The year was 1935. Massachusetts Gov. James Curley was trying to push through a lottery, rather than raise taxes, to ameliorate the state budget crisis. "Most legislators agreed," Lawler writes. "Debate had been perfunctory. Support for the proposal was overwhelming; passage of the enabling legislation seemed assured."
But then someone upended Curley's apple cart: Cardinal William O'Connell. "I am opposed to a state lottery," the prelate and head of Boston's archdiocese said, because the state-sponsored numbers racket "would be a tremendous source of corruption and demoralization."
"Within twenty-four hours," Lawler writes, "the lottery was dead," defeated 187-40.
"No. 1", as the Cardinal was called, killed the bill-a testimony to the power of the Catholic Church in the city and state.
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, Catholics are the largest single religious bloc among voters and legislators. "Yet the state's Congressional delegation in Washington is rock-solid in support of legal abortion. Self-identified Catholics still constitute a majority of the politicians in both chambers of the state legislature. Yet in recent months the legislature passed bills that the Catholic bishops opposed - in more than one case, without a single dissenting vote."
Lawler's book chronicles the rise and fall of the Faith in the Bay State, but his thesis is writ large across the United States. As this writer has reported elsewhere, if it weren't for Catholics, abortion might very well be against the law. Consider this ugly truth: Catholics comprise a majority religious bloc in Congress, yet unborn children are murdered by the hundreds every day. The reason? Politicians such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Barack Hussein Obama's vice presidential candidate! But when I wrote that piece a few years ago I didn't know how right I was.
The History of 'Personally Opposed But …'
The Pelosi-Biden line on abortion and "the-personally-opposed-but" philosophy, finds its oratorical ancestor in then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960. Kennedy said he would never permit his religious faith to inform his public-policy decisions. But the Kennedy connection to legal abortion went beyond mere words. Legalized abortion wasn't merely the work of feminists. A group of leftist Catholic luminaries, Lawler writes-which included Father Robert Drinan, the pro-abortion Jesuit whom Pope John Paul II ordered to give up a seat in Congress, and Father Charles Curran, whose dissent from Catholic teaching on human sexuality and the encyclical Humane Vitae was condemned by the Vatican-brainstormed the moral, political and theological justification for it.
Drinan, Curran and other leftist theologians met with strategists for Robert F. Kennedy's 1964 senate campaign at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, and there hatched a new teaching that abortion was sometimes permissible as "the lesser of two evils," and that "a blanket prohibition might be more harmful to the common good" than allowing some abortions because political leaders might "impose their own private views on public policy. …The skillful operatives of the Kennedy family would round up the votes to end restrictions on abortion and eventually provide public subsidies. The Jesuit theologians would provide protective cover" by subverting Catholic teaching at universities and in Catholic publications. "Thus, the basic lines of 'pro-choice' rhetoric were sketched out by Catholic theologians, at the residence of America's most famous Catholic family, nine years before the Roe v. Wade decision." But again, JFK blazed the trail in Houston when he promised the assembled Protestants he would be a bad Catholic in return for their support.
Wrong On Abortion, Wrong On History
This brings us back to the recent performances of Pelosi and Biden, two alleged Catholics who have gone beyond merely stating their opposition to Church teaching by now presuming to instruct Catholics on the history of that teaching. What they are peddling, naturally, is absolutely false.
Pelosi's teaching moment began on Meet The Press on Aug. 24, when leftist anchor Tom Brokaw sallied forth with the same question that Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback mega church, asked of John McCain and Obama during his chin wag with the candidates. When, Brokaw asked, does life begin?
Answered Mrs. Pelosi: "This is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition … St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose."
Naturally, the Catholic bishops, led by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, corrected Mrs. Pelosi in short order, with more than two dozen later joining the chorus. Biden, apparently, didn't read the newspapers or watch the news that week. When Brokaw asked Biden the same question, the plagiarizing senator unbosomed this bucket of eyewash:
"Look, I know when it begins for me. It's a personal and private issue. … There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal [Edward] Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in 'Summa Theologica,' when Thomas Aquinas wrote 'Summa Theologica,' he said there was no - it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception."
Biden's answer was much longer, venturing around God's good green acre and back, and it's hard to believe the man graduated law school, much less Catholic school. Anyway, he tried to resell Pelosi's falsehood by tossing in the Summa.
The debate to which these two Catholics refer, of course, was the debate over human ensoulment, or when the human being is sufficiently developed to receive a soul from God. On that point alone, they are correct. Early theologians debated ensoulment and offered different answers, but that was long before modern human embryology taught us that life begins at conception and the Church settled the matter dogmatically. But the two politicians conflated, perhaps purposefully, ensoulment and Church teaching on abortion. The first had nothing to do with the second. Abortion was always forbidden, as the teachings of the first-century Didache and those of other church fathers such as Tertullian make clear, and although Pelosi and Biden may still believe 13th-century science, 20th-century embryology only fortified the magisterial teaching that abortion is a moral abomination.
That is what the bishops made clear to Pelosi, and another 55 have made it clear to Biden. But it has been clear since 1974, when the Church issued its "Declaration on Procured Abortion," which states the truth very clearly:
In the course of history, the Fathers of the Church, her Pastors and her Doctors have taught the same doctrine - the various opinions on the infusion of the spiritual soul did not introduce any doubt about the illicitness of abortion. … [I]t was never denied at that time that procured abortion, even during the first days, was objectively grave fault. This condemnation was in fact unanimous" (emphasis added).
Point is, Pelosi could not "have studied [the issue] for a long time," or she could not have come to the palpably false conclusions that Biden repeated just two weeks later. "Church doctors," as she calls them, settled the matter of when life begins decades ago, again, appealing to human embryology, and Catholics are logically and dogmatically enjoined to believe it. So, contrary to Biden's claim, "the Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact."
Many Catholics reject the teaching outright, and many others, like Biden, claim they agree that life begins at conception but can only be "personally opposed." So abortionists and their accomplices have murdered some 50 million unborn children since Roe v. Wade. Again, without Catholic assistance, it never could have happened, and the great shame of it all is that Catholic politicians who once knew better surrendered to the feminist sisterhood. At least Catholic politicians were, at one time, pro-life. Biden was among them. So was liberal Sen. Ted Kennedy, now one of the staunchest backers of murdering the unborn. He offered an eloquent defense of human life when Tom Dennelly of Great Neck, N.Y., a member of the Catholic League For Religious and Religious Rights, wrote to the senator in 1971 asking him to explain his position on abortion. Replied Kennedy:
While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized - the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.
On the question of the individual's freedom of choice there are easily available birth-control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire.
I share the confidence of those who feel that America is willing to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I also share the opinion of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society's problems . …
When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.
The odd thing about this letter is that it was written seven years after Robert Kennedy's leftist Catholic cabal hatched their plot to legalize and subsidize the mass murder of the unborn. Maybe Ted Kennedy hadn't gotten the memo, or maybe some residue of truth remained in his heart and mind. Whatever the case, Lawler's book tracks not just the collapse of the Faith in Massachusetts in general and Boston in particular, but hangs the sophistry that one can personally oppose abortion but accept its legality specifically on the Kennedy's leftist mafia and its dissident torpedoes wearing the Roman collar.
One final point. Pelosi, Biden and the rest of the pro-abortion Catholics are misleading not only the public on Church teaching but also Catholics who don't, but should, know better. Of course, they can deny the magisterial teaching of the church and subsidize murdering the unborn all they want, but they could at least leave theology to the theologians, philosophy to the philosophers and stick what they know best: fleecing the taxpayers.
R. Cort Kirkwood
is the author of
Real Men: Ten Courageous Americans To Know And Admire (Cumberland House).