"Soon, former Catholic-baiting "good ol' boys" from the South were rubbing shoulders with Opus Dei types in a new joint crusade for God and country."
From ........... National Catholic Reporter
December 15, 1989
By C. Clark Kissinger
"Most pro-lifers continue to miss the
political point of the abortion issue"
Traditionally, state-enforced pronatalism and the social subordination of women to the role of procreation have been the province of the political right. The most intensive state suppression of abortion in modern times occurred in Nazi Germany with the creation in 1936 of the Reich Central Agency for the Struggle Against Homosexuality and Abortion and the subsequent adoption of a death penalty for performing abortions.
In the late 1970's, an ideological offensive was unleashed in this country that coincided with the marked decline of U.S. military and economic power globally.
Its unabashed purpose has been to mobilize a social base for renewed military intervention abroad, for the containment of domestic social unrest and for maintaining existing class, race and gender relations.
Its political themes have alarms about terrorism, drugs, AIDS, aliens, black youth, lack of patriotism, rock music and abortion.
Early on, ideologues of the new right hit upon abortion as the political issue that could bridge the traditional antagonism between nativist Protestant fundamentalism and internationalist Catholic conservatism. Soon, former Catholic-baiting "good ol' boys" from the South were rubbing shoulders with Opus Dei types in a new joint crusade for God and country.
An interesting example of the new alliance was the rally called by Operation Rescue in Washington, D.C., Nov. 1O at the Vietnam War Memorial. Espousing a program of national redemption, Operation Rescue literature provided an eerie echo of Munich beer halls.
The principal themes were the decline of American power in the world because of moral corruption at home and the path to renewed national power through enforced purification of the nation. It included a particular call to "promote respect for our flag" and heightened military preparedness "in the face of worldwide totalitarian aggression."
In case anybody missed the core nationalistic agenda, the flyer went on to announce:
"A memorial service on the Mall will be held to honor our war dead and mourn the aborted children. We will renew our oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic....... Uniforms are welcome and "encouraged."
If the sudden coming together of fundamentalist Protestants and right- wing Catholics was not marvel enough, the new alignment has also drawn in a grouping of Catholics from the church's pacifist tradition. The prime motivator here has been Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who in 1983 began popularizing the "seamless garment" concept. He called upon Catholics to consistently oppose war, nuclear weapons, abortion, poverty, the death penalty and euthanasia.
A careful examination of Bernardin's writings shows his views to be simply a restatement of the church's "just war" doctrine.
Rather than affirming a consistent ethic of life, Bernardin affirms a distinction. In certain cases, which are to be evaluated politically, the taking of life is permissible. In other cases, essentially those involving the taking of innocent life, the prohibition is absolute. The cardinal is fully prepared to make the "difficult choices" over preparing to destroy whole cities with nuclear weapons as a means of coercing rival powers into conformity with U.S. policy objectives.
He explains that not all of the seamless-garment issues are equally important. Thus, one is free to emphasize the key points of the conservative social agenda and drop the nasty "liberal" social issues. One would normally expect [Roman] Catholic peace activists to expose the right-wing agenda rather than make common cause with it. After all, this agenda seeks to prepare the American public to accept both war and the social subjugation of women in the name of the national interest and of returning to traditional values. So this writer sent a personal letter to a number of [Roman] Catholic peace activists, asking them whose politics were being served by the movement to empower the state to control women's reproduction.
I received a number of responses, yet not one of them addressed the basic question of the oppression of women. I had expected that some would at least acknowledge the issue. But, sadly, the "right to life" movement, even where subjectively well-intentioned, has made the lives of women invisible. This in turn has set the stage for a political alliance with the misogynist yahoos.
In the 1840s and 185Os, a reactionary nativist movement arose in the United States called "Know-Nothingism." Its special object of hatred was [Roman] Catholicism and the masses of poor Irish immigrants.
Lurid charges were aired that nuns murdered babies, and convents were sacked by mobs of "God-fearing Amerieans." It is a point of some special sadness that much of American [Roman] Catholicism, having made it into the mainstream, now lends itself to the same sort of reactionary movement.
C. Clark Kissinger is a long time anti-war activist and journalist based in Washington, D.C.