Archbishop Timothy Broglio and Bishop Michael Burbidge recently wrote to the senators and congressmen to protest a Department of Defense directive on “Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care,” a euphemism hiding the ambition to turn VA hospitals into abortion abattoirs.
The directive “inserts elective abortion into the health benefits package for veterans and dependents,” the bishops reminded the legislators, “despite Congress’s express command that VA health programs not include the taking of preborn human life.”
The careful letter of the two prelates, one who is the Archbishop for the Military Services as well as being president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the other a Bishop of Arlington, near the capital itself, attacks the absurd idea that “military readiness…require[s] the intentional destruction of innocent preborn children” and the inconsistency of the directive with Defense Department protocol that “requires junior service members to seek counsel within the chain of command and chaplaincy…before undertaking important life decisions, such as entering into a marriage in many cases, or even renting an apartment.”
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In two sentences of more dramatic rhetoric (entirely appropriate) the prelates say, “Our heroes are in need of authentic health care. Responding by turning veterans’ hospitals into illegal abortion providers is unconscionable.”
The letter is a valuable statement of principle. I wonder at two things, however. One is the lack of outrage among Catholics at this attempt by the Biden administration to promote abortion through the beleaguered system of medical attention for veterans. As if the health care system of veterans was not over saturated by ordinary demands, understaffed and underfunded! The arrogance of the administration in power to defy not only legal considerations but also practical exigencies is astounding. But the scandal of it goes unremarked and is immune from criticism because the directive is an ideological card played by the true believers in abortion who dominate our government.
The Hungarian philosopher Laszlo Foldenyi has compared the secular spirit of the times with the Tower of Babel. Ideological commitment to “the renunciation of transcendence” is behind the rejection of any values that are not immediately materialistic. Human life has no transcendent meaning; thus, nothing is sacred.
The other thing I wonder at is why the president himself is not addressed. Mr. Biden, who keeps claiming to be a Catholic against all logic and consistency, is thoroughly secularist in his politics. His contempt of Catholic respect for the sanctity of human life is notorious. While some hold that he is too stupid to be consistent, I think he is really cynical. He says that “not all” bishops are against liberalized abortion. He confuses what Foldenyi distinguishes between “genuine freedom” and “the illusion of freedom” with insouciant ignorance.
His video opening his campaign for reelection started with a brazen allusion to opposition to the Supreme Court decision correcting Roe v. Wade. His packaged campaign roll-out starts with the images of shameless protests against Dobbs and talk of “freedom.” No doubt pressing the pro-abortion button is a bet on some polling or focus groups data. This is the depressing logic of political campaigns: appeal to the appetites and ignorance of the consumers. Signs and not syllogisms have taken the place of political discourse. Have we come to this? Presidents declare candidacy now by preparing commercials?
Mencken said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. A certain party seems to be going for broke on the same principle, betting on the total exclusion of transcendent values of human life from ethical questions as a solution to the divisions of our society. The Tower of Babel defied God’s power, and the heirs of the Enlightenment who are lords of the predominant Western anti-culture, says Foldenyi, want to take the place of God. But their revolt is not only against God but also against Nature, His creation, which they would manipulate to their own purposes.
The disregard for truth is key to the ascendent secularism of our culture, part and parcel of the new statistics of people shy about declaring religious affiliation. Pope Benedict pointed out years ago that it is very hard for politics to accept truth as a structural category. It is not what is true that is acceptable, but what is commonly accepted must be true.
Obviously, the truth about the logical anthropological assumptions that make abortion on demand for all of gestation a horror that cries to Heaven are not welcome to politicians who seek consensus and flee conflict. “By relying on truth, does not politics, in view of the impossibility of attaining consensus on truth, make itself a tool of particular traditions?” asks Pope Benedict.
Then he writes, “And yet, on the other hand, what happens when truth counts for nothing? What kind of justice is then possible? Must there not be common criteria that guarantee real justice for all—criteria that are independent of the arbitrariness of changing opinions and powerful lobbies?”
The pope’s reflections come in his meditation on the meeting of Pontius Pilate and Christ in his book Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman governor famously asked “What is truth?” because he wanted to avoid any guilt connected to his responsibility. Joseph Biden does not ask what truth is, perhaps because he doesn’t want to know it or is too confused to recognize it. He uses old language to mask his secularist anarchism. It is “like a sin” for anyone to oppose a young person who wants to mutilate himself or herself by “transitioning” (or at least externally attempting to) from the sex he or she was born with to another one.
Broglio and Burbidge have done a service in the letter to Congress. However, I think the bishops ought to directly address the president who is behind the travesty of the Defense Department morphing into the role of abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. Biden’s advocacy of abortion is not “like a sin” but is a real sin. Why can’t the bishops tell Biden he is endangering his soul? He would understand the language, at least. And if he refuses to repent, it will be his responsibility. Right now, he can mask his cynicism with his pretended pose of the theological and moral ambiguity of life questions. They should not let him be so ignorant, or pretend to be so.
Ezekiel 33:7-9 comes to mind:
I have appointed you as a watchman for the people of Israel; therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “O wicked man, you will die!” and you don’t tell him what I say, so that he does not repent—that wicked person will die in his sins, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn him to repent and he doesn’t, he will die in his sins, and you will not be responsible.