Thursday, December 1, 2011


Sometimes I wonder how certain letters wind up in the letters to the editor of our local newspapers. Sometimes they are so misinformed and so lacking in fact checking, at times making such outrageous claims that, if printed as an article by a reporter in the paper, it would be in trouble and the writer fired. Not so with letters it seems. So I wonder, are letters picked that match what the paper wishes it could say or is it truly a case that nobody intelligent is writing letters to the editor? (I am limiting myself to topics of importance to the Catholic Church.) Could it be that nobody takes the editorials seriously anymore or simply that practicing Catholics don’t bother with them because they know how pointless it is?

This time we turn to a letter written Thursday, November 24th in the Akron Beacon Journal by Mr. John A. Denker entitled, “Personhood in the Extreme.” “Extreme” in this case means that it is too much to consider a human person a human person when a uniquely and indisputable human life is begun. I rather thought “personhood in the extreme” was giving personhood status to animals, plants, or inanimate objects. No alternative is given for when “personhood” should be applied to a person or any explanation offered as to why it is unreasonable to consider a human life as a person.

Without sighting any evidence, proof, studies, surveys, polls, or articles of any kind, Mr. Denker makes the sweeping statement that the “anti-choice crowd” is “pro-war, pro-capital punishment, anti-social safety net, and anti contraception.” Being that the largest sector of the pro-life movement is Catholic, I will grant him the last part. But as to the rest of his assertions, I will counter that Mr. Danker has not the slightest clue as to Catholic social teaching which is against war, against capital punishment, and it is the Catholic Church that has the most well thought out, oldest, and most “person centered” social teaching in the world. You will indeed find persons that might fit his scenario, but his assertions as a generalization are either mean spirited or ill informed.

His letter goes on to claim that the pro-life movement does “not care what happens to the baby after it is born.” Again, absolutely nothing is offered as proof of this other than what appears to be an illusion to a failed levy of some sort. Once again I challenge Mr. Denker. Not taken into consideration are the great works of the people of north east Ohio to take care of these persons and their families after they are born. There are institutions and people helping not only families that have chosen life, but we too take care of parents who have chosen abortion and are now coming to the realization of the horror of what they have done. A very simple Google search would have helped Mr. Danker come to this realization. Further, the Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Cleveland is the largest in the world taking care of the very people he accuses us of not caring about. They do their best not to turn anybody away.

Further, the largest charitable organization in the world is the Catholic Church (including nations.) The very group he rails so strongly against is the one group that is doing what he wishes they would. We not only preach it, we live it. I submit that handling a difficult situation is far more humane than his solution, which has been tried throughout the history of man and has always, always, always proved to do more harm than good: that is, strip a certain troublesome segment of humans of their personhood and then treat them as you will.

In a weak argument he states, “Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times said in a recent column, ‘contraceptives no more sex than umbrellas cause rain.’” This statement alone should cause one to give pause and wonder at the New York Times’ and Mr. Kristof’s position as moral giver. It does not even make sense. It would make sense if rain caused humans to become wet and umbrellas were invented to keep us dry. Then the question would be does having umbrellas mean that more people will go out in the rain. Yes. If one can have sex with the thought that there will be no consequences, will they be more likely to have sex? That is the question.

In the end Mr. Denker softens his position with the statement that he supports reasonable limits on abortions. His parameters are not given. He does not state when it is Okay to strip a human of personhood status and do away with them. When is that “reasonable?” How does one keep it contained once a human is able to be classified with a non-person status?

Once again I ask how is a letter like this helpful to the conversation? If we do not deal with real issues and only sling half truths about, the only result will be further division.


Anonymous said...

Father I agree with you that a pro-life (my personal preference)stand should reflect support for life from conception to a natural death. However, a lot of vocal anti-abortion adherents (notice the different terminology) want to prevent anything that can be done before birth but once the baby is born there opinion is the baby should "sink or swim". They are against anything that remotely smacks of a safety net. If you want proof you can look at some of the bloggers linked on this site. Look at the hardcore conservatives who claim to be anti-abortion but want to cut welfare and Medicaid programs for the poor.

Pat said...

Excellent post, Father.

Soundbites are cheap (such as "anti choice' people only care about the fetus and not the family). The truth takes much longer to explain.

The poorest of the poor are unborn children.

Of those poor who are born, who says that the best way to help them is via government assistance? I would expect such an argument on a secular blog but not on a Catholic one.

Catholic teaching says that the Church (we the people) and not the government is responsible to help the poor.

The more assistance that comes from a government agency, the less will people turn to the true Source of all help and mercy: God.

Government aid tends to endender the need for even more aid. Catholic social services address the real causes of poverty, providing the proverbial "hand up, not hand out."

Mary W. said...

I rarely read the paper, but happened across the continuation of this conversation and others of a similar tone in the Sunday letters to the editor. It saddened me. People really have no idea of what the Catholic Church really teaches and of the myriad of beautiful charitable works in which she is involved. Thank you for coming to her defense!

Anonymous said...

and the Beacon Journal should have culpabilty for publishing such hokum as the Denkler letter


Edward said...

@ Anon #1;

Along the lines of what Pat said . . . I think there should be a delineation made between being a social steward or charitable organization and government mandated welfare. I think the bloggers you speak of are against the latter but, as Christians, live the former.

Anonymous said...

I would agree the Catholic Church does good for the poor. But if the poor had to depend on Churches then there would be a lot of starving people without adequate health care living on the streets.

Pat said...

We're in a "catch 22": the more "help" the government gives, the less help is perceived to be needed via private giving.

The government now is trying to quietly remove the Church from caring for the poor: the USCCB just lost a grant to aid the victims of human trafficking because the Church will not do or refer for abortion, contraception and sterilization.

How's THAT for government aid?

And the Church's tax exempt status is coming under more and more scrutiny by the government. If the Church is taxed, she will have even LESS resources to help the poor.

Who is the good guy here?

Not the government--which makes people more dependent, not less.