Sister Joan Chittister’s comments on the pro-life movement have gone viral.
“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
The article was obviously an effort to quell the ongoing furor over the undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress exposing the blithe attitude of Planned Parenthood towards their disrespectful, and legally and ethically questionable handling of the remains of aborted children.
There’s nothing new here. Sister Joan has been stating this position aloud for many years and has championed the cause of various Catholic dissenting groups, such as Voice of the Faithful.
It seems to me that Sister Joan’s critique of the pro-life movement is based on several errors:
She has failed to answer the question of when life begins by assuming the unborn are not members of the human family.
But the science of embryology confirms that life begins at conception. Louis Pasteur’s law of biogenesis says that an organism is what it is from the very beginning. It does not become something else as it develops, nor does it spring up spontaneously “somewhere in between” conception and birth. Sperm and egg (cells) are, indeed, potential life forms, but once they have united to form a zygote (an organism) each ceases to exist. Organisms are individual entities, whole, living, and distinct beings; in this case, human beings.
So although she throws in many charges as to how we ought to treat born children, with every change of subject we have to return to the nature of the unborn and how we may treat them.
Her concluson is a non-sequitur. She is saying, “Children suffer; therefore, killing innocent human beings is justified.” No one would say such a thing if her problem-solving involved killing toddlers rather than the unborn. An alleged lack of caring for born children does not justify killing innocent human beings through abortion.
Second, if the premise were true, the conclusion might be correct.
“[Y]our morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed . . . “
But Sister Joan offers no proof beyond the politics of taxation to demonstrate that those who oppose abortion could possibly also want children to be fed. This is an assertion, not an argument. Arguments require evidence.
” . . . not a child educated . . . “
Same problem here; we are given zero evidence to support the charge that those who oppose abortion oppose education. And, the burden of proof rests with Sister Joan, since she asserted the charge.
” . . . not a child housed . . . “
And, again, no evidence to support this wild assertion.
Third, there’s a problem with Sister’s misuse of her own faith, willfully contradicting its view that abortion is evil. Sister Joan should inform her followers that she is at odds with the teachings of the faith tradition she represents, the Roman Catholic Church. One of the main reasons anyone would give heed to her words is that she is a Catholic nun.
The Catholic Church teaches the exact opposite of her conclusion, as found in the Catechism (#2270):
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
Fourth, the pro-lifers-are-hypocrites argument is rooted in verbal trickery. I would bet she’s not intellectually honest enough to be called pro-abortion. By focusing in on the label “pro-life” she avoids the abortion issue altogether. The same verbal sleight-of-hand is employed by those who insist on only using “choice” instead of saying “choice to abort.”
All of this might be forgivable if Sister Joan were completely ignorant to the fact that the Church is doing exactly what the Lord says we are to do through the pregnancy help movement, including loving and supporting the women through parenting and childrearing with material, spiritual, and emotional help. But since Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the National Abortion Federation are targeting the work of pregnancy help centers, I’m confident she is, indeed, aware but still makes her blanket statement of pro-lifers not caring about life after birth.
If you encounter someone who accuses you of being an uncaring hypocrite, do these three things: Return to the subject of the unborn and how we treat them; say any alleged lack of caring for born children does not justify killing innocent human beings; and, finally, add that those who oppose abortion are offering care to women, couples, and children through the local church, pregnancy help centers and all kinds of social service organizations. The last is a logical extension of their caring about the protection of life in the womb.
I am not a Roman Catholic, but as an Evangelical, when I saw the headline “Catholic Nun Explains Pro-Life” I was intrigued. I mean no disrespect to Sister Joan personally. Her words have weight. I earnestly pray someone with much more authority than I carry will reach her with the truth and soon.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post attributed words to Sister Joan Chittister which where not her own. The quote has since been removed. We apologize for the error and any harm which may have come to Sister Joan’s reputation as well.