RE: Letting Bill Clinton Off Easy
My thanks to those who have taken time to respond to the blog. The comments illustrate crucial and largely complementary approaches to our common cry against abortion. Some questioned the word choice “nuanced,” which I used in addition to “rational” and “charitable” mainly to contrast the image many abortion advocates have of “pro-lifers.” “Nuance” can mean a sappy and fragile sort of nicety, and in that sense, I would be the first to agree it has no place in the fight against evil, whether at the personal, interpersonal or legislative level. But as my trusty dictionary defines it, nuance also means “a sensibility to, an awareness of, or an ability to express subtle shadings of meaning, feeling or value.” This is the definition I had in mind while writing, and I maintain that it is a critically important skill in our efforts to evangelize this culture of death. I was going through some writings by John Paul II this week – specifically pertaining to human dignity and/or the right to life-- and I was struck that while his condemnation of abortion was unapologetically clear and consistent (so much that the press labeled him “obsessed” on the matter) he was not afraid to draw on a wealth of communicative approaches to make his point. To artists, he spoke as an artist, in language that resonated; to philosophers, as a philosopher; to government rulers as Supreme Pontiff. He was, for me, the finest example of St. Paul’s exhortation to “be all things to all men” in preaching the Good News. His words brim with reason, charity, and yes, nuance. And they are unflinchingly strong. An excerpt from “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” illustrates this compelling combination. Speaking of abortion, the Pope said, “It is necessary to recognize that in this context we are witnessing true human tragedies. Often the woman is the victim of male selfishness, in the sense that the man, who has contributed to the conception of the new life, does not want to be burdened with it and leaves the responsibility to the woman, as if it were ‘her fault’ alone. Precisely when the woman most needs the man’s support, he proves to be a cynical egotist, capable of exploiting her affection of weakness, yet stubbornly resistant to any sense of responsibility for his own action. Therefore, in firmly rejecting ‘pro-choice,’ it is necessary to courageously become pro-woman, promoting a choice that is truly in favor of woman…The only honest stance, in these cases, is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone… We find ourselves here before a very delicate situation, both from the point of view of human rights and from a moral and pastoral point of view. All these aspects are intertwined…Therefore, I categorically reject every accusation or suspicion concerning the Pope’s alleged ‘obsession’ with this issue. We are dealing with a problem of tremendous importance, in which all of us must show the utmost responsibility and vigilance. We cannot afford forms of permissiveness that would lead directly to the trampling of human rights (p. 206-7).