AMAC Exclusive – David P. Deavel
The recent leak of Justice Alito’s drafted opinion overturning Roe v. Wade has not only exposed the hollowness of the American Democratic Party’s pretended commitment to “norms” (Joe Biden won’t even condemn the leak or the doxing of the Justices’ home addresses) and “democracy” (the end of Roe means that abortion supporters actually have to argue to voters why the killing of innocent human life in the womb should be allowed). It has also exposed yet again how although Catholic teaching on this topic—which follows the actual science—has not changed, the situation New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has referred to as “the truce” still obtains in American Catholic life. For the good of both Catholic life and American life, this truce must end at some point.
What is this truce? Douthat described it in a 2016 essay as a kind of unstated and unofficial agreement of Catholic bishops to continue to officially uphold Catholic doctrines and the natural law in public while often tolerating “disagreement, relativism, and dissent” in “the everyday life of Catholicism.” This situation, ongoing since the late 1960s, has meant that, though there are many thriving and vibrant Catholic parishes, even some ordinary parishes bear the marks of trendy social thinking. Much worse, many Catholic educational and charitable institutions function effectively as secular liberal strongholds. Apart from some excellent and thriving colleges and universities such as the University of Dallas, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Belmont Abbey College, and the University of Mary in North Dakota, Catholic higher education institutions are by-and-large de facto secular and even anti-Catholic even if they sprinkle a bit of Catholic language about “human dignity” and “the common good” over their products and have “offices of institutional mission” on campus.
In an article in the Jesuit periodical America asking whether colleges and universities that no longer have members of the religious orders that founded them even present, one vice president of mission at a small college founded by Dominican sisters reflects on the questions at the heart of the “expression of the mission and Dominican Catholic identity of the institution.” “What does it mean to work with faculty to center justice, antiracism, and culturally responsive education? What does it mean to center, for the whole college, a culturally responsive ministry? What does it mean to be an inclusive college environment that is welcoming and serving of all students, particularly historically underrepresented students?”
Nothing about Jesus. Nothing about his Church or her teachings about faith and morals that are meant to illumine human existence. This academic bureaucrat’s notion of “Dominican Catholic identity” has nothing to do with either St. Dominic or the Catholic tradition. It is pretty much identical to every other critical race theory-inflected mission at secular colleges.
And you can bet that the “justice” and “inclusiveness” doesn’t reach to children of any color in the womb. A search of that college’s website finds only one reference to “pro-life” in a news article about an athlete who was part of the pro-life club—at her high school.
One might think that Catholic universities and the orders that founded them would say something about the possibility that the youngest humans might now be protected in law. But almost all of the biggest ones and most of the smaller ones have nothing to say about it. They are happy to pontificate on race and “gender” but not on the evils of abortion. Likely because most of their own administration and faculty don’t think it is an evil.
Georgetown University, founded by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the oldest Catholic higher educational institution in the United States, has for many years claimed the title Catholic even though it now functions largely as a leftist citadel whose professors can publicly wish for the violent death of Brett Kavanaugh supporters and express desire to castrate the corpses and feed them to swine with little repercussion. A search of its website and the social media feeds for its law school indicate no word at all on this momentous leak. On May 2, the day the opinion was leaked, Georgetown’s Twitter feed highlighted the school’s Lavender graduation ceremony for “LGBTQ and ally undergraduate and graduate students.”
The Jesuits themselves, an order of priests that long ago went woke and whose numbers have been cratering, have said nothing on their websites or social media feeds. One bright spot, however, is that a youngish Jesuit priest named Sam Sawyer published an article in America celebrating the decision and unambiguously affirming the justice of protecting unborn human life. Though the article is not perfect (its “explanation” of why Americans who support abortion might be distrustful of this decision is filled with a great many one-sided left-wing political talking points), it at least affirms the truth about abortion.
Would that the order itself (which famously allowed the pro-abortion Massachusetts Congressman Robert Drinan to remain in the order despite his voting record) or any of its 28 colleges could get to that point.
Yet it’s not just the Jesuits or their institutions. It’s a great many Catholic institutions from universities to grade schools to charities in which being pro-life (among other things Catholic) is merely tolerated and not celebrated since those who have charge of things are quite often not pro-life themselves.
Catholic bishops have by-and-large abdicated their duties with regard to politicians who vote over and over for pro-abortion policies (among other things taught as grave evils by the Church). One might forgive them for not taking more action since Pope Francis seems averse to holding politicians accountable for their behavior. But with regard to Catholic institutions themselves, they have the capacity to stop the truce. When supposedly Catholic institutions do not have the integrity to make hiring and policy decisions that reflect a truly Catholic institution, bishops can deny them the right to call themselves Catholic.
I became a Catholic twenty-five years ago this month, and I’ve found that many American Christians, even if they do not agree with Catholics enough to become one, respect the Catholic Church for her consistent teaching and her witness and look to her for partnership and even leadership in promoting the kind of society that they want to live in.
When Catholic institutional walk doesn’t match Catholic moral talk, they are less inclined to join her in worshiping Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. They are also saddened that America is losing a potent force for making this country great. They don’t want the Church to make a truce. They want her and all her institutions to fight for what is right and good.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast. Follow him on GETTR @davidpdeavel.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now