Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Not for Want of Effort

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 24, 2009

I promised to offer some ideas on how the pro-life community could more effectively harness its resources, and I’ll do this in a series of blog entries. I am happy to write up not only my own ideas but any noteworthy thoughts readers may send in. Phil Lawler has mentioned he has key points of his own to make. (I liked very much a point he made to me yesterday evening, but it wouldn’t be fair to steal it.) So hopefully this will be both interesting and fruitful as it unfolds.

But first let’s take a quick look at all the different things pro-lifers have tried in their efforts to mount an effective counter-offensive to the culture of death. This list will be incomplete because so many things have been tried that it is difficult to remember all of them. Let me know what's missing from the following:

Organizing: Formation of countless groups, companies and services—from lobbies to investment services—designed to promote the pro-life cause; massive financial giving from a wide-spectrum of pro-lifers to fund these organizations and many of the initiatives listed under the headings below.

Politics: Running for office; introduction of new bills to limit abortion or require notification; challenging court decisions, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court; pressing for a constitutional amendment.

Public Pressure: Letter-writing campaigns; picketing; mass demonstrations; hunger strikes; rallies.

Civil Disobedience: Withholding taxes; ignoring laws restricting demonstrations.

Economic Pressure: Boycotts; exposure of corporate-giving.

Education/Formation: Think tanks and policy organizations; print publications; radio and television programs; advertisements; the arts (e.g., Bella); web sites; blogs; news services; bioethics institutes.

Addressing the Causes: Crisis pregnancy centers; pro-life medical practices; adoption; financial support to pregnant women.

Direct Action: Legal prosecution of abortionists and abortion clinics; on-site confrontation of women at abortion clinics; clinic invasion; destruction of abortion equipment; clinic arson; killing of abortionists.

Spiritual Works: Spiritual adoption of unborn babies; fasting; financial sacrifice; volunteer work and witness; liturgical and private prayer.

In making this abbreviated list, I first wish to further challenge the idea that pro-lifers can be generally accused of “sitting and waiting” for the right opportunity. But note that I say that we cannot be generally accused. There may be some specific ways in which we can be faulted for sitting and waiting; there may be some efforts that have gone untried because we fear it is not the right moment. If so, this discussion should draw them out.

My second purpose in providing this list is to freely admit that all of this pro-life work has not amounted to an effective counter-offensive. Even if this has not been for want of effort, the failure needs to be acknowledged, and all pro-lifers must resist the temptation to be satisfied with the results. We must never subconsciously accept the role of the defeated. Having set the stage, then, let’s begin a thorough analysis of why the pro-life movement is not more effective.

But let me hold off over the weekend before beginning to write up my own ideas, and let me have your suggestions as well. Let’s not feel any pressure to come up with a comprehensive analysis all at once. Instead, I suggest that we float one idea at a time, saving a final assessment until the best thoughts have been explored. Meanwhile, it seems appropriate for Phil Lawler—who lit the match that started the fire—to throw the first log on this tinder.

Discussion in order:

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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