Planned Parenthood: Compare and Contrast

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of “gay” marriage, one ranking Churchman declared that the decision is now the “law of the land.”  Not exactly fighting words, those.  Complacency is a serious threat to the moral and spiritual life, and democracy (or if you prefer a “democratic republic”) provides temptations to complacency. When a behavior becomes lawful through democratic means, we somehow think we have to relinquish our right to judge its morality. Or if we do judge it, we must be pathologically serene, lest we be labeled “judgmental” or “harsh” or “mean-spirited.”

The “compare and contrast” literary approach many of us were taught in rudimentary English classes is useful, I think, for breaking such patterns of complacency. That’s why, in my parish bulletin, I’ve compared Planned Parenthood to the ISIS terror organization. ISIS beheads Christians; Planned Parenthood beheads unborn babies. But the comparison wasn’t well received by everyone.

ISIS "caliph" Abū Bakr al-Baghdādi
ISIS “caliph” Abū Bakr al-Baghdādi

A very nice, politically aware parishioner objected, although she professes to be pro-life and opposes the practices of Planned Parenthood. By my reckoning, she likely represents a good number of church-going Catholics – call them, “Catholic establishment types.” A Catholic establishment parishioner generally goes along with Church teaching and can’t quite admit that a good deal of our popular culture and of America’s legal system has become irreconcilable with the Catholic faith. (A lot of priests and bishops are Catholic establishment types.) It’s sheer complacency, and insensitivity to profound evils.

She gave me an inside report on the many who “roll their eyes” reading the parish bulletin, though she wasn’t one of them. She looks forward to my bulletins, but insisted it is over the top to compare PP to a terror organization. Normally, I give the homilies, but now it was her turn. The theme was, “Try a little tenderness.”

Women with whom she associates in business meetings, she said, are often surprised when she reveals her pro-life views. You see, pro-life women can have a place in polite society as long as they keep their views to themselves. Besides, she argued, abortion is unfortunately legal. (She knows the head of PP personally, and finds her very friendly.) And the sale of baby body parts (at bargain basement prices) is also legal in our country. Hence, the comparison with ISIS is too harsh to be persuasive.

So I next decided to contrast PP with ISIS. As my parishioner pointed out, PP is engaged in legal abortions. Even the sale of the body parts is legal, provided there isn’t a profit. The babies that are beheaded are unborn, are not yet citizens, and cannot vote – and therefore have no civil rights.  A pregnant woman cannot obtain a personal deduction for the fetal tissue on her IRS tax return.

ISIS beheads real human beings, born into the world and who are citizens of the country of their birth. Their individual legal rights are violated when ISIS beheads or crucifies them. Unlike PP, the mutilated bodies are usually displayed in public as a warning to others. These are significant differences.

So, if I am going to continue to compare PP to ISIS, some things then would need to change. ISIS would need to establish a legal caliphate to establish legitimacy in the family of nations. ISIS would need to secure the appropriate fatwahs (by ranking imams) within the context of sharia law, permitting beheadings and ensuring that they, too, are “safe, legal, and rare.” The beheaded and crucified bodies should not be left on display. ISIS should follow the example of PP and sell the body parts to researchers at cost, carefully avoiding any appearance of trafficking.

Finally, it would be helpful if ISIS would organize its caliphate to include a Supreme Court – or, if you prefer, a Supreme Jihad Council.  If they could squeeze out a judicial opinion or two that sounds soothing, open-minded, and non-judgmental, the beheadings could continue, fully legal and unabated.

PP founder Margaret Sanger
PP founder Margaret Sanger

Justice Kennedy’s judicial words of wisdom would provide the template: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Exactly the intellectual narcotic that shuts down the discourse that dares to compare and contrast. The world could use that kinder and gentler ISIS.

Flannery O’Connor explained her use of the bizarre and the outrageous as a means to break the moral and spiritual complacency of her readers.  Her story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” shocks the reader with the cold-blooded murder of a grandmother by the psychotic “Misfit.”

In the dialog preceding the murder, the kindly grandmother, unable to recognize the evil right before her eyes, sentimentally calls the Misfit her “child.” Her intellectual and spiritual complacency costs her her life.  The killer has the last word: “‘She was a talker, wasn’t she?’ Bobby Lee said, sliding down the ditch with a yodel. ‘She would of been a good woman,’  The Misfit said, ‘if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.’”

Well, I only shoot my metaphorical bullets in weekly bulletins. And since I’m not planning to change my ways any time soon, I expect the usual eyes to roll. I suppose that makes me a kind of misfit. But those who are too comfortable run their own spiritual dangers.

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.

  • Cheryl Jefferies

    Thanks Fr. Pokorsky! We need more priests, bishops, cardinals like you. We need more laity shaken and taken out of their silent consent in the face of evil. Keep up this truly Good Fight…many of us out here are right with you (we get the eye rolls, too).

  • samton909

    Haven’t you heard? We are entering a “change of era” in the church where everything must change. So I guess opposing abortion is out, and comparing PP to ISIS is out. Now, you’re supposed to tenderly caress the cheeks of your parishioners like a mother. Or something like that. “Faced with the ills or the problems of the Church, it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of outdated forms and conduct that have no capacity for meaning, even culturally.”

    Our culture has pornography, gang murders, abortion, etc so you can’t complain about those any more. If you do, you have no meaning. So stop speaking against evil, and try the Mr. Rogers approach. It has worked for the Episcopalians, so it’s good enough for Catholics.

    • Alicia

      Yes, the Pope’s speech to the Italian clergy yesterday was very disturbing. Why can’t this man speak clearly ? It was full of beautiful generalizations, but with many disturbing ideas about a new approach to understanding doctrine which is soft like Jesus’ flesh. What ? What is he preparing us for ?
      I’m not a brilliant theologian or historian, so maybe I’m missing something here. But an average, intelligent, faithful Catholic shouldn’t feel so uneasy after reading a speech by her Pope.
      When is he giving us his Synod final paper ? After yesterday’s speech and his weird take on the new doctrine for changing times, I’m very afraid of it. I keep hoping I’m wrong.
      Let’s pray, pray non-stop for Jesus’ beloved church.

  • Mr. Graves

    Great article, Father. Your take on “Good Man” is certainly different from most I’ve heard. Most people seem to think FO is condemning the old woman to her fate because of her manipulativeness and condescension. But she seems to have a kind of epiphany at the end, after Misfit kills her son and emerges wearing his shirt (if I recall correctly), then takes her into the woods to be shot. Most commenters think her statement about him being her son is meant to emphasize the brotherhood of humanity, which she recognizes only at the moment of death.

    Myself, I could never make heads or tails of the story, but I return to it sometimes to think about it again.

  • Fr Kloster

    Bravo, Father. Abortion is the more than the elephant in the room, it is the whole zoo. It just goes to show how comfortably numb Americans have become about many things. The incremental slide into debauchery means that the water is boiling and we keep insisting that it is nice and tepid.

    I do commend the said lady for talking to you personally. In that way there is, at the least, an exchange and you have the opportunity to pray and do penance for her as well as all those who actually rolled their eyes. She and those who think like her, seem to have interiorly rolled the eyes of their hearts and minds.

  • AAD1

    Amen brother!
    What a contrast to compare the martyrdom and witnessing of the early church from reading Eusebius, to the complacency of today. What a contrast to read the apostles letters invoking the fear of God to the modern homilies replacing fear with awe. How dull is todays salt, that it no longer has taste nor burns the sore.

  • MercyMe

    Thank you Father. In the spirit of St. John the Baptist, we need a lot more of you to help us come to our senses. On the subject of homosexuality, I recall the words given to me by a priest that homosexuality is not a sin. I suppose he meant to say that the inclination is not a sin. (Maybe I missed that part.) In contrast, I suppose that one would say that someone’s sexual attraction to a child is not a sin either. Thank God most of us can still see the intrinsic disorder in the later comparison. If the Catholic Church does not teach clearly, our children will end up thinking that the rather constant drum of secular “right thinking” is fact. I can not see how this can be done without seeing “eyes roll”. Unfortunately Father, I am sorrowed to think that you are indeed a “misfit” – because your clear approach will not fit into the new (but rather old) process of “accompaniment” with the sinner that has ended up leaving many of the faithful rather autonomous in their belief.

  • Michael Dowd

    Thanks Fr. Pokorsky for your meditation on the evils of “niceness”.

    If Flannery was around she would have a field day with “Catholic establishment types” who are able to reconcile the evils of this world with the tenets of their religion by a casuistic process of compartmentalization. This is a process whereby folks become lukewarm. And we all know what Christs plans to do with them: vomit them out of His mouth.

    Hang in there Father, I’m sure Christ likes your style even if some of the “nice” folks don’t.

  • Chris and Jane Jones

    standing ovation! ! God Bless you! Keep it coming and keep humble through it all. God bless you!

  • RainingAgain

    It is always refreshing to read truth. Thanks, Father.

  • Jill

    If you weren’t on the other side of the country, you would be seeing my face at every Mass. Bravo, Father! How I long for more of you in the faith, more who will stop ignoring what is going on and which we pretend is not. I’d about given up on there being priests brave enough to speak up! But there is at least one: you!

  • James Swetnam, S.J.

    A couple of years ago I gave a homily in a diocese of the United States (NOT my native diocese of St. Louis) and as I was seated the pastor publicly called me “mean-spirited” and vowed that I would never again be allowed to preach in his parish. Afterwards he appealed to the bishop against me and the bishop defended him when he informed me of the complaint. All of this didn’t bother me personally–Christ was humiliated, why should I complain about being humiliated? But what bothered me was that the people at the Mass were left with the impression that same-sex marriage was objectively quite defensible. James Swetnam, S.J.

    • Sheila

      I am so sorry this happened to you. I promise to pray my rosary for you today for your protection and continued strength. I will also pray for the souls of the priest and bishop and others like them. I remind myself today as I struggle in the battle that Jesus won thru suffering. And that the battle has already been won. In the end HE WINS!! Yes! God bless you Father and thank you for your priesthood.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Appreciate your courage. It is needed today since most priests shy away from the subject and parishioners are thus given the impression that it is now sanctioned. Occasionally I address it at the parishes I preach and explain why it abrogates the natural law and how we can still be compassionate and the response has been positive.

    • Jim Anderson

      God bless you, Fr. Swetnam, and continue to be faithful in your ministry. Rest assured, you will be in my prayers.

    • Dave Fladlien

      I wasn’t going to say anything on this article, but your experience calls for comments of support. If I understand you properly, there are 3 wrongs here:

      1) the pastor’s criticism of your position, when your position was at least basically correct;
      2) the pastor’s flagrant, public insult would be wrong even if you had been in error;
      3) the bishop supporting this behavior by the pastor (or his passive acquiesing to it if he didn’t even bother to investigate fully) is the worst thing of all.

      As I’ve suggested before, there are some bishops — on both extremes — who should be replaced.

      I’m very sorry this happened to you, Father.

  • Ann

    I was moved by Fr. Kloster’s comment, meant for us all, to pray for this woman. Yes, but am I willing to do penance for her? Maybe that’s where I fail.

    • Sheila

      A catholic “pewsitter” reply. God heard you say “I was moved…I’ll pray for her”. We are called to die to self and for oneanother. If your heart and soul is not in your prayers there will not be any actions fueled by God. Action comes from holy prayers and submission to God. It is not always comfortable. Father’s bulletins are fueled by God and I’m sure he prayed a great deal before he acted. It takes courage to die to self and do something like that. Praise God for Father’s actions. Encourage him and pray rosaries for him. Who knows you may save a baby’s life. We can all offer up our prayers, sufferings and pain to end the slaughter of babies. Pro Life NEEDS prayer warriors. It is a war against life thru selfish desires. Our selfishness in not taking time to pray and others selfishness and weakness in their own lustful desires. Oh how these little ones suffer due to our selfishness. All Catholics and Christians are called to do something. Offer to help a young woman in need. This usually takes some training. I challenge you to check out what your diocese is doing. Check the phone book. Donate $$, time ,baby items. Have a baby shower at your church and get youth involved. The Knights of Columbus, Altar Guild and youth at our church do this. Start an online Rosary Crusade for life. You can learn how to do something. Get out there. Be active.

  • Sheila

    Wonderful work. Go Father. I’m so proud of what you are doing. May God strengthen you and bless you more and more with his Holy Spirit to do this and other works. It takes courage and will save souls and hopefully our innocent babies who suffer so. Wake up America. We are losing the battle by just sitting in the pews. It takes courage and Gods grace to die to self and do these things. Thank God Father is doing it. Just do it….but be sure to pray and fast 1st. God bless.

  • augury

    Sloth is obviously insidious in an America that tells Gallup it’s Christian but also has Planned Parenthood. But is wrath the antidote? Cathartic as it may be to say PP is the same as the Nazis or ISIS or whatever, i.e. entities we’ve defined as enemy, does that catharsis lead to the charity that is sloth’s opposite? Or does it just dissipate itself in pitched voices and white knuckles and red-faces? Loved the gloss on FOC — I always thought the killer was her grandson!

  • Rene

    Thank God for Fr. Jerry and the few that are willing to tell the truth, even if that means they are called by highly placed clerics rigid, fundamentalists and doctrinaires.

  • Nice to know the east coast still has a few orthodox Catholics among those whose religion has to be secret to keep their jobs. The bigotry is strong against us, but in the end, the genocide will be known and those guilty of voting for it will be judged quite harshly by history.

  • Howard Kainz

    Although Margaret Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood, she did not approve of abortion. The connection of PP with abortion developed in the 60s.

    • america111

      Really? go look for : New Voices: Who Was Margaret Sanger? and you will be educated.

  • Terrance Sowada

    Respectfully speaking Father, your theological basis for you argument is fundamentally flawed. I assume that they taught you moral philosophy and scripture just like me. You are using the argument of ISIS to try to prove your point. Abortion is horrible, but use legitimate arguments to make your point instead of comparing and equating a just cause like being against abortion to the horrific acts of a group bent on creating a worldwide caliphate. My professors would have shot me down instantly for using such a basically ad hominum attack to try to prove my point. You live in a democratic republic and have more tools than most to influence voters. You are not using the tool well. I would be happy to discuss this with you at any time. I am sure you got àbout a 15% uptick in attendance from the extremists. I am curious what your bishop thinks of your bulletin statement.

    • edith wohldmann

      both the same evil of Satan – merciless killing of innocents

    • GaryLockhart

      The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic not a democratic republic. There’s quite a bit of difference between the two which your professors apparently never explained to you, Terrance.

  • Alicia

    ” No priest goes either to heaven or to hell alone. Faithful or unfaithful, he carries many with him. When it is a question of the salvation of souls I will always be prepared to humble myself, to suffer, and to act. ”
    St. John Bosco
    You’re taking many with you to heaven Father. God bless you.

  • Jim Anderson

    Thank you for your faithful witness and ministry, Fr. Jerry.
    God bless you!

  • pt8685

    But if our objective is to save unborn lives, comparing Planned Parenthood to ISIS is the wrong tactic.

    Beyond earning a bunch “Amens” from the choir, the comparison is too outrageous to be of any use in the vitally important work of trying to change minds and hearts on abortion, especially among complacent Catholics. It alienates people, and changes the debate to one about tone (like this very post), instead of substance.

    Today’s fence-sitters on the issue of abortion respond more positively to properly identifying the unborn as people needing protection; as innocent victims of a throwaway culture. They don’t respond to clumsily painting Planned Parenthood as bloodthirsty monsters.

    If we want to change minds, we have to change the focus of our attention to the child in the womb and convince the mothers carrying them that their child is unique, precious, and ready to love and be loved.

    Viewed as a economic problem, the government is protecting and subsidizing the supply side of abortion, so we must attack the demand side. If there are no more mothers demanding abortions, Planned Parenthod itself will die.

    • america111

      I disagree with you. The “Finally, it would be helpful if ISIS would organize its caliphate to include a Supreme Court – or, if you prefer, a Supreme Jihad Council. If they could squeeze out a judicial opinion or two that sounds soothing, open-minded, and non-judgmental, the beheadings could continue, fully legal and unabated.” is geniusly exposing the absurd argument of the woman. If “fencers” like her do not understand this, then nothing else will.

    • Tarzan

      Quite frankly, PP may be more evil than ISIS. I bet they have killed more then ISIS, and they hide behind polite society.

  • Beth

    Thank you, Fr. Pokorsky, and the other priests who have commented here. Please continue to lead your congregations. There are many of us, sitting in the pews, silenced by men and women just like the woman in this story. She likes to act the hero at the women’s business club (look how upstanding I am!) but then looks down her nose at those of us in the pews trying desperately to love and serve the Lord outside of the ways of the world–those willing to take their children OUT of parochial schools that CALL themselves Catholic; those who are willing to live and raise a large family on ONE income(and a small one at that because spending time with Dad is eternally more important than a fancy house or disneyland); those willing to pray outside of abortion clinics, rain or shine, in brutal cold and snow; ….and the list goes on!

    God Bless you! PLEASE don’t give up! You may not hear from the truly faithful in your parish but you will receive innumerable prayers of thanksgiving!

  • Rickage

    Fr Pokorsky, you are fighting the good fight. And to those of use outside the beltway, we acknowledge the challenge you face. The culture of the beltway is tied to the secular state. Its influence is pervasive and growing; it’s on steroids compared to the rest of the US. I would bet most people inside the beltway exhibit more religious zeal over climate change and carbon emissions than they do over ISIS or PP. As Dennis Prager says, “those who don’t fight evil fight those who do.”
    We joke in SW Arizona that dioceses send renegade priests here that upset their parishioners. We’ll gladly meet you on the next “3:10 to Yuma”.

  • Edward Love

    How refreshing to hear a priest having the courage tell it like it is. Thank you Father for using basic logic to get across the reality of what abortion is. Far too many people are just not prepared to face up to it; it is a world-wide denial. How can professed Catholics roll their eyes at something which is in grave violation of the commandments. Would they roll their eyes if it was Christ delivering the homily. Keep it up Father and remember me in your prayers.

    • Tarzan

      I sadly fear that there are those who would roll their eyes even if it was Jesus himself delivering the homily. Isn’t this what Jesus meant in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus? “Even if one rose from the dead they would still not believe.”

  • Bro_Ed

    I don’t think you win by demonizing the opposition – particularly with such extreme comparisons. Its’s like the politician who calls his opponent “Hitler” or his party “NAZI’s.” The comparison is so extreme, and so far-fetched, that you run the risk of turning off the very people you want to reach and influence. Goodness knows, there are enough verified facts about PP for you to make a lucid and convincing argument.

    I hope you continue to push the cause and make your point, but tone down the rhetoric.

    • Rex2000

      No it isn’t. Hitler was a good man too, so he claimed. People were complacent! It’s exactly the same situation. The Nazi didn’t walk around loving people they did what they did and so does this evil in this country. That is why people are loosing livelihoods because the other side even if preaching tolerance is after your blood! That is the work of the serpent. Do not be deceived.

      • sixlittlerabbits

        Yes, Rex 2000, you make a good point to Bro_Ed. Everyday Catholics need to wake up and smell the coffee. It is important to state the truth about the evil being done without being afraid to offend.

        Dorothy Day, that unfortunate candidate for canonization, is a great example of what happens when one does not recognize evil.

        She wrote sympathetically about Marx, Hitler, and others:

        “To see only the good, the Christ, in others! Perhaps if we thought of how Karl Marx was called ‘Papa Marx’ by all the children on the street, if we knew and remembered how he told fairy stories to his children, how he suffered hunger and poverty and pain, how he sat by the body of his dead child and had no money for coffin or funeral, perhaps such thoughts as these would make us love him and his followers. Dear God, for the memory of that dead child, of that faithful wife, grant his stormy spirit ‘a place of refreshment, light and peace.’

        “And there was Lenin. He hungered and thirsted and at times he had no fixed abode. Mme. Krupskaya, his widow, said that he loved to go into the peace of the pine woods and hunt mushrooms like old Mrs. Dew down at Easton did, and we with her one October. He lived one time in the slums of Paris, and he lived on horse meat when he had meat, and he started schools for the poor and the workers. ‘He went about doing good.’ Is this blasphemy?” (“On Pilgrimage,” Catholic Worker, April 1948; “On Pilgrimage,” 1948, 1999 reprint, pp. 124-125)

        She insisted on these men’s goodwill and love:

        “Mao-tse-Tung…. Karl Marx…. Lenin…. These men were animated by the love of brother and this we must believe though their ends meant the seizure of power, and the building of mighty armies, the compulsion of concentration camps, the forced labor and torture and killing of tens of thousands, even millions.” (“The Incompatibility of Love and Violence,” Catholic Worker, May 1951)

    • GaryLockhart

      We certainly wouldn’t want to demonize evil would we, Ed. Let’s just continue to call that baby in utero a clump of cells because we certainly don’t want to offend anyone by pointing out the fact that when an abortion takes place an innocent human being is being killed.

  • Quo Vadis

    You see Father, too many priests are afraid of empty pews. So rather than speak the truth like you have done, they waffle around the edges of true Catholic teaching as not to “offend” their parishioners. Adherence to Church teaching and speaking about it honestly can be difficulty in today’s self-centered secular society. It takes faith and courage.

    What we have seen and read from Bishops from the recent Synod shows the fear of empty pews and the lack of faith in our Church. It seems they would rather be popular and fashionable than true to the long standing teaching of the Church.

    Stay true Father as half way measures always fail in the end !

  • Kathy

    Father – please don’t ever stop speaking the truth! Please don’t reconsider your ‘bullets’ in the bulletin and turn into so many of the lukewarm ‘shepherds’ who sadly are far too common now. While I agree that comparing PP and ISIS may be courageous, it’s really a perfect analogy; can you imagine being the baby in the womb who is growing and feels safe and warm tucked inside his mother’s body – and then come the forceps, tearing off limbs one at a time. If that isn’t terrorism, I don’t know what is. God bless you Father!

  • Rosemary58

    Herodias would have loved your parishioner.

  • givelifeachance2

    How about tossing in one more analogy. ..the guillotinings of the French Revolution. ..where genocide was truly systematized. …liberty egalite fraternite for me but not for thee. Unfortunately the us had its own brand of injustice at the founding, in slavery. ..and we are still paying dearly for that hypocrisy.

  • Jim

    She is friendly with professionals.

    “…by flattering words the evil ones decieve the simpleminded.” Romans 16:18