The Catholic Thing
Catholic Bullies and the Unraveling of the Seamless Garment Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Thursday, 20 November 2008

On the eve of the last election a young man sent out a rather breathless email from what once would have been called a letterhead organization, meaning it has no members, but in this case a nice website and a few donors.

Chris Korzen, who runs something called Catholics United, said, “I am writing to you tonight from suburban Philadelphia…” Note that he is writing “tonight.” This is urgent, baby. And that he is not writing from some cozy D.C. office but right at the frontlines of suburban Philly.

Mr. Korzen wanted his readers to know that “a team of Catholics United activists is helping protect parishes…” from what? From white-hooded Klansmen who want to burn down Catholic churches. Well no. Mr. Korzen is protecting churches from “leafletting” of “unapproved election materials.” That’s right.

Mr. Korzen infiltrated a national conference call staged by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life in which Father Pavone announced plans for a national effort to place leaflets on cars during Mass the Sunday before the election. Pavone’s leaflets said that abortion was the most important issue in the election, a proposition agreed to by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Mr. Korzen objects to that notion, and was calling upon vigilantes to put a stop to it.

Mr. Korzen referred to the leaflets as “potentially” illegal. Nice touch that, a none-too-vague threat to Pavone’s leafleteers that Mr. Korzen's “members” just might call the constabulary. Mr. Korzen said, “it is our right and our duty to protect the sacred space of our churches from this sort of electioneering, and to defend parishes from potentially illegal activity.”

Was Mr. Korzen invited by the parish priests or the bishops to defend parishes from these marauding pro-lifers? Well, no. It is also interesting to note that Mr. Korzen does not himself rally to defend the bishops on the question of abortion but is willing to precipitate direct confrontation over leaflets the bishops have not approved.

Father Pavone unfortunately gave his opponents some ammunition they otherwise would have lacked. On the national conference call, which Mr. Korzen recorded, Pavone made a joke about that Sunday being “National Getting Thrown Off of Church Property Day.” The tone of Father Pavone’s response to Korzen was not helpful either – bellicose and threatening when he should have suggested coolly that the answer to objectionable political speech is not vigilantism but more speech. He should have invited Mr. Korzen to spread leaflets with his own views, if he was able, rather than set up potentially dangerous confrontations.

Mr. Korzen is part of a good cop/bad cop routine with a lovely woman named Alexia Kelley who runs another liberal-leaning group called Catholics in Alliance. Ms. Kelley used to work at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and toward the end of the 2004 election ran the religious outreach of the Democratic National Committee. Ms. Kelley, who I know personally and like, plays the conciliator to Mr. Korzen’s bomb-thrower. They wrote a book together in which they insist they care deeply about the abortion issue, but then went on to explain that it is only one issue among many and that, anyway, the Democrats are better at reducing abortions than the Republicans.

Mr. Korzen and Ms. Kelley were part of what became a very effective effort by the pro-abortion Obama campaign to wean some Catholics away from the Republican Party, though it should be noted that a majority of practicing Catholics still voted for McCain, if in lower numbers than for Bush in 2004. Their arguments are well known: that Obama will reduce abortions through expansion of social services. It should be noted that Obama does not call for reductions in abortions but for the reduction of the need to resort to abortion. There is a difference.

How serious is this pro-life commitment of Mr. Korzen and Ms. Kelley? A few days after the election – and a few days after Mr. Korzen's call for confrontations in church parking lots – Ms. Kelley’s group sent out its own email asking her supporters to vote on the issues they think are the most pressing for the new administration. They were asked to pick three out of a list of six. The list included climate change, immigration reform, health care, living wages, poverty reduction, and ending the war in Iraq. Wait a second, you might ask. Where is the reduction of abortion in all this? Many liberal Catholic s insist that abortion is a part of a seamless garment-approach to social issues. But it looks like their seamless garment has lost a thread.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy.

(c) 2008 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights write to: info at thecatholicthing dot org

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Comments (15)Add Comment
written by Guy Williams, November 21, 2008
This is a typical approach for those disobedient so called Catholics. Whatever the moniker they hang over their organizations in the effort to appear as mainstream and legitimate "faithful" Roman Catholics, they have elevated their secular ideological agendas above the teachings of the Church and what is worse, they draw others into putting their salvation in jeopardy. Mr Ruse's commentary exposes their hypocracy. I'll go one better: they are liars and their fruits expose them for what they are.
written by William H. Phelan, November 21, 2008
All the pro-abortion "catholics" are protected by the hierarchy who will neither deny them Communion nor excommunicate them. Can you imagine waiting in Dachau for ANY Catholic to rescue you? Why do we perpetuate the farce that something called the Catholic Church even exists??? Thank you, Mr. Ruse, for this article.
Explanation please
written by Ron, November 21, 2008
"This is a typical approach for those disobedient so called Catholics." Disobedient to whom? Fr. Pavone, Bishop Chaput, the US Council of Bishops, the Pope?
written by Guy, November 22, 2008
Ron, I'll assume your good faith in asking the question, no pun intended. The Church has the Authority to teach on matters of faith and morals in the Magisterium, therefor, those who ignore those with the authority to teach in their respective diocese, the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, are acting in disobedience. As for Mr. Phelan's frustration at a lack of leadership from many of the bishops in this country, I share it. Ultimately that is in Christ's lane, not this layman's.
written by McYo., November 22, 2008
First, let's state something. I am a man. The three prior contributers were/are men. That being recognized, we have no credability with this issue. None. Ever had an abortion? Ever talked with a fetus who's been aborted? Let's pull the issue away from "obedience" and to HEALTH. The health of the fetus is the health of the mother. Period. Listen to the ladies, gentlemen.
written by John Fedor, November 22, 2008
I for one,am getting pretty frustrated and angry, just sitting around watching a gang of homosexuals manhandle a little old lady, listening to some brain dead used-to-be catholic challenge REAL Catholics to meet him in a parking lot, him knowing for sure that no one will meet him! No, we'll all be home "praying for his soul" just like we always do. It's not going to take much more and I'll be there to meet him or someone like him. Then I hope you'll all be praying for MY soul!
written by Austin Ruse, November 22, 2008

Yes, lets do listen to the women. According to the polls, more women are against abortion than men. In fact, the greatest cohort in favor of unlimited abortion is men not women. Yes, let's listen to the women who have had abortions and now have nightmares about it. I think what McYo wants us to do is listen to the abortionists and to the irresponsible men who will not stand by the women they have impregnated.

Austin Ruse
Once a Fetus. Just like u
written by Guy, November 23, 2008
If you are going to make any comment in a thread such as this one, I have two strong recommendations for you: first come with some semblence of an understanding of Catholic Moral Theology of which it is obvious you currently have no clue, and secondly, give your own intellect a chance before parrotting the party line. Anyone can thoughtlessly go with the popular opinion of your peers. You gave about 10 seconds of actual cognative effort with your comment.
written by charles smith, November 23, 2008
You can not control what the Bishops do regarding "Catholics" who promote "choice" re: abortion or vote for a pro-choice politician etc. What you can control is how you label folks like Korzen and Kelley in your article and/or blogs. Drop the descriptive "Catholic" from their names if you must report on their post-modern dribble.....Catholics they are not!!
To Guy
written by Ron, November 24, 2008
Another view"The often fierce character of this "Catholic debate" led two of the most senior Catholic bishops in the U.S. to articulate a third position. Cardinal Rigali of Phila. and Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre (Long Island) issued a joint statement calling for a "both-and" resolution to the debate. They argued that Catholics do have a clear obligation to seek legal remedies to abortion, yet have an equally serious obligation to support economic and social remedies for abortion "
written by James the Least, November 24, 2008
Mr. Smith is exactly right. We are at the point now where spades must be called spades and everything else must be denied the name. So-called "liberal Catholicism" is an oxymoron. There is, and can be, no such thing. "Liberal Catholicism" is simply a euphemism: it's the name we have been giving ANTI-Catholicism for the last 50 years. Stop calling heretics, apostates, and the enemies of Christ "Catholics." They are no more Catholic than Judas Iscariot was "Catholic."
For Ron
written by Guy, November 24, 2008
I can't find the joint statement you refer to but I did read the Cardinal's statement of 27 October 08 in which he quotes the late Great JPII concerning the primacy of the right to life above all other issues. That should lead a Catholic with a mature conscience to understand there is no "wiggle room" in supporting a pro abortion politician when an alternative candidate who is pro life in on the ballot. No third view there. Yours is a typical arguement go support a political ideology whatever
written by Paul, November 25, 2008
McYo, since you believe men should not govern women over the issue of abortion, then logic dictates that you find the Roe v Wade decision invalid because it was decided by men, and furthermore, men and women must have their own sets of governments. Let's see if women still believe that after paying taxes or suffering a military attack. Perhaps you should follow your own advice and refrain from communicating on the issue since you are disqualified.
written by Ron, November 26, 2008
The 2008 election has brought the position of one issue voting to a new level of concern many Catholics. A big question raised by the particulars of the last 8 years is: are their any limits to the collateral policies we will accept in order to support an anti-abortion candidate? If one hypothesize that the first principal argument would say there are no limits, where does this take us to be intellectually consistent. A vote for a future anti-abortion Hitler?
written by antigone, November 26, 2008
You do not have to be a woman to appreciate the sanctity of life. I know many men that do and do so more so than many women I know. That being said, I am a woman who truly appreciates the sanctity of life. Not because I was raised to do so...I grew up in a very secular home during the 70s aqnd 80s. Iit is because I have had an abortion and then many years later under worse circumstances I chose to give life...and it changed my life. Ask women who are willing to be honest for the truth

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