of Doug and others, I explained under the article the best I could (1) that my post on civility went up before I heard about the Pouillon murder; that (2) when I read about it, I didn't think it affected in any way the the point I was making; and that (3) I had nothing to say about it that was in any way noteworthy. It was clearly a deplorable act, as is any murder; what else was there to say? Unlike Dr Tiller, the man was not well known; and the Tiller murder was worthy of comment in this and other places because it represented a potential crisis for the mostly Christian pro-life movement-- especially if (which turned out not to be true) the killer was motivated by faith. I suspect similar reasons would be given by MSW as well as NCR and the America editorial team if asked why they, too, saw Tiller's murder as newsworthy and Pouillon's scarcely worth a mention.
But why was I bothering? Who are these puritans, anyway? Ed from Minneapolis wondered too. "Why would a website that is intended to be Catholic post an article with a headline which appears to be designed to rile up base emotions?" he asked. "How could such a headline lead to building up the Body of Christ?" Well said, Ed.
More craziness over at LifeSiteNews.com, meanwhile, where John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) -- a British organization opposed to the Catholic bishops' policy of working to bring down the legal upper limit on abortion -- thinks the gushing two-page interview with Blair in Osservatore Romano shows there are "subversive" elements in the Vatican.
Smeaton said the appearance of this interview in the newspaper known to be controlled by the Vatican's Secretariat of State forces him to ask a difficult question: "Are there subversive elements at work in the Vatican who are intent on appeasing Barack Obama and Tony Blair and their anti-life policies?"
The evidence for this extraordinary idea? The failure on the newspaper's part to mention the Blair government policies on abortion and embryonic research. The tactics are the same as CNA's -- and those of Soviet Communism. It's not what you say, but what you are supposed to think because of what you don't say, that gets you sent you to the Gulag.
Revealingly, LifeSiteNews.com goes on to criticize Blair's government for introducing or planning to introduce CCTV cameras and European-style ID cards. 'Blair's Britain', the site declares, "is being increasingly identified as a 'decaying' and 'broken' society overwhelmed by social problems".
The problem with Osservatore's interview with Blair, in other words, was that it didn't put to the former PM the Conservative Party's critique of Blair's policies. (Osservatore didn't criticize Blair for the Iraq war, either, but oddly that doesn't seem to bother LifeSiteNews.com.)
Now, where was I? Ah yes, civility ....