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Where is the Church on Planned Parenthood?

Surveys show that 70 percent of Americans still haven’t even heard of the Planned Parenthood scandal – after six revealing undercover videos – stunning evidence, if such were still needed, of the mainstream media’s dereliction of public duty when it comes to the truth about abortion. But where are our Catholic media, not the big outlets like Catholic News Agency, National Catholic Register, and so forth, but those old vehicles of Catholic truth: the diocese and the parish? Some states have started investigations or pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. More videos will surface, which should happen more swiftly now, to keep the pot boiling. But what are Catholics doing, given what has to be the most outrageous, ongoing atrocity in the world?

I did a search of some bishops and their diocesan apparatuses, not a scientific sampling, but the kind of thing a person with ordinary computer skills might be able to find easily if he went looking. I chose large, influential dioceses. The results are not encouraging on a subject central to the credibility of the Church’s moral witness, as well as to the fundamental moral decency of America.

Archdiocese of Washington: Nothing. Absolutely nada. Nothing from the Cardinal, nothing even by the superb Msgr. Charles Pope. A news story in the archdiocesan Catholic Standard reported that some lawmakers were calling for an investigation. The paper – and archdiocese – did so little or so little visible, that it might have well done nothing.

Archdiocese of New York: Other than a news story about the political controversy, likewise nothing.

Archbishop Chaput
Archbishop Chaput

Archdiocese of Boston: Cardinal Sean O’Malley chairs the USCCB Pro-life Committee. He issued an official letter on behalf of the bishops conference, and has been much quoted: “The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more ‘intact’ organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.” But in his archdiocesan paper The Pilot, only a news story on planned protests. (Author’s note: During the course of the day, The Pilot and other outlets have written in to point out that their coverage has included other stories and commentaries in past weeks. This is true, but as I indicate above and in some clarifications in the Comments section below, this column was not meant to be a comprehensive survey. I have just tried to give an account here of what a “snapshot” view over a weekend would look like to someone coming to the local Catholic press without much prior knowledge of the controversy. That, it seems to me, is worth pondering if the Church really wants to be a force in eliminating this very great evil in our midst.)    

Bishops of Colorado: set Aug. 28 as “a day of prayer and penance in response to Planned Parenthood’s horrific actions and all those involved in the procurement and use of aborted baby organs.”

Diocese of Arlington: My Bishop Paul Loverde (pure siciliano) commented early in the process (July 28): “Many of my brother bishops have written about the dehumanizing effect that abortion and the trade of fetal organs and tissue have on all involved: the women who have abortions; the doctors performing them; the persons involved in the sale of and research on tissue; and of course, the unborn children whose lives are taken from them. I echo their pleas — along with that of our Holy Father — to resist the temptations of the throwaway culture in which human life is lost in an economy that kills.” Real truth-telling, though the “many. . .brother bishops” is a bit of an exaggeration. Little continuing coverage in the diocesan paper.

Archdiocese of Chicago: Archbishop Cupich’s moral equivalency in an official statement drew protests, even from other bishops: calling for a “consistent ethic,” he explained, “While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled [emphasis added] by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.” (Joblessness = abortion; executions of criminals = ripping innocents from the womb?). The archdiocesan paper carried nothing else, though there is a big story about making all diocesan building energy efficient.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia: As might be expected, Archbishop Chaput wrote a very strong column, “There is no equivalence.” Clearly intended to refocus the “consistent” ethic argument. His diocesan newspaper has robust coverage of and comment on Planned Parenthood.

Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Archbishop Jose Gomez hasn’t spoken out much on the controversy; his archdiocesan paper has had the best news and opinion coverage of any Catholic publication. Still, the sheep want to hear from the shepherd.

Archbishop Cupich
Archbishop Cupich

Archdiocese of Miami: I’m a fan of Archbishop Wenski, who has a big, evangelical heart. He’s been a little too hearty on distant environmental speculations lately, especially since the slaughters of the innocents at PP is real and present. Neither he nor his archdiocese seem to have much noticed the PP videos.

So what’s the reaction in your own diocese or church? Is there pressure to keep this story front and center? If not, why not? It’s worth asking relevant authorities, who need to feel popular passion – and, we can hope, will pass it along to the people in the Vatican helping the pope prepare his texts for next month’s visit. If Francis speaks only along expected lines about immigration and the environment, and not this massacre (and the legalization of gay “marriage”), it will send a silent message that the Church in this country is not really serious about the things that most challenge our consumerist, throwaway culture.

The only way to counter PP’s unholy alliance with powerful political, economic, academic, and media elites is a serious movement – not a lone voice here and there, a large movement that’s not going away. The Catholic Church is the most likely body to create and lead such a movement. The ball’s already rolling politically, at the state level in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Arkansas, and may be coming soon to a state near you.

But maybe not, if you and others don’t act – even if it’s only asking your local bishop and Catholic press to wake people up to a horror that’s too great and too graphic to be ignored.

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.