I am writing this in January 1986. It was announced on the radio this morning that Maureen McTeer, a “practising Roman Catholic” and wife of Joe Clark, has agreed to become an honorary director of CARAL. The announcement went on to say something to the effect that, while Ms. McTeer would not have an abortion herself, she supports the right of any woman to have one as she supports the right of a woman to control her fertility.
I don’t think it is necessary for me to say that I totally disagree with Maureen’s action and position but that is not what I wish to write about here. I would prefer to dwell on the media’s constant use of the term, “practising Roman Catholic” as applied to people like Maureen who, either by their actions or their words, take a public stand against the official teaching of the Church.
The media has the “foggiest” notion about the meaning of being a Catholic. For instance, when the Pope was celebrating Mass at Downsview, a commentator said, “Mr. John Turner, a devout Roman Catholic, receives Communion from the hands of the Pontiff.” Very touching! But I have heard Mr. Turner at least three times speaking with obvious pride about his part in piloting the present Abortion Law through Parliament in 1969. That law has been mainly responsible for the murder of well over 1,000,000 Canadian babies. If John Turner is a “devout” Catholic, I’d hate to meet a “non-devout” one after dark.
I don’t like the expressions “practising” and “devout” as applied to Catholics, or members of any other religion for that matter. They are imponderables. I would much prefer the term, “true Catholic.” The expression is Cardinal Newman’s. It does not mean that he or she slavishly accepts everything the Pope or a bishop or a priest says. But it does mean that they accept the official teaching of the Church in matters of Faith and Morals.
The Catholic Church’s official teaching on abortion is crystal clear. Vatican II referred to abortion as an unspeakable crime (The Church Today). The present Pope never allows an opportunity to pass in any part of the world without strongly condemning the killing of the unborn. But abortion is not wrong just for Catholics because the Church says it is wrong. The Church teaches that abortion is immoral because abortion is immoral and would be immoral even if Christ had never come on earth. It is interesting that abortion was first forbidden by the Law of Hammurabi 1700 years before Christ. The fact that Maureen McTeer is a Catholic is not relevant. So why do the media frequently add the tidbit “a practising Roman Catholic” when they announce such aberrations as Maureen McTeer’s latest?
When the media use the term “practising Catholic” I wonder, what do they mean? I have a suspicion that, for them, being a practising Catholic equals attending Mass on Sundays. I remember a country parish in Ireland where a big dog used to sit quietly at his master’s feet all during Mass. The hound was physically present but he would scarcely have been rated a “practising Catholic.” He didn’t even contribute to the collection! But by media standards he would be a practising Catholic because he was physically present In the Church on Sundays.
There must be hundreds of “Catholic” politicians in North America who are about as Catholic in their thinking as Colonel Kaddafi. They bow to Christ on Sundays and vote with Caesar on Mondays. One of the best remembered sayings of Christ is this, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” But we must not render to Caesar the things that are God’s. And human life, born or unborn, belongs to God.
And so, all those “Catholic” politicians like John Turner, Maureen McTeer – a politician not per se but per alium – Ted Kennedy and Geraldine Ferraro are only fooling themselves and trying to fool others when they claim they are Catholics.
The statement attributed by the media to Maureen McTeer – that, while she would not have an abortion herself she supports the right of any other woman to have one – sounds very tolerant and compassionate. But it is exactly the same as saying, “I wouldn’t commit murder myself but I support the right of any man to kill his mother-in-law if she’s interfering with his way of life. After all, every man has a right to his own particular type of lifestyle.”
If an act is immoral in itself no person who claims to be moral can support or condone it. They may feel compassion for the person who has, under stress, performed the immoral act. That is very different from supporting or condoning it.
So, for the benefit of the mixed up media, my advice to John Turner and Maueen McTeer and “Catholics” of similar ilk is this. Be logical. Either be a public Catholic or leave the Church. But don’t try to march to the beat of two drums which move in opposite directions. The God who rules the Church on Sundays and the Parliament on Mondays is one and the same God. There is only one God. And He beats only one drum!