Smart, Well-informed Pro-life Catholics Chose Clinton?

I’m a smart, well-informed Catholic who is pro-life, and I didn’t choose Hillary Clinton for President.

But I know other smart, well-informed Catholics who believe they also are pro-life who did choose Clinton.

Many of them align with the “New Pro-Life Movement” that has caused a minor fracas of late. Let’s dive into this intriguing situation.

Clinton’s Catholic Coup

Something happened this election that I had never seen before: a few Catholic friends of mine voted for someone radically opposed to the Catholic Faith on countless issues.

But for Malta, Doug?
But for Malta, Doug?

Sure, lots of Catholics in general voted for Obama four and eight years ago. (And you even had Catholics like Doug Kmiec who toed the line for the Democrats.)

But these were not the practicing, orthodox Catholics in my circles. They were the confused Catholics. They were the heterodox ones.

In this election, practicing Catholics who have sought to follow the Church’s teachings nonetheless voted for Clinton, an enemy of the Church if there ever were one, and these Catholics, like Simcha Fisher, claimed that doing so was the most pro-life thing to do.

Was this some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome?

I’ve dug into the rationale for why these Catholics voted for Clinton, and I can understand their thought process, even if I don’t agree with it.

Trump might drop atomic bombs or destabilize regions, causing wars and hundred of thousands of deaths. (I myself even told one Catholic friend before the primaries that Trump might drop atomic bombs on people, he was such a chaotic unknown.)

Trump is not really pro-life.

Trump is not a virtuous man.

In fact, before the primaries I urged Catholics to vote for Cruz or Rubio over Trump, because of these very fears!

And yet, he became the Republican party’s candidate. And he faced off against Clinton in the election.

For me, this was real simple: with Clinton as President, attacks on the Church and on life would assuredly be increased.

With Trump as President, the Church would have a decent chance of getting a reprieve and the the pro-life movement get closer to success.

Voting for Clinton was unsupportable.

It’s quite simple: if Clinton were elected President, Catholics would have zero influence or sway over her policies. With Trump as President, Catholics can have great influence of him.

He’s not ideologically opposed to the Catholic Church, unlike Clinton. So voting for Trump or third-party was reasonable.

So Why Would a Catholic Vote Clinton?

Simcha Fisher wrote that, during Obama’s terms:

The pro-life movement was tremendously energized. Dozens and dozens of pro-life laws have been passed.

Hmm, sin should increase so that grace may increase? Leaving that aside, yes indeed the pro-life movement was energized. I know all about that as I live in Texas and fought to get HB2 passed. It did pass, and abortion clinics across the state shut down! Glorious victory.

Little Sisters of the Poor
Little Sisters of the Poor

Until of course it got appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and then was struck down by the liberal activist Supreme Court Justices.

All that work. All that success in protecting innocent human life, demolished by liberal activist Justices, ones that Clinton would continue appointing.

For this and several other reasons given (e.g. she claims that Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland would have been a good candidate for Supreme Court Justice) I find Fisher’s pro-life arguments to be lacking. Supreme Court Justices matter, as do the lower courts judges, and with Obama and Clinton, these are all opposed to protecting the sanctity of human life.

With Trump you actually have a proposed selection of possible appointees, any of whom would be better than someone Clinton would appoint. His own pro-life credentials are paper thin, but in an area like this where he doesn’t really care that much, he can be influenced in a good direction. Think you could influence Clinton? Not a chance.

I have spoken with a few other Catholics who think similarly to Fisher. One said that “Roe v. Wade will never be overturned.” Quite despairing! Maybe it won’t be, but imagine if the abolitionists of the 1800s said that slavery would never be outlawed? That despairing stance is unacceptable. We fight for justice and leave the results in God’s hands. We don’t give up. This is what it means to be pro-life.

There’s an erroneous sentiment in this camp that Republicans have played pro-lifers for fools for decades and have done “nothing” for the movement. That claim sounds attractive but is false, as any number of examples show. Choose Texas and I’ll give you five off the top of my head in the past decade alone.

The New Pro-Life Movement

Many of these Catholics who went toward Clinton in the last election started a “new” pro-life movement to offer an alternative to the current pro-life movement. The new pro-lifers find the current movement’s singular focus on abortion to be too narrow and also not fully aligned with Catholic social teaching.

Matthew Tyson, one of the supporters of this movement, writes:

But here is the truth of the matter that all of us in the pro-life movement need to accept: fighting abortion in the courts will never play out in our favor. It is not a proper means to an end because this issue is significantly more complex than we realize.

If we want to effectively end abortion, we need to stop focusing on where and how, and start focusing on why. What drives a woman to abort her child in the first place and what can we do to alleviate it?

Tyson presents an either-or choice, which in this case is an error because the solution is both-and: we both fight against abortion in the courts and we work to eliminate the factors that lead a woman to choose abortion.

Another of proponents of the new pro-life movement, Rebecca Bratten Weiss, wrote:

If one believes strongly in the right of women to equality and autonomy, but also in the fundamental right to life of the unborn human, neither the existing pro-choice movement nor the existing pro-life movement is sufficient. Ironically, pro-choice advocates are often the ones who offer solutions for women in difficult situations. Meanwhile, many pro-life advocates say “choose life!”—but make it difficult for women to do so.

Well, neither is sufficient perhaps but the pro-choice movement is diametrically opposed to one of her principles–the fundamental right to life of the unborn human–whereas the pro-life movement also believes in women’s equality.

Pro-life solutions
Pro-life solutions

Further, her claim that the pro-choice advocates are the ones offering solutions for women in difficult situations is inaccurate. A crisis pregnancy is a difficult situation. Yet, the one solution offered to this situation by pro-choice advocates is abortion.

Pro-lifers, on the other hand, offer housing, support, prenatal care, and options to the mother for keeping her baby or finding a family to adopt her baby. I never see pro-choicers offering these solutions. So again, the tone of these new pro-lifers rings hollow.

What these new pro-lifers don’t recognize is that that current pro-lifers already do work to eliminate these factors leading to abortion. They already do support women in need, women in crisis pregnancies, women before and after having a baby, before and after having an abortion.

The current pro-lifers already do this by:

For these reasons the people in the existing pro-life movement are unimpressed by the new pro-lifers. Austin Ruse wrote an article that, exasperated at the ungrateful temerity of the new pro-lifers, points out various errors in their claims and uncovers their main beef:

The real crime of the “old guard” [existing pro-lifers] is they went where they found a political home and that is the Republican Party and the Republican Party has not been perfect. Pro-lifers have had to fight to maintain our policy dominance in the party and some presidents have let us down in Supreme Court picks.

When you have two main options: one party, the Democrats, that wants to stomp on you at every turn, and one, the Republicans, that you can influence and that supports some of your most important principles, of course you go with the latter, even if they are far from perfect.

The new pro-lifers have concerns that expand to other areas however, including issues like euthanasia, women’s equality, “gun violence,” poverty, and the death penalty.

Most of this is well-trodden, “seamless garment”-type ground. Again, nothing new to pro-lifers, many of whom work to fight poverty, support women, and so on. (Some of their bullet points on gun violence and death penalty are off-base in the usual ways, but this is a small distraction to the greater issue we are dealing with here.)

Bottom line: it is laudable to want to widen the focus of the pro-life movement, but doing so in spite of the pro-life movement, rather than working within it, shows an appalling lack of gratitude that strikes pro-lifers in the trenches as farcical at best and rudely ignorant at worst.

I’m Smart and Well-Informed

Back to the Trump vs. Clinton election result in general.

Scott Adams has a trenchant analysis of the cognitive dissonance that has struck the educated classes after Trump’s shocking victory.

scott-adams-with-dilbertSmart and well-informed people “know” that Trump is a monster, so people who voted for him must prefer a monster!

I’ve witnessed an effect among educated people that, even if they weren’t going to support Clinton, and even if they secretly voted for Trump, they would never admit that they did. Voting for Trump was for unenlightened people, uneducated people.

Those of us Catholics who style ourselves as smart and well-informed and who run in such circles even among non-Catholics were not immune from this strong influence: we don’t want to be the odd man out among our friends, our colleagues, our classmates. I know I didn’t want to be.

All my criticisms of Trump from before the primaries still stand. I find many aspects of his personal life objectionable. He’s a business showman and TV personality. I would have chosen a hundred other people I’d prefer to be President of our country.

And so I understand why these Catholics voted against him. I see how they came to the conclusion that Clinton was actually the better pro-life option. But I disagree completely. There is no possible world where Clinton is the most pro-life option.

Trump is shortly to be the President now. And the Church has been given a reprieve. We now need to make the most of it by letting our voice be heard: demanding HHS Mandate immediately to stop the attacks on the consciences of Catholics would be a great start; demanding Trump appoint a pro-life, Constitution defending Justice to the Supreme Court would be another necessary step.

This election revealed more divides within the ranks of Catholics in the United States. Those divides are not going away any time soon. Their roots are deep and the blame for them resides within our own house. We can and must work on healing those divisions, of evangelizing, catechizing, converting and reconverting, starting with ourselves. But we can all agree that we want our country to promote the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death.

Let’s join together with those noble goals and move forward.

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13 thoughts on “Smart, Well-informed Pro-life Catholics Chose Clinton?”

  1. Devin,

    As always, I appreciate your attempt to be balanced in your disagreements and fair in your characterizations.

    I was the respect life director for Bishop Slattery in Tulsa. I worked with many pro-life groups who did fantastic work. Even so, I align with the New Pro-Life movement.

    I did not vote for Clinton, neither did I vote for Trump. Like the abolitionists of old, I recognized that neither party in our two-party system was aligned with the values and goals of our movement or our Faith.

    Certainly, republicans have done valiant work to advance the agenda of ending abortion (at the state level), but I don’t know of any who have addressed a living wage or maternity leave, which would take an immense amount of pressure off of abortion-vulnerable women.

    And again, the progress that has been made by republicans stops at the state level. The house and senate can’t even pass a 20 week abortion ban, when our liberal neighbors in Europe don’t allow abortion after 12 weeks.

    I don’t speak for The New Pro-Life Movement, but I’ve spoke *with* them on numerous occasions. I would guess that they define the “old guards much like they define the “Republican Party,” as national figureheads and not the folks in the trenches. Folks like Father Pavone who have gotten so focused on the end goal that he used immoral means to achieve it, by exploiting human remains and desecrating an altar (his bishop’s words, not mine).

    I don’t imagine that any in the New Pro-Life Movement would be opposed to maternity homes and St. Vincent de Paul centers. But the hyper focus by self-proclaimed leaders on overturning Roe is troubling. Specifically since, at best, overturning Roe would return the decision to the states, and only bring an end to abortion is highly conservative states.

    More must be done, as you have said – in conjunction, to address the causes that women seek abortion.

    Thank you for your fair assessment. Don’t give up on us yet, I think the New Pro-Life Movement has considerable contributions to make.

  2. One good thing about this “New Pro-Life Movement”, all the bad Catholics are outing themselves. Thus making it easier to discern who to stop reading.

    God is Good!

    1. I align with the NPLM. Do you think I am a “bad Catholic”? By what authority to you make that judgement of me?

  3. Kind of a weasel move to block Simcha from your website before misrepresenting her argument. Expect nothing less from you jokers.

    1. Damien,

      I did not block Simcha from my website. In fact, there’s no way to do such a thing even if I wanted to, which I did not.

      More likely the cause was simply my website running slowly and timing out for a while.

      So you attribute malice to me when there was none.

      You accuse me of misrepresenting her argument but don’t explain how I misrepresented it. I did not intend to misrepresent it, again, no malice, so please tell me what her argument really is and how I misrepresented it.

    2. No reply to devin’s cogent answer, eh, Damien? You seem to troll comments pretty well. Step up, boy. But we don’t expect it of you.

    3. To expand a bit further, your wife sent the screenshot of the error, and it was a simple timeout of the website. I recently migrated my blog to my own server, and apparently it doesn’t do very well under moderate traffic.

      To actually block a person from reading a website is almost impossible. While one could block an IP address if one knew which it was, consider that a person could go to a website from their phone on a cellular network, from a friend’s computer, from an internet cafe, or a work computer.

      I am happy to have Simcha read the post and would have tagged her with it on facebook, but I know some people don’t like to be tagged, and so out of consideration I didn’t tag her (or the other writers whose posts I linked to), knowing that she would be alerted to the post from her many friends and mutual friends between us.

  4. Devin, you are reasoned, cogent, charitable. Right on the money. Thank you so much for putting this together so well.

  5. For me, the issue is less about Clinton and more about the clear moral failure and colossally bad judgment of the old pro-life movement (at least its leaders) in regard to Trump. I don’t want to associate with them, and that’s led me to consider the new pro-life movement and what it has to say, and it’s resonating with me. (I voted for McMullin, by the way.)

    When given the chance to do something that passes for courage, the leaders of the old pro-life movement declined. They could have stated the obvious: that neither candidate was acceptable. Instead, they endorsed Trump, and generally speaking they remained silent when he expressed racist and sexist sentiments, posted tweets with anti-Semitic imagery, and all sorts of other things that should have disqualified him a long time ago, as those things displayed beyond any question that he is not a man of good will.

    Then Fr. Pavone did his stunt with the aborted fetus, and for what cause? VOTING FOR TRUMP. A secular cause, not a religious one. How empty. How sad. How transparently desperate.

    And now that Trump has won, they have not spoken out as the racist alt-right trumpets Trump and racist and sexist actions have spiked. This was a time to show courage, and still we didn’t get it.

    Now, because of their lack of courage and moral integrity, the old pro-life movement is beholden to a man who doesn’t care for it. And when (not if) Trump fails, the pro-life movement will for a long time be tarnished by its unrequited loyalty to him, and all of us pro-lifers and the unborn we want to protect will suffer the consequences.

  6. I am with you on this Devin.

    While I have sympathy for the new pro-life movement’s issues, I think they are making several huge strategic errors.

    First, the Supreme Court has immense power. It created this issue in the first place. They may or may not ever remove it, but they certainly can make it far worse or greatly lessened. Because of the existing opening and ages of several others, the choices made by the next president will be with us for a very, very long time. Our choice of president could not be more clear on this point — it is night and day.

    Second, issues are not of equal weight. Life and religious liberty must be placed ahead of others. To argue the importance of issues which are really matters of prudential judgment above these non-negotiables is simply wrong.

    Third, it seems to me that just when the pro-life movement has finally gained traction and we are finally in a position to make real change, we are at risk of being split. It is the classic snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

    Maybe it is just me, but the NPLM feels like a lot of spin to justify working against the strong path. I just can’t fathom how one can rationally see Hillary as anything other than the radical pro-abortion person she claims to be (and well supported by every position she has taken).

  7. Well said Devin.

    I am not a US citizen, and I live in another country, but, as a pro-lifer, I have watched this US election with great interest – especially the debate that has arisen regarding the issue of abortion.

    I am currently working on a video for my YouTube channel ( http://www.watchLFM.com ) about this issue as I see a lot of problems manifesting themselves in this latest attempt to divide the pro-life movement into the ‘new’ and ‘old’ (not least of which is the totally unnecessary division!)

    One of the great ironies here is that the new pro-life movement is actually proposing a less effective and more politicised pro-life movement than we’ve ever had before.

    By suggesting that being pro-life entails an acceptance of a whole list of other political polices, AS WELL AS opposition to abortion, they are effectively politicising the movement (and in doing so, they’re doing the exact same thing as they accuse Republican-voting pro-lifers of doing, just in a left leaning direction.)

    They are also severely narrowing the scope of potential people who can join them in the trenches.

    At the moment, ANYONE who is opposed to abortion, or wants to see less of it taking place, can be part of the pro-life movement – regardless of their politics, religious beliefs, positions on other issues, etc.

    But by proposing a pro-life movement that is so multi-issue in focus, they are actually closing doors, rather than opening them, to potential supporters of the cause.

    The reason the Civil Rights movement, and the slavery abolition movement, and the anti-death penalty movement are so coherent and have been so effective in their efforts is because they haven’t asked people to embrace a uniform position on a whole slew of different political and moral issues – they have simply said, ‘if you’re with us on preventing this one over-arching act of injustice, then that’s all that matters.’

    In doing so they have created a movement that ANYONE can join, regardless of race, creed, region, politics, or personal views on other issues.

    One of the major strengths of the ‘old pro-life movement’ is it’s diversity of representation. We have religious pro-lifers, we have atheist pro-lifers, we have agnostic pro-lifers, we have right-leaning pro-lifers, we have left-leaning pro-lifers, we have centrist pro-lifers, we have libertarian pro-lifers, we have traditional marriage supporting pro-lifers, we have gay and lesbian pro-lifers, we have feminist pro-lifers, we have people who are antithetical to feminism who are pro-lifers, we have pro-death penalty pro-lifers, we have anti-death penalty pro-lifers, we have Trump supporting pro-lifers, we have Clinton supporting pro-lifers, we have ‘tough on immigration’ pro-lifers, we have ‘lenient on immigration’ pro-lifers, etc, etc, etc.

    But make no mistake, all of this will have to change if we start embarking down the path that is being proposed by the ‘new pro-lifers’ – huge swathes of people who currently make up the pro-life movement and are faithfully toiling in the trenches doing the unglamorous and socially unpopular (yet absolutely vital work) will simply be purged from the movement in some sort of Faustian pact to try and make the pro-life movement more palatable and popular.

    I can’t see any scenario in which that advances the cause, or even ends well for the unborn – because, if you’re living in a culture of death, and your pro-life activism doesn’t cost you anything and starts to become popular, then there’s a good chance it is no longer the prophetic voice, or the very activism that your culture desperately needs to experience.

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