Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Abortion and the Catholic Right II" - Dr. James Hitchcock and critics

Earlier this year, I drew attention to an article by Catholic historian James Hitchcock: "Abortion and the Catholic Right" (Human Life Review Spring 2007), which observed how the Catholic (re: "traditionalist") Right -- as represented by Joseph Sobran, Paul Likoudis and contributors to The Wanderer & The Remnant -- have been obsessed with their opposition to democratic-capitalism, "neoconservatives" and the Bush administration, to such an immense degree that they now hold the aformentioned issues as being "more pressing" than abortion.

In the Winter 2008 issue, James Hitchcock responds to his critics -- among them Christopher Ferrara of The Wanderer and John Rao of The Remnant. As he observes, "the most common response to my article was simply to change the subject-from abortion to the war in Iraq, the economy, or whatever else seemed important to a particular individual, without apparently realizing that changing the subject exactly proved my point."

Hitchcock's dealings with the "fringe right" and their attitudes toward the Republicans (and/or "neocons") are reminiscent of some recent skirmishes with a few Catholic blogs on the "progressive left" -- politics makes for strange bedfellows. Consider:

In their repeated denunciations of "neo-conservatives" over the Iraq war, right-wing Catholics ignore the fact that neo-conservatives, especially in the pages of their leading publication, The Weekly Standard, are among the few secular commentators enrolled in the pro-life cause (for example, a strong article [November 5, 2007]-not by any means the first-on the Terri Schiavo case). Christopher Manion, a regular Wanderer columnist, regularly charges (e.g., November 15, 2007) that neo-conservatives' attitude to pro-lifers "seldom rises above thinly disguised contempt," an assertion for which he offers no evidence. Only a week before Manion made this claim, The Wanderer itself provided evidence of strong neo-conservative support of pro-life causes without acknowledging it, when it cited a Standard article that was one of the most thorough and effective exposés of Planned Parenthood ever published.

Manion's "proof that neoconservatives are not pro-life consists entirely of raw assertion, on the assumption that Wanderer readers know nothing about the movement except what he tells them. For example, the ecumenical religious journal First Things has over the years published innumerable articles on the life issues, but Manion (January 31) falsely claimed that in its pages '"national greatness' conservatism . . . crowds out the pro-lifers."


Until he did so poorly in the primaries, it was right-wing dogma that neoconservatives were planning to impose Giuliani on the nation, an assumption that was used to justify blanket condemnations of the Republicans. In reality, however, neo-conservatives were predictably divided over the various Republican candidates, and one article in the Standard (October 2, 2007) argued that Giuliani was unacceptable precisely because of his position on abortion, a judgment also tendered by National Review (December, 3, 2007), a magazine that right-wingers dismiss as having been captured by neoconservatives. (Manion [December 13, 2007] distorted the Standard's argument against Giuliani by calling it a "lament.")

The assumption by right-wing critics of the Republican Party (and many on the Left as well) that the party's official pro-life stance is hypocritical is a dogma that, like all dogmas, is irrefutable, in that Republican inaction on abortion proves the charge, while any action is dismissed as a political trick.

And so on and so forth. It comes as no suprise that Hitchcock is lumped together with Fr. Neuhaus and George Weigel, renegade Catholics who wish to replace the saints of the liturgical calendar with "John Locke, David Hume, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig von Mises, and maybe Mickey Mouse."

Hitchcock concludes:

Those who reject electoral politics as a way of combating abortion offer no concrete alternative. Disdaining the work of painstaking, step-by-step political activity, they leave the field to their enemies and direct much of their fire at those ostensible allies who consider the battle still worth fighting.