By Andy Barton
The backlash to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade in June was predictable and understandable. The winds of change were bound to stoke the fire on such an emotional and deeply divided issue. Yet it was something of a surprise that such deep anger and blame was directed at the Catholic church and faithful by those who disagreed with the decision. The vandalism of Catholic churches and institutions, along with accusations that paint the church as fundamentally opposed to women and their rights, has been disheartening. It is a painful chapter in our nation’s history.
Perhaps it is overly defensive, but the vitriol directed at the church and its faithful feels unfair to me. It ignores the incredible complexity of the issue from a social, legal, and historical perspective. While it is human nature to seek out someone to blame for anger that is difficult to place, it seems curious that Catholics are one of the few fair targets for such generalized bashing in this politically correct age. More curiously, this public blaming and name-calling ignores all the good work that churches – Catholic and otherwise – do regularly for everyone in our community, regardless of their faith.
This point was driven home for me on a morning in July, just weeks after the Supreme Court ruling. Just before 8 a.m., I walked into the lobby of the Catholic Pastoral Center where our offices are located along with the administration for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Sitting in a chair, talking to the receptionist, was a middle-aged man who I will call Mark. He was rubbing his hip, explaining that a degenerative condition had finally reached the point at which he could not walk, and the pain was unbearable. He had been in the hospital for two days and on that morning, UC Health had discharged him to a Z-Trip cab. Because he was homeless and did not want to return to the shelter, the driver had been instructed to drop him off at the Catholic Church.
Hospitals have an incredibly difficult task when it comes to discharging people who are homeless. Very often, in the absence of any other options, hospital case managers do what they think is best: they send those in pain with nowhere else to go to the Catholic Church.
Mark was eventually connected with Catholic Charities staff who were successful in reuniting him with family in another state. He was given a meal, his prescription was filled, and then he boarded a bus and headed back to his support system. It was a typical example of the Church doing its work in our community. It happens all the time.
Those who are angry with Catholics over the decision to overturn Roe v Wade are either overlooking or unaware of how often the “Marks” of our world find themselves on the Church’s doorstep and how lovingly they are cared for. It is such a fundamental part of the fabric of our nation, and the way we care for our poor and vulnerable that people forget it exists. Abortion advocates fail to understand the Church’s stand on the unborn is entirely consistent with its stand on our poor, sick, widows, and prisoners. The value and dignity of human life must be applied universally. To make exceptions would be hypocritical.
No single issue in the United States has been as polarizing over the past 50 years as abortion. None has been as weaponized for political purposes either. The Catholic Church’s stance on abortion precedes the issue’s politicization by thousands of years. Those who derive a new opportunity to attack the Church and its faithful by virtue of the most recent developments might consider the bigger picture: what it would mean to the social fabric of our societies if the fundamental Catholic belief about the value of life were to change.
Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.