Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Need Social-lifers, (or Pro-justicers)

Deal Hudson at Inside Catholic criticizes three ways of reading Caritas in Veritate.  One of those ways is John Allen's irenic "package" reading:
Benedict XVI insists that Catholic social teaching must be seen as a package deal, holding economic justice together with its opposition to abortion, birth control, gay marriage, and other hot-button issues of sexual morality. The pope expresses irritation with 'certain abstract subdivisions of the Church's social doctrine,' an apparent reference to tensions between the Church's pro-life contingent and its peace-and-justice activists.
This reading, claims Hudson, fails to take into account the reality of the two camps in which "social justice" advocates regularly distance themselves from pro-life positions while pro-lifers "do not dissent from social justice issues." So there is an imbalance here. 

Oh really? That was not, nor is, my experience concerning just war theory. Nor torture. Nor racism, which many "social justice" people still consider a prevalent problem in society, a position which makes many pro-lifers scoff (this comes from my experience). Hopefully the divide is narrowing, but it is still a reality. 

We would also do Benedict great harm not to give him credit for being a very historically minded thinker. There is a reason that Paul VI wrote Populorum Progressio and Humane Vitae, both. The first was -- and still is by the likes of Weigel -- considered a "progressive" fluke, while the second was widely rejected by arguably most Catholics in the United States. I think that Benedict is intentionally bringing these two together in one encyclical. His address on the 2008 World Day of Peace -- which brought together sexual ethics and social issues -- continues to be the best guide to the new encyclical.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ


Amy Alvarado said...


I am going to be honest. Much in this blog on social lifers is far above my head! I have read it like 6 times and still don't get much so if my question/comment seem ignorant it is cause I am :)!

Here is my thought/question. I have had this conversation with so many people who are particulary the pro-justice types who harp and complain about pro-lifers only caring about abortion. My response to them is this. I feel called to do this work. I feel a connection with the unborn and their mother's. Their plight speaks to my heart. Dorothy Day connected with the marginalized and poor of this country, Mother Teresa with the destitute of India. Granted I am not comparing myself to these great women in anyway just pointing out that a call is a call. It doesn't mean I don't "care" or am "concerned" for the poor, marginalized, refugee, imprisoned, homeless, shut ins of the world because I do but God has placed in my heart a call or connection or whatever you want to call it that makes me feel for pregnant mother and unborn in a way that moves me to action. Is that wrong? I don't have a problem when people don't want to do pro-life work or find abortion to be their issue. I have a problem only with the person who feels a connection or moved to action for no one but themselves. I just don't get the beef between pro-lifers and pro-justicers.

Amy A.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ said...

"So if my question/comment seem ignorant it is cause I am :)!"

No, your questions seems "ignorant" to some because you are integrated. And as far as you discovering pro-life work as your mission, it would probably not be far off to say that "you have chosen the greater portion," because, and this because is important, because abortion is the greatest social justice concern of our time.

My beef then is not with those who choose an apostolate. God knows we can't do everything. My only point here is that Deal Hudson has made a meta-statement about the American political/religious scene, saying that pro-lifers have been faithful to issues of justice and not social justice people to issues of life. No, let's just say it: they have both been unfaithful to an aspect of the faith and have striven to enshrine their unfaithfulness in the political order. Precisely what we need is those like you who recognize the importance of both, and chose one as your vocation because God gave it to you as such, not because you despise people on the other side.

For Hudson not to see there is a problem here is astounding. Look at the joy among social justice folk now that Obama has been elected. They are ecstatic! I know, it's ridiculous. But now try to think back to the intense joy of pro-lifers when Bush got elected. Remember? And can we look back on that now with anything but a certain horror? That reflection alone should reveal the polarization even within ourselves between "social" issues and "life" issues, they they are really one and the same issue. The fact that they appear to us now as two is a revelation of how far we have to go.

Hope that helps at least explain what I was getting at.

Amy Alvarado said...


Thanks for the response. I do understand better what you were trying to say. I think the reason why I don't understand the polarization between the camps is mostly because I grew up in Father Thomas's community where all the "issues" of our day were tackled on different days of the week! It was implicitly understood that we should be doing it all and that one ministry alone would not fix anything. A lot of work needs to be done on both sides to integrate our work for the betterment of all. I hope and pray it happens. The popes new encylical seems to be doing this already.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ said...

I agree. But even Father didn't think that everyone could do everything. My mom didn't go over to Juarez. She helped with groups and raised kids and did pro-life stuff when she could. Ellen went over rarely. A community can work as an organism, which is why we need communities. Then everyone does their part, the hand not doing what the foot does, but it all gets done.