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The Cardinal Interviewed

Cardinal O’Malley, interviewed by Michael Paulson:

When I was in high school (in Ohio) I joined the NAACP and did voter registration in black neighborhoods, when I wasn’t old enough to vote myself. And I was there at Resurrection City after Martin Luther King was murdered, and living in the mud with thousands of people on the lawn of the Lincoln Memorial and having off-duty redneck policemen throwing canisters of tear gas at us and shouting obscenities. So, to me, the election of an Afro-American is like the Berlin Wall falling. I mean, for my generation, I suppose young people today can’t appreciate that, but to me it is something very big.
My joy, however, is tempered by the knowledge that this man has a deplorable record when it comes to prolife issues and is possibly in the pocket of Planned Parenthood which in its origins was a very racist organization to eliminate the blacks, and it’s sort of ironic that he’s been co-opted by them. However, he is the president, and everyone wishes him well, and we will try to work with him. However, I hope he realizes that his election was not a mandate to rush ahead with a pro-abortion platform. And the fact that in states like Florida and California, where he won, the referendums on marriage showed that the people who were more socially conservative voted for him, but voted for him for other reasons than for issues like this.
Q: There’s been a lot of conversation about whether there’s another strategy on abortion, whether trying to reduce the number would be more effective at this point. What do you think about that idea?
A: We’re always for reducing the number. But we cannot turn our back on the obligation to work for just laws that protect human life, from the first moment of conception until natural death. So obviously we want to do all that we can to reduce the number of abortions, but as long as those unjust laws are on the book, human life is threatened. Now they’re talking about pushing this FOCA, which doesn’t sound to me like it’s going to try and reduce abortions, but simply make them much more accessible to people, and pay for them, at home and abroad. So we must work diligently and tirelessly to change the laws, and work diligently and tirelessly to change people’s hearts, so that there’s a greater realization of the seriousness of this, and how our humanity is diminished when we are not respectful of human life.
Q: Is there anything you would like to see the conference do? Is there some action that you think should be taken?
A: I would just like to see us have a united voice, and a strong response, one that will reinforce that there’s no new way of being prolife, and that we must work on both tracks, trying to reduce the number of abortions and trying to change the laws.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 10:32 am

It would have been nice if he could have avoided using the term “redneck.”

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posted November 11, 2008 at 10:55 am

Cardinal O’Mally voices deep concerns about President elect Obama’s deplorable record on prolife issues. That’s good to hear. He goes on to say,
“So we must work diligently and tirelessly to change the laws, and work diligently and tirelessly to change people’s hearts, so that there’s a greater realization of the seriousness of this, and how our humanity is diminished when we are not respectful of human life.”
I believe it would be in the best interest of the Lord’s Sheperd’s to petition from on High Heavenly wisdom to help them instruct the faithful on the seriousness of murdering little children in the womb. For instance, a politician voting constantly compromising his catholic faith and voting for infanticide, will be automatically excommunicated and cut off from his/her Catholic parish family. In addition, the Bishops must first privately point out to these misguided men/women that, though a vote supporting this baby killing will gain them some temporary secular profit among men and worldly esteem, they will also run the risk of losing their very soul to eternal damnation. As to the catholic laity who votes for such politicians for more or less the same reasons, it would be encumbant upon the Sheperds of the Lord to point out that by participating in this infanticide a catholic man or woman may spend decades in purgatory to satisfy the Divine justice for those Innocent children whose very blood cries out to God from the earth for justice. In other words, when that catholic man or woman went into the voting booth, they had an opportunity to help defend children, as our Lord Jesus did when he said, “suffer not the little children to come unto me.” The Bishops must be courageous as St. John the Baptist was; they must be willing to lose their heads (and tax exempt status!!) and be the voice of Jesus as their apostolic calling requires them to be.

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Marcel LeJeune

posted November 11, 2008 at 12:35 pm

“there’s no new way of being prolife” is the heart of his comments.
This is true. Those who are trying to re-define the pro-life movement need to be careful in what they are attempting to do. If they ignore an integral part of being pro-life (e.g., fighting unjust laws and policies) then they are emptying faith from the public square.

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Glenn Juday

posted November 12, 2008 at 1:32 am

In tone, sensibility, cultural context, aesthetic , I find the first response to be deeply ….
Democratic (as in Party).
Nothing particularly wrong with that I guess, because he kept his Catholic Faith.
But it’s striking, just striking, how easy it would be for his confreres of the same culture who went just a bit lukewarm or even wobbly, to end up … spiritually not at all in the same place.

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posted November 12, 2008 at 7:48 am

If there is “no new way of being pro-life” then that is a sad, sad state for all of us.
Our Catholic Church is made up of both Scripture and Tradition, and Tradition while not subject to whims and trends DOES in fact open to new ways of understanding and practicing our faith. See the Immaculate Conception.
We MUST envision an “new” way of being pro-life. That does not have to mean we let go of the dedication to current Pro-Life beliefs!! We don’t avoid focusing on the babies, the laws or the policies.
It means we add to it elements that are possibly missing, or that are not getting enough attention. We revisit the way WE, as Pro-Life advocates, work to get our message across.
We cannot be afraid of the word “new” – it is part of God’s creation. Each day is new. Newness, freshness, invigorating the message and the messengers – this is imperative for our Pro-Life movement.

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posted November 12, 2008 at 8:40 am

In the public mind much of the debate has been reduced to sound bites and name calling. Pro-lifers need some kind of popular media event to bring the facts together in a way that will provoke people to think and look at the facts- we need a movie about abortion like “An Inconvenient Truth” or “Farenheit 911″ that would be seen by large numbers of people. Pro-lifers calling people “baby-killers” and “murderers” reminds me of when the pacifist radicals said the same thing about the military in the sixties, and has about as much value in creating change.

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Sr. Lorraine

posted November 12, 2008 at 9:55 am

I’m happy to hear Cardinal O’Malley speak of Obama’s “deplorable” abortion-promoting record.
I’m not so happy that he’s speaking about it now, after the election.
Very few bishops spoke out clearly about the issue during the campaign. Some did and they deserve credit. I wish more had done so.

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posted November 12, 2008 at 12:29 pm

The good Cardinal is correct; there’s no new way of being pro-life but their are still millions of Catholics who pay only lip-service to the movement.
A couple hundred bishops are not going to bring an end to abortion in this country. This is a job tailor-made for the laity, and I’m as guilty as anyone of spouting off about abortion only when an election rolls around.
Our timing is suspect and the Democrats see through it. We’ve all been desensitized by the horror of abortion. Out of sight, out of mind…

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James Kabala

posted November 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm

The comments at the original post are pretty depressing. I liked the one from Elladomella, though. I also have to wonder about the thought processes of a guy who attacks the Church under the nom de pixel “Jack Chrysostom.”

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Marcel LeJeune

posted November 12, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Cindy – I think what he is saying, at least in my understanding, is that we can’t leave behind core principles in advancing the pro-life movement.
I could be wrong.

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Karen LH

posted November 12, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Pro-lifers need some kind of popular media event to bring the facts together in a way that will provoke people to think and look at the facts
Not a media event, but a long-term effort to win over the average “Joe Sixpack” pro-choicer. Forget NARAL and NOW and the rest: win him and you’ve won it all.
And start by trying to understand where his head is at: He’s not pro-choice because he hates babies. He’s pro-choice because the MSM is pro-choice, the entertainment is pro-choice … because it’s just in the air. He probably doesn’t really know what happens in an abortion, or much about prenatal development. He knows that it’s scary to be pregnant when you don’t want to be. And he’s not comfortable telling someone else what to do.

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posted November 13, 2008 at 8:45 am

If the key core principle of the pro-life movement is that abortion should not be legal, then most words and efforts of the movement will probably be directed toward that end, as seems to have been the case for many years now.
But, of course, on the day that end is realized, the workload of the pro-life movement will not be lightened at all.
Changing the law is only preliminary to effectively addressing practices which have previously been legal and which have roots feeding from much of the soil of our culture. The law can’t be changed to make it 1950 again.
It may be tempting to settle for pro-life sloganeering, tossed against pro-choice sloganeering, with a hearty “Rah, rah, rah for our side!” or two thrown in for good measure, particularly at election time.
But that has not been seen to settle or solve much up to now. The real work does seem to be in the trenches of our culture.
Vital, creative ideas are needed here, as are those who will work to carry them out. We desperately need to think way outside the box of the familiar pro-life vs. pro-choice battle of slogans, cheers and boos.

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posted November 13, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Cindy, in addition to what Marcel said, I also think he might be saying that there aren’t “new” ways to be pro-life meaning, you can’t say you are going to decrease the numbers of abortion by actually promoting it (via FOCA, etc…).

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Mike L

posted November 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm

It has been my observation over the past half-century that making a particular action illegal does little to stop that action. It is illegal to drink and drive, yet how many people have a couple of beers on the way home? Addictive drug usage is illegal, and we are spending millions if not billions of dollars every year to enforce those laws, yet drug usage (and driving) is still pretty common.
Take a look at how effective prohibition was!
Making abortion illegal will not stop abortions unless we remove the social, financial, and psychological pressures that promote abortions. I understand Gov. Palin shut down facilities where unwed mothers could find refuge and have their babies. I do NOT consider this a pro-life action.
Perhaps each of us should take a hard look at our diocese and see what physical and financial support is available to help women who might, given some support, refuse to abort. I am sure there are some facilities, but I suspect that they are few and far between, and when found they will most likely exist because of a government grant.
How many pro-fife people are willing to take a pregnant college girl into they home and support her so that she can both have the baby and continue her education? How many have done so? I have heard of it happening, but I have never known personally of such a case.
Opening our doors and our wallets could reduce the number of abortions dramatically. When the pressure to abort is removed, then the people of this country will move to make it illegal. If the pressures to abort are not removed, then I think we are wasting a lot of money to pass laws that will either never be passed, or if passed, ignored.
Mike L

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posted November 13, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Gov Palin DID NOT shut down facilities where unwed mothers could find refuge and have their babies. I do NOT consider this a pro-life action. During the budget process, the funding for such facilities was to increase by something like 20%and she cut the increase of funding to be only a 10% increase. Still an increase of funding but not as much as some wanted.

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posted November 14, 2008 at 8:28 am

“I understand Gov. Palin shut down facilities where unwed mothers could find refuge and have their babies.”
You must have got this from the Democratic Underground website or As Katerine says – this is false.

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Mike Petrik

posted November 14, 2008 at 9:55 am

Mike L:
So the civil rights laws were ineffective? They didn’t alter behavior?
And do you honestly think that we wouldn’t have more — a lot more — drinking and driving it was legal? Seriously?

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posted November 14, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Maybe what we really need to do is preach not getting pregnant in the first place.

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posted November 14, 2008 at 5:07 pm

It seems to me that the discussions in other threads of Catholic identity, “marketing” analogies, and all the comments here, need to converge somehow.
The Catholic “brand” (for want of a better term) ought to be instantly and universally known for certain things. The Truth, of course, in and out of season. Reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ. But also the corporal works of mercy for which the medieval Church was responsible. Hospitals, shelters, schools, etc., are the Church’s invention and she should reclaim them as hers. The battle for life must be fought on both fronts, the legal and the social.
First, that means that a random non-Catholic ought to know that expectant mothers in need can always go any Catholic Church and receive help that is better and more consistent than what the gummint gives.
That’s going to require that Catholics give more generously to make it happen. It’s also going to require that the “peace and justice” crowd concentrate on providing these things through the Church and not insist to everyone that it’s really Caesar’s duty. It’s also going to require that Catholic organizations deploy the donations wisely, not in secular left politics (cf. CHD & ACORN).
Second, that means doing these works of mercy as a distinctively Catholic mission. It seems to me that too many Catholic-branded charities have gone all PC and act ashamed of their religious basis, even act in opposition to Catholic truth. We need to ensure that Catholic hospitals and agencies provide care in accord with Catholic beliefs, and without overlooking opportunities to associate works of mercy with the Gospel (cf. the Salvation Army — if you go to a SA shelter, it’s understood you’re going to be immersed in SA’s message and mission). Catholic charities shouldn’t be afraid to invite people to get to know Jesus.

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posted November 14, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I’m not suggesting that we leave aside our core principles of Pro-Life. Nor do I suggest that we change direction or support Pro-Abortion stances.
I do have a problem if WE in the Pro-Life movement base our energies on the idea that THEY have to change and we don’t.
WE, the Christians who are Pro-Life, have got to find new ways of carrying this message and advocating.
WE have to be the ones to use Christian virtue and Christian principles in our efforts. And we have to LIVE these, not just talk about them.
WE have to be the ones who make this a living priority.
We have (hopefully) learned we can’t fight murder with murder. Well, we can’t fight hatred with hatred either.
We can only fight hatred with love. I believe that is the word of God.

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posted November 14, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Mike L says “It has been my observation over the past half-century that making a particular action illegal does little to stop that action. …Take a look at how effective prohibition was!”
Actually, Mike L, if you look at the numbers, you would find that alcohol consumption DID decrease substantially during prohibition.
Prohibition was a bad idea for 2 reasons: 1) it spawned organized crime; and 2) people decided that alcohol consumption was OK.
Prohibition was not a bad idea because it failed to reduce alcohol consumption. It did reduce that consumption.
Mike L also says “Opening our doors and our wallets could reduce the number of abortions dramatically. When the pressure to abort is removed, then the people of this country will move to make it illegal.”
Sorry to say, but wrong again, Mike L. Look at the % of mothers who abort for any economic reason. Very low. Like 20%. Abortions ocurr for a variety of reasons but very rarely because mothers can’t feed or house themselves.
I do agree that helping people in trouble is very important, but it won’t do much at all to reduce abortions.
And many of us have taken in children from college girls who find themselves pregnant. One of those children is sleeping about 30 feet from me.

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posted November 16, 2008 at 9:43 am

“Redneck” is in its origins a slur used by white people with indoor — and thus relatively high status — jobs against poor people who worked on the land, thus in the sun, raising food. The Cardinal is insensitive.

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