As "the greatest generation" slowly passes into history, January 23, 1973 is a date that will eventually live, and may already be living, in more infamy even than December 7, 1941. After all, the American casualty rate loosed by Roe v Wade is greater each year, far greater, than for all of World War II. Most Americans know that; some admit it; of those who admit it, most consider it very important.
Still, effective photo ops are hard to come by. The bodies are disposed of privately as garbage, not honored with flag-draped caskets at public funerals. The media like to say "if it bleeds, it leads." In this case, if it isn't seen to bleed, it doesn't lead. Nor, given their general ideological predilections, would the MSM allow it to lead even if the images were readily available. That allows many to remain in denial; but there are other causes.
I was a college freshman when Roe came down. I didn't give the matter much thought then because I was living in a state where abortion, pretty much on demand, was already legal. What I did notice by the end of the 1970s was that American politics, which had been getting over the nastiness of Vietnam and Watergate, got nasty again because of the abortion issue. Many evangelicals, who had initially been quiescent, joined Catholics in denouncing the new regime of death. Conservative Democrats, many of them pro-life, put a pro-lifer, Ronald Reagan, into the White House. I am not alone in believing that the increasingly bitter partisanship that has marked Washington since Reagan's presidency has a lot to do with the abortion issue. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, whose long-contemplated conversion from Lutheranism to Catholicism at that time had much to do with the issue, even says that, thirty four years after Roe, "there is no more intensely contested issue in our public life." If that's true—and I believe it is—that's how it should be. I shall return shortly to the article where he says that.
Given the vastness of my readership, chances are some have noticed the "March for Life" logo in the right sidebar. Click it for info on this year's March, which I think more important than most for two reasons.One is that the pro-life cause has, temporarily at least, lost political momentum with the Democratic takeover of Congress. During his presidency, George W. Bush has added two more conservative Catholics to the Supreme Court, one of them as Chief Justice. That raised many hopes, including my own, that Roe was skating on thin ice. But there is now zero chance until 2009 at the earliest that a judge even remotely skeptical of Roe can be confirmed for SCOTUS—assuming that at least one justice retires or dies before then, which is likely.
The other reason for the March's importance this year is that Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington in office for only eight months, needs a wakeup call. Although his see has no formally primatial role in the American Church, it is inevitably the most politically visible and influential. And what has one of the most learned, charming, and orthodox bishops in America been doing, as distinct from saying, about the abortion issue? Fr. Neuhaus writes:
When the aforementioned Nancy Pelosi orchestrated a four-day gala in Washington celebrating her familial, ethnic, and—very explicitly—Catholic identity, people were alert to what would be said by the new archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl. He said nothing. Part of the festivities was a Mass at Trinity College, a Catholic institution in Washington. The celebrant of the Mass was Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit who, more than any other single figure, has been influential in tutoring Catholic politicians on the acceptability of rejecting the Church’s teaching on the defense of innocent human life. Asked by a reporter, Archbishop Wuerl responded that Fr. Drinan has “faculties” in Washington, meaning he is authorized to celebrate the sacraments. That was it.
And Drinan's faculties were written in stone, when?
A few commenters here have criticized my charge that Wuerl's attitude on the matter of pro-abort CINO pols receiving the Eucharist is "legalistic." By his response quoted above, Wuerl answers my critics for me. A bishop more interested in leading than in avoiding scenes by spouting legalisms would not even let Drinan use diocesan facilities for speaking, much less for celebrating Mass and giving communion to somebody determined to maintain her formal cooperation with our American Holocaust.
Yes, this year's Marchers have much to accomplish. If there were more deeds, not just more words, from our bishops, it would probably cease to be the case that there are more members of the Catholic Church in Congress than of any other church. But it's more likely that the Catholics left would actually be, well, Catholic.