The Chicago Way vs. the Catholic Way

Whoever decided to release the Dobbs decision on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a genius.  My priest at Mass that day could not conceal his joy at the great gift we have been given.  I suppose his joy was tempered somewhat when, as he was putting out the Eucharist for Friday afternoon adoration, a woman came into the back of the church and began screaming.  Fortunately, we were able to shoo her away. I found our saintly Dominican priest talking to her calmly but firmly afterward in the courtyard of the parish.

Some people are angry. Really angry. A friend writes: “Haven’t seen the Democrats this angry since Lincoln freed their slaves and since the Supreme Court desegregated their public schools.”  When those “rights” were denied them – “rights” based, then as now, on denying the full personhood of other human beings – those people got very angry indeed.

Like many people, I’m concerned about the increased threats to Catholic churches and crisis pregnancy centers.  There have been at  least sixty-three such attacks since the Dobbs decision was leaked several weeks ago.  A group named “Jane’s Revenge” has called for riots in a “Summer of Rage.” Their slogan: “To our oppressors: if abortions aren’t safe, you’re not either.”

How should we respond?

Here is what I want to say.

Hey, Jane’s revenge, listen up.  If pro-life pregnancy centers aren’t safe, you’re not either.  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and turn-about is fair play.

You think you’re angry.  We’ve been living with this oppressive abortion regime with no ability to make our voices heard in the democratic system bequeathed to us by our Founders for fifty years, patiently and peacefully trying to protect unborn life in every legal way open to us.

So here’s a note to our oppressors.  If you take one of ours, we’ll take two of yours.  It’s “the Chicago way.”

Some may remember that scene from the movie The Untouchables with the inestimable Sean Connery, who tells Eliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner: “Wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.”

To us, Jane’s Revenge, you’re Capone. Because, let’s be honest, you are Capone; you blow up innocent children in the womb. And you take money for it.  You hold women hostage until they pay.  Pro-life centers give away medical care for free.  You firebomb them so that women won’t have a choice.

So Jane’s Revenge, here’s little advice.  You don’t want to declare war on people who have martyrs as part of their tradition and who have struggled to protect the unborn in the face of constant opprobrium for fifty years; especially since it’s clear you’re two-bit cowards who engage in teenage-style vandalism in the middle of the night and threaten a Supreme Court justice’s children. Ooh, so brave.

That is what I want to say, but it’s not what I should say. Because “the Chicago way” is not “the American way.”  Nor is it “the Catholic way.”

*

Let’s begin with “the American way,” which too many people seem to have forgotten.

I once had a wonderful student who concluded that there was an injustice on our campus.

“Okay, so what do you do now?” I asked.

“Organize people to demonstrate?”

“That’s your first recourse? How about voting?  How about getting yourself elected and working for change by changing your fellow students’ hearts and minds?”

  “Oh … yeah,” she said, tentatively, not entirely convinced.

Actual civic involvement and democratic governance have become the last thing people think of today when it should be the first.  That’s the American way.

Those others, with the black shirts and black masks who break windows and throw Molotov cocktails?  They’re fascists.  Look up “black shirts in Italy,” and see what you find.  Look up Kristallnacht.  See who it is who wears dark shirts and breaks windows.

Now look at videos of the riots that took place while the first black students were being escorted into the University of Alabama in 1963.  You will see white girls in poodle skirts and bobby socks screaming at the top of their lungs, looking as though they are about to die.

Look at film of the lunch-counter sit-ins in segregated diners: people screaming, throwing tantrums, pouring drinks and throwing food on the peaceful students sitting at the counter.  That’s what fascists look like.  They look like those angry pro-abortion demonstrators at the Court.

I don’t begrudge people their disagreement with Dobbs.  But it simply makes no sense at all to say that a decision returning this issue to the voters is a “destruction of our democracy.”

Returning an issue to the voters is “undemocratic”?  Black-shirted people with masks destroying property anti-fascist?  Sure.  And “War is peace,” “freedom is slavery, and “ignorance is strength.”

But make no mistake: all these political measures, as important as they are, are not our primary weapons.  Our primary weapons are what they have always been: prayer, fasting, alms, personal sacrifice, courage, patience, unstinting support for women and children in need, and peaceful attempts to change hearts and minds.

That’s the Catholic way.  Following it is what has brought us to this point.  It is what we must depend on to take us into a very uncertain future.  We can be joyful.  But the work to save the unborn must move into a higher gear.

Our opponents have made clear what they intend.  Let’s make clear what we intend.  We will make any sacrifice, suffer any indignity, and work without rest or reward to protect these children and their mothers. We say, “Take one of ours, and we’ll build two more.”  “Force us to carry a burden one mile, and we’ll carry it two.”

That’s the Catholic way.

 

*Image: Vivian Malone walks into Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963, shortly after Gov. George Wallace, a Democrat, had stood in the doorway in an attempt to stop desegregation of the university. [Photo: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images]

You may also enjoy:

Cardinal Gerhard L. Mueller’s On Questions about Rights

Robert Royal’s Who Are the Abortion Extremists?

Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Guidebook for Beginners and Aquinas, Bonaventure, and the Scholastic Culture of Medieval Paris: Preaching, Prologues, and Biblical Commentary (2021). His website is: randallbsmith.com.