Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Your Bishopric At Work

An economics professor once told me that when he was in college, some ancient rule banned parking at the campus' perimeter. If you broke the rule, your car was ticketed by the school and you had to pay $1.25. The ticket included some small print sternly telling you that you should never commit the offense again--or you'll have to pay $1.25 all over again. The convenience of the parking places was widely perceived as being a bargain at $1.25, so stakeholders gradually came to view the quaintly-worded 'tickets' as normal parking fees. Every year or two, some droning bureaucrat would remind everyone not to park there. People nodded and snoozed--and continued paying the cheap fines. Tranquility reigned: The bluenoses got to feel morally superior collecting fines, and the situational ethicists got choice spots on the cheap.

The anecdote somehow leads up to my professor advocating replacing the $1.25 fine with the gallows. Whatever the punch line was, it was a funny one, trust me. But I think I'm building up to an analogy:

I'd once thought being pro-life would mean you wanted abortion to be treated--legally--as murder. If you think something is bad enough that it ought to be called murder, you might expect advocates of such a definitional change to want to attach serious prison time to someone who voluntarily undergoes an abortion. You'd expect wrong.

During the recent presidential campaign, Sarah Palin told Katie Couric that while she is very pro-life, that doesn't mean she thinks a woman caught having an abortion ought to spend any time in jail:

Couric: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

The US Catholic Bishops are going all out to fight the Freedom of Choice Act, a proposal which would prevent government at all levels from restricting access to abortion prior to fetal viability. The bill has no chance of passing anytime soon, but the bishops' zeal is undeterred: Three Sundays hence, Catholics nationwide will be asked at Mass to write postcards to their congressional representatives and US senators imploring them to oppose FOCA.

During previous ages, of course, the Catholic bishops used the powers then available to them, often disregarding the views and preferences of the flock. (They're generally quite good at keeping at least several toes over the front of the surfboard.) A sausage-making comparison at the moment escapes me.

Somewhere some Catholics must be expressing outrage, at being so insulted. And the bishops aren't planning any similar postcard campaigns on behalf of universal day care, immediate action on climate change or ending global poverty--those issues aren't nearly as important as bringing back the happy pre-Roe v Wade days.

So on the weekend of January 24/25, CD3 Catholics will be asked, in effect, to write thank-you notes to Erik Paulsen--and to point out Amy Klobuchar's moral turpitude to her. Catholics more in tune with Father Robert Drinan's way of thinking will be asked to hold their noses as they scribble their sweetly-obsequious notes to our angelic new Congressman, Erik Paulsen.
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