Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Spies, Traitors, and Informers

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 24, 2009

Knowing that I cannot resist the lure of a good argument, Jeff Mirus has challenged me to provide some support for my claim that the American pro-life movement has suffered from too many Lost Opportunities. I’m happy to oblige.

But first let me clarify just a few important points.

  • In my original comment I did not intend to imply that the pro-life movement has been sitting passively for the past generation, watching the abortion lobby gain power. I’ve seen too many wonderful pro-lifers do too many wonderful things, showing energy and resourcefulness and even heroism in defense of life. Some undeniable progress has been made, especially in providing alternatives for women facing difficult pregnancies. Still, on the political front, we’ve been moving in the wrong direction.
  • Abortion is just one manifestation of the “culture of death,” and the struggle to reverse Roe v Wade is just one among many that the pro-family movement faces. When speaking of “lost opportunities,” we must also consider issues such as the acceptance of same-sex marriage, or of taxpayer subsidies for embryonic stem-cell research. On these issues we might still win substantial pro-life majorities if the voters decided the issues today. (At least that is true in most American states; I have no illusions about the likely outcome in my own native Massachusetts.) But 2 or 3 or 10 years from now, would the result be the same? The momentum of changing opinion is against us.

OK; with those points on the record, let me turn to the main question: How can we inject new life into the pro-family movement?

My first suggestion is that pro-life advocates should get tough-- not only with our political opponents, but also with our unreliable allies. When you’re at war, you can’t afford to rely on the “sunshine soldiers”-- the folks who will be on your side when things are going well, but slink away for cover when the battle becomes uncomfortable.

Every war brings out opportunists, who find ways to profit from the battle. The struggle for life is no exception. Serious pro-lifers should never confer respectability upon the fakers who solicit funds from innocent donors, and use the money to build up their own empires-- without making any significant contribution to the pro-life cause.

The people of Ireland won their independence not when public opinion turned against London’s rule-- anti-British sentiment had been dominant for generations-- but when the Irish Republican Army became an effective fighting force, largely because it was successful in purging the spies, traitors, and informers from its own ranks. It’s time for the pro-life movement to do the same. First, identify the fakers, the time-servers, and the careerists who siphon off so much valuable support, and make them accountable for the funds they raise and the promises they make. Next, enforce ‘party discipline’ on those politicians who vote pro-life on the easy votes, but skip out on the tough ones. For that matter, why not insist that a politician cannot claim a “100% pro-life” rating if he supports the campaign of a pro-abortion colleague from his own party?

The next important steps would be to insist on solid support from Church leaders and to make sure that pro-life politicians fulfill their campaign promises. Those will be the topics of my next two comments on this string.


Discussion in order:


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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