While things have gotten a bit quieter in recent days, you would think the entire sky was falling with President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the empty Supreme Court seat left by Justice Anthony Kennedy. But you can be assured that the protests, personal attacks and smear campaigns will begin again once the senate prepares to confirm Justice Kavanaugh.
It’s times like this that the Catholic faithful feel caught in the middle of the great polarization seen sweeping our nation. People ask us whether we are Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, and the only answer we can give in the face of all this is “no”. What Catholics are focused on is justice, whether that be viewed through a “liberal” or “conservative” lens by others. Some see the Church’s stance on immigration and then call Catholics “liberal”, while others see the Church’s stance on abortion and euthanasia and then call us “conservative”. There is no dichotomy such as this in the Catholic Church, which makes the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, a Catholic, all the more interesting. What does nomination mean for Catholics in America? And more to the point, what does this nomination mean for the pro-life cause and for the unborn?
More to Consider than Just ‘He’s Catholic’
While most Catholics had a feeling that Judge Amy Coney Barrett would receive the Supreme Court nomination, many were surprised to see President Trump select Judge Kavanaugh. While also a Catholic, Judge Kavanaugh didn’t have an internet rallying cry behind him such as “The dogma live loudly within you”. Judge Barrett is known to be unashamedly Catholic and pro-life, but the average Catholic had no idea about Judge Kavanaugh. What was his take on certain moral issues, such as abortion? From the reaction of many media outlets, you would think that Roe v. Wade’s reversal is now all but certain with Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. But is that really the case?
While it’s possible, it’s not entirely likely that this will happen. Furthermore, were the Supreme Court to decide on this, it’s not entirely clear which direction Judge Kavanaugh would go. As Catholic apologist and radio host Patrick Madrid pointed out in his analysis the day after the nomination, it would be prudent to take a “wait and see approach” with Judge Kavanaugh. We can be hopeful that this new nomination might be a boon to the pro-life cause, but we must be cautious as well.
We must keep in mind that Justice Kennedy is also Catholic. Just because one is Catholic, this does not necessarily mean that that person upholds the teachings and truths handed down by the Catholic Church. Indeed, Justice Kennedy uttered one of the most relativistic phrases in recent memory in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
“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. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”
Still a Long Road Ahead
However, we do know that Judge Kavanaugh is the product of Catholic education throughout his youth, and that he is active in his parish as a lector, which are all good signs. So on the positive side of things, we can certainly be thankful that the Supreme Court nominee is not a highly secularized member of the political left.
But what does this all mean for abortion laws in the United States? In short, it really shouldn’t change anything in the attitude of pro-lifers. We in the pro-life movement need to continue working on numerous fronts as we have been for years. That means electing competent persons to our local and national legislature, those that will work for measures that protect women and protect their children.
One thing we need to keep in mind is that even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will still be legal in many states, such as Illinois and New York. And even for those states that are sympathetic to the pro-life movement sweeping the nation, changes will not happen overnight and will have to continue coming from local and statewide initiatives. If you have any doubts that such measures are not working, have your fears allayed by looking at the following data.
“During 2014, a total of 341 new pro-life laws were introduced in 15 state legislatures, but only 26 became law. As a result, more than half (57 percent) of women now live in a state with pro-life protections. In all, states enacted 231 pro-life laws between 2010 and 2014…”
In a revealing piece by Secular Pro-Life, we can see that—contrary to the rallying cry of many who favor legalized abortion—pro-life laws that have been enacted in the past eight years or so have had a major effect in stopping abortions. Again, this came from the legislature and not from “the bench”, showing that the real place to expect change comes from the legislative branch of our government, not the judicial branch. The piece linked above provides many primary sources to studies showing the effectiveness of various pro-life laws.
But if we want to look at more recent statistics, 2017 saw more than 50 pro-life laws introduced by various states, with several of them being adopted into law. Firm action from citizens such as you and I are having a dramatic effect on reducing abortions and getting mothers the care they need in crisis pregnancies.
Community Outreach Is Key
While we can certainly hope and pray that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, we have no guarantee that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court will ensure its reversal. That is why we need to avoid getting sidetracked by the media frenzy surrounding his nomination by the President. The best way for us see an end to abortion in our lifetimes is by working through our legislative branches and by engaging the culture, showing them the damage that abortion does to children, to mothers and to families. The Supreme Court can only do so much. It’s us in our own communities that have to work on changing hearts and minds. That only comes through prayer and through getting our hands dirty. We can’t solely rely on nine unelected people. We can make a difference as well in the promotion of a culture of life.
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About Nicholas LaBanca
Nicholas is a 20-something cradle Catholic who wears many hats, (husband, father, tradesman, religious education catechist, liberal arts college graduate, et al.) and hopes to give a unique perspective on life in the Church as a millennial. His favorite saints include his patron St. Nicholas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Mary Vianney and St. Athanasius of Alexandria. He currently writes for the Diocese of Joliet’s monthly magazine, “Christ Is Our Hope”.