Bart Stupak and his supposedly pro-life Democrat colleagues traded their pro-life credentials for an unsavory mess of money pottage. This gave the Obama faction the party-line vote needed to win Congressional approval of their health sector power grab. It also sparked just outrage from pro-lifers. They backed what they thought was Stupak's principled stand against legislation that greatly expands taxpayer funding for the cold-blooded murder of nascent children. But after an almost convincing pantomime, these "pro-life" Democrats followed what had always been their true priorities. They betrayed unalienable right at what they knew to be a critical juncture in the nation's history. Their treachery should inoculate all true pro-life people and organizations against the temptation ever to vote for a Democrat again.
That said, this truly tragic episode ought to spark a long overdue examination of conscience throughout the pro-life community. As just noted, it all came down to the true priorities of the Stupak Democrats. Things would have turned out differently if they had been willing to give top priority to defending the nation's conscience. The first and indispensable prerequisite of all right action is to uphold the authoritative standard that distinguishes right from wrong. Political bribes and blandishments can't corrupt those who give it first priority.
In one of his most deeply practical insights, Christ advised us to remove the beam from our own eye before trying to remove a mote from our brother's. Looking back over the past several years, which of the pro-lifers now outraged over Stupak's abandonment of principle can say they have consistently acted according to the standard of priority they now apply to him? Which of them gave up their place at the table of Republican political influence to bear witness to the simple truth that no political victory should be purchased at the expense of the first principle of political justice? Which of them was willing to step into the cold political wilderness warmed only by the fire of faith in the Creator God who made us free?
Rationalizing their abandonment of principle with the usual phony sophistries ('lesser of evils', 'politics is the art of the possible', 'you can't win elections without compromise", etc., etc.) they stepped away from the cross of truth on which Christ hung in wholehearted submission to the sovereignty of his Father God. They gave priority to political success. They did so even though they acted in the context of a political association (the Republican Party) ostensibly committed to the very principle they compromised. The Democrat Party is deeply committed to the rejection of that principle. It is presently dominated by a faction determined to sacrifice all liberty and conscience in the political and spiritual war against it. How then could they expect, and even demand, that the Stupak Democrats refuse unprincipled political compromise. With less evident excuse, they themselves did not.
In the essay In Good Conscience I dealt at length with the inconsistencies and pitfalls involved in the supposedly pragmatic sacrifice of first principles.
The hesitancy and double-mindedness of the moral leaders opens them to the blandishments of politicians and donors who help them to secure resources and a place at the table of power in exchange for the use or abuse of their influence with morally concerned voters. Having built a little success with this kind of help, the ambition for more leads them to become increasingly reliant upon it, until the day comes when the fear of what they might lose by forthright advocacy replaces the prospect of gain. In either case, the focus on material success leads to a calculating mentality that by degrees changes from a calculation of goods to a calculus of evil. This is the change they now seek to establish as the standard for the moral constituency in our political life.
Too many so-called pro-life leaders gave an example of hesitancy and double-mindedness unlikely to inspire the Stupak Democrats' to stand firm against the shrewd pressures they faced from Obama and his lieutenants. The Stupak Democrats have tried to cover themselves with fig leaves of half-truths and outright deceptions. So did all too many in the pro-life community during the 2008 election.There are many voters (including a large number of Black Christians, and Hispanic and other Roman Catholics) whose professed faith calls them to respect the claims of innocent life. But their habits of partisan allegiance make them bond slaves laboring in the killing fields of the culture of death. They could be freed by the example of the cross, if only it were followed by the pro-life political activists whose principled consistent witness would cry out to them, depth unto depth. God could use them to change hearts. Instead, their fear of loss has produced an example of political calculation that puts a stumbling block in the way. A faithful witness of the cross is not called martyrdom for nothing. There are risks involved, including the risk of political and material loss. But what is faith if not confidence in Christ's promise that such losses are the key to the only victory worthy of his name? As he shows us the way to that victory, are we not called to share the news of it with all nations, beginning with our own? Isn't dedication to this calling the true measure of the pro-life cause?