The consistent pro-life ethic can’t be ‘Calvinball’, prof tells pro-life Dems

credit: Marina Testino/CNA
credit: Marina Testino/CNA

.- Efforts to advance a pro-life ethic need to be “authentic, consistent and beautiful” if they are to combat the “throwaway culture” diagnosed by Pope Francis--and they must reject any similarity to “Calvinball”, the fictional game without rules from the Calvin and Hobbes comic, Charles Camosy, a Fordham University ethics professor, told a conference of pro-life Democrats.
 
Pope Francis is advancing a “consistent life ethic,” that does not “mean whatever anyone wants it to mean,” said Camosy, who criticized the inconsistencies behind some purported pro-life advocacy in the name of a “consistent life ethic.”
 
“I’ve even seen people use the consistent life ethic to try to take a pro-abortion position,” Camosy told a conference of the Democrats for Life of America July 21 during their inaugural annual conference in Denver.

“Because there are no rules it risks collapsing distinctions between issues, so that virtually any debate over a government program at all becomes just as important as debate over abortion or nuclear weapons.”
 
“If this is what the consistent life ethic is, then traditional pro-lifers rightly reject it. I would reject it. It’s just Calvinball.”
 
In response to this and other aspects of a “politically incoherent culture,” Camosy repeatedly emphasized Pope Francis’ rejection of the “throwaway culture.”
 
“Pope Francis’ pro-life vision is where we should be focused,” he said, characterizing it as the “key to the future of the prolife movement.”
 
“I think it’s the kind of consistent position that could reach the very people we need on our team, especially young people and people of color.”
 
His first principle included rejection of the direct killing of the innocent. But it did not end there.
 
“To limit pro-life issues to those which only deal with the direct killing of the innocent—which is ridiculously important obviously—seems to be totally wrong headed,” he said.
 
Camosy lamented high maternal mortality rate in the U.S., especially among African-American women; intimate partner violence, which is correlated to abortion; and the practice of shackling of women at the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to miscarriage in some cases.
 
He denounced the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants to countries where a good percentage of them are about to killed. Camosy cited the argument of Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who has said mass deportation of people to countries with deadly violence was comparable to driving people to abortion clinic.
 
Camosy has analyzed Pope Francis’ critique of the “throwaway culture,” drawing from it seven principles.
 
“Our failure to aid is often part of the throwaway culture, and a kind of violence, especially when death is the result,” he named as one principle. He also advocated the principle “resist appeals to individual autonomy and privacy which detach us from our duty to aid.”
 
While Camosy said he did not advocate that every pro-life advocate do everything, he said he couldn’t envision a self-described pro-life advocate who rejected these principles.
 
“At least if we take the words of Jesus seriously, we put ourselves at risk of hellfire because of our failure to aid,” he said.
 
Among the Catholic sources he invoked were Matthew 25 in which Jesus separates the goats from the sheep on the basis of whether they aided those in need; Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus;  Gratian’s Decretum, which says “If you have not fed the hungry man you have killed him”; St. Ambrose of Milan’s warning, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, if your greed leads to the death of the poor you are guilty of indirect homicide.”
 
Among other principles he named were resistance to the use of violence “at every turn,” because of its effects on both the victim and perpetrator. There should be a priority on protecting and supporting the lives of the most vulnerable, especially those who cannot speak in their own defense. People should “resist language, practices and social structures which detach us from the full reality and dignity of the marginalized,” especially as these are “hidden in and facilitated by consumer culture.”
 
People must create a “culture of encounter” especially with those we find “the most difficult to show mercy and love.” Further, they must “go to the peripheries and show hospitality and care for the stranger.” Finally, they must acknowledge mutuality both between human persons and between human persons and the rest of creation.
 
Camosy saw potential for outreach and persuasion to animal welfare advocates, citing “the horrific things we do to nonhuman animals just to get cheap meat on our place.”
 
“Talk about a population that cannot speak up on its own defense.”
 
Pro-life and pro-animal rights activism has much in common, such as the legal fights of activists and journalists “simply to film the reality that has happened,” he said, invoking the Center for Medical Progress’ videos of abortion providers.
 
“None of us at the end of the day want to know what is happening either in abortion clinics or factory farms.”
 
Camosy was skeptical about the future of the pro-life movement in its current configuration.
 
“I think we need a different vision of ‘the good’ which potential converts will see as consistent, authentic and beautiful,” he said. “Right now I think they look at the dominant prolife movement and see just the opposite.”
 
In Camosy’s view, a pro-life movement that is tied to President Donald Trump “has no chance of winning the future.”
 
About 75 percent of voters of color strongly dislike Trump and he polls at 21 percent among Millennials, while the Republican Party polls at 17 percent among the same age group.
 
Supreme Court decisions or smaller pieces of legislation might end abortion protections, “only to have the culture lost on this issue because ‘pro-life’ is identified with Trump and the Republican Party,” Camosy said.
 
Camosy praised some work of the Susan B. Anthony List, which backed pro-life Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois against a strong primary challenge.
 
However, he lamented the “unwillingness of traditional pro-lifers to help pro-life Democrats,” charging that this encourages a “vicious cycle” that fails to support pro-life votes.
 
“It’s not about Right or Left, big or small government. Rather, it’s about consistently advocating the least of us,” Camosy said.

Tags: Catholic News, Democrats for Life of America, Charles Camosy