All faithful Catholics are supposed to be pro-life. That is, we are supposed to follow the commandment "You shall not kill." There are exceptions made for self-defense, including just war and the death penalty, but there is no exception whatsoever for killing the innocent. It's very simple. You just don't kill innocent people ever, for any reason. Would you kill a single innocent person to save the lives of every single other person on earth?
I wouldn't, because that would be an evil thing to do.
Of course this sets Catholics up for a lot of conflict with the rest of the world. Where abortion is concerned, our refusal to make exceptions maddens everyone else. What if the life of the mother is in danger? What if the baby wouldn't live anyway? What if it's only one cell big? What if its father was a rapist?
And we repeat, like a broken record, "No. You must not kill the innocent for any reason whatsoever."
However, abortion isn't the only pro-life issue out there.
When innocent people are killed in the course of war, that is also a grave moral evil. It's bad enough when a non-combatant stumbles into a battlefield and gets killed, completely unforeseeably. That's a tragedy, and should make us rethink the supposed necessity of warfare, but it can't always be helped. However, when it can be foreseen that civilians are going to be in a place, and someone makes the choice to attack that place anyway, that's something more than an accident. It's a disregard for human life that is, to my mind, comparable to using a birth control method that you know to be abortifacient, or driving drunk. You don't mean to kill someone, but you choose to leave yourself open to the possibility of killing them.
I've been calling out Israel a lot lately for doing this very thing. If five civilians had died in their attacks, I would call it an accident. When they have killed over a thousand people and eighty percent of them are non-combatants -- many of them children -- it would be ridiculous to call it an accident. They have decided it is an acceptable level of collateral damage. "Collateral damage," like "pregnancy termination," is a word that is used to paper over the fact that you are committing murder. You have decided that your own goals, whatever they are, are worth more than another person's entire life.
None of this is intended to excuse Hamas. Since its rockets have hardly managed to hit anything at all, they aren't murderers on the same scale, but it seems their intentions are the same. I am not attempting to take sides in this dispute; it's enormously complex and at this point there is no solution that would come close to pleasing everyone. I doubt there will be found any compromise that the sides will both accept. I find this frustrating and depressing. My point is simply that it doesn't matter whether your cause is right or wrong -- if you choose to target non-combatants, you are committing murder and should expect no support from civilized people.
The trouble is, they are receiving support from civilized people.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:
We have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
- by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
- by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
- by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
- by protecting evil-doers.
Many people consider having to pay for someone's birth control is cooperation with evil. I don't think so, because if we merely follow the law, we are not participating voluntarily; and paying an insurance premium is hardly direct either. We don't approve in any way of their using it; we prefer they didn't and we may tell them so. It just happens to be on the list of things their insurance will cover, and so they might -- without our knowledge and consent -- use it.
But you know what is cooperation with evil? Defending and approving the actions of any country -- including our own -- when they target innocents. Saying, "They have no choice" (We always have a choice. Death before sin.) or "Well, perhaps that will make the population stop supporting the enemy" (Targeting civilians in order to frighten them into acceding to our demands is called terrorism.). Petitioning Congress, or supporting a certain candidate, because you know they will send money for Israel's weapons. That is, in my opinion, no less "cafeteria Catholicism" and a violation of the fifth commandment than supporting politicians who favor and fund abortion.
So it just boggles my mind, boggles it all to pieces, that Catholics support this stuff. Do you like Israel and consider it an ally? Then you should all the more call them out when they do wrong, just as you should when your own country does it. I have clearly stated many times that it was morally wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to blitz Dresden, to steal land from Native Americans, to drone civilian areas in the Middle East. And so it says nothing about my support or disapproval of the nation of Israel that I also condemn its behavior.
(Though, for the record, one should be able to criticize the nation of Israel without being called anti-semitic. Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Zionists are Jews.)
Another slightly less grave issue, but one that I also consider part and parcel of being a good Catholic, is immigration. I find it odd to hear slogans like "How could there be too many children? That would be like having too many flowers," and "We always have room for one more!" when it comes to having more babies of our own, but when it's someone else's children that are already born, some people are eager to slam the door. I don't understand it. Children are children; welcoming them and caring for them is what Catholics do.
Now the disaster of having so many come in all at once is difficult to deal with, and it'll take some doing to handle it. But we're going to have to find a way. Ask any Catholic what the sins that cry out to heaven are. They'll tell you (if they've heard of this concept), "Sodomy, uh ... murder .... um ..... " But somehow no one ever remembers that failing to care for foreigners, widows, and orphans is also on the list. (So is failing to pay a just wage -- go figure.) Why these sins, and not others? Because these sins can't be avenged on this earth; they are committed against the weak and vulnerable who can't punish you. Maybe that's why they seems so easy to do. It's easy to scream at a busload of Hispanic children to go back where they came from. They can't do anything to you. That's why it's a cowardly and despicable thing to do.
It does seem that most Catholics understand this, because I haven't heard as much anti-immigration shrieking in my Catholic circles as I used to. The bishops certainly are on my side with this. My personal belief is that broader legal immigration will solve a heck of a lot of problems, including the oppression of farm workers, outsourcing of jobs overseas (you can't have free trade and a closed border and not have that happen), and perhaps even our slow economy. People, after all, are what fuel the economy. Let people come in with their whole families and they'll spend their money here instead of sending it home. Anyway, as a libertarian, I can't see that government has a right to restrict who can apply for a job or rent an apartment here simply to protect current residents from competition. The job of government is just to check everyone over and make sure they're not dangerous criminals. If they're not, let 'em in, I say. We could use more hard workers. There's a good discussion of Catholic political teaching and immigration here -- the entire series is worth reading.
But even if you disagree with me on that, you should agree at least that people ought to be treated like people; that young children are, by definition, innocent and not to be mistreated; that we have a responsibility to the weakest in society; and so forth. And so it seems clear enough to me that sending these kids right back to the violence and chaos they are escaping would be wrong.
Some people would say this whole post is proof that I am a liberal. And you know what? I don't care. A faithful Catholic, if they really take the Church's teaching seriously, is not going to fit into a political party or an ideological camp. We are no one's side, because no one is exactly on our side.
When it comes to how to vote or who to support, we are bound to feel conflicted and end up compromising one way or another in the hopes of getting at least something. But on actual issues, don't be deceived: you can't slavishly stick to a party line and also cleave faithfully to the Church's teaching. You're going to have to offend pretty much everyone once in awhile. That's what abiding to an unshakeable moral code is all about.