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oh so subtle

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 29, 2008

Treachery and cowardice rarely fly their own flags. If I plan to betray you, I won't announce my intentions in advance. If you're afraid of a bully, you'll probably come up with some excuse to duck the confrontation rather than admitting you're scared.

Sometimes a man who claims to be your ally urges you to avoid a fight. He may be giving you good advice. Or maybe he's just afraid. Or maybe-- just maybe-- he's not really on your side after all.

When an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter virtually endorses a presidential candidate who has vowed to give the abortion industry every protection it desires, you may marvel at the subtlety of the editors' argument that an Obama victory could actually be the best way to reduce the number of abortions. Or you might conclude that some other force is at play here.

The NCR editorial slaps at the bishops who have advanced the "narrow" view that the best way to oppose abortion is, well, to oppose abortion. Efforts to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision have proven unsuccessful, so we should give up and try something else. What else? Here the editors are vague. Education would be nice. And anti-poverty programs.

Education is a good thing, and if there are steps that we can take to ease poverty, let's take them. But there's no reason why we can't take those steps and work to end legal abortion. The giveaway in the NCR editorial is the contemptuous attitude toward those who chose that legal work. Support for pro-life politicians is dismissed as "shouting from the most extreme ideologues and partisans." Bishops who condemn support for legal abortion are "the most imprudent." If this is all just

"Bishops who hold that a legal ban is the only approach to the abortion issue... damage the church and the pro-life cause," the editors argue. But that's a straw man; there are no such bishops. There are bishops who say that it's morally wrong to support legal abortion. It's curious that NCR finds their approach unacceptable. Is it subtlety? Or is it something else?

Before answering that question, page a bit further through NCR and find the article by Richard McBrien, who also finds it unacceptable for bishops to condemn support for legal abortion. The subtle McBrien tells us:

But there are two ways of “endorsing” candidates. One is by an outright declaration of endorsement. The other is by attacking your favored candidate’s opponent, as happened in the 1984 presidential campaign...

Having explained the tactic, McBrien goes on to attack Republicans, leaving us to draw the natural inference about his favored candidate.

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