The DeLauro Democrats and the Bishops

At 1 p.m. EDT on June 18, it was announced that three-quarters of the U.S. bishops had voted to develop a statement on the eucharistic integrity of the Church and the eucharistic coherence of Catholics. Within an hour, a “Statement of Principles” was released by 60 Catholic Members of Congress, all Democrats and led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. Addressed to the bishops, the statement was respectful in tone. Shortly after its release, however, one of the signatories, Rep. Ted Lieu of California, tweeted that he was a Catholic who supported a “woman’s right to choose,” adding, “Next time I go to church, I dare you to deny me communion.”  Congressman Lieu’s spluttering rather gave the game away: the purpose of the Members’ “Statement of Principles” was to intimidate the bishops.

It isn’t going to work, any more than the bombast from the Catholic Left before the bishops’ vote made a difference. And the abominable reporting after the bishops’ vote, which is certain to continue, won’t make a difference to the statement the bishops will consider in November. The days are past when the American hierarchy could be cowed by the political and journalistic principalities and powers and the “progressive” Catholic media.   

The DeLauro “Statement of Principles” unfortunately contributed to the confusions that bedevil the public discussion of abortion. The Members said that that debate “often fails to reflect and encompass the depth and complexity of these issues.” There’s a truth lurking within the complexity dodge here: every unwanted pregnancy is unique and emotionally wrenching. But some things are not complex: a scientific fact; a basic moral principle; and a truly humane response to “these issues.” The scientific fact, which can be learned from a high school biology textbook, is that the product of human conception is a human being. The moral principle is that, in a just society, innocent human life is protected in law. And a truly humane response to unwanted pregnancy would offer a woman compassionate care and assistance, not a “technological” fix that often leaves lifelong emotional scars.

The Members who signed the DeLauro statement profess their belief in “the primacy of conscience” — another confusion avoiding the real issue. For a rightly-formed conscience recognizes the basic moral principle that innocent life is not to be willfully taken. If the Members don’t understand that, then they are poorly catechized or indifferent to an elementary principle of justice. Why does the party of “social justice” and “equity” not recognize this?

Part of the answer reflects the fact that Big Abortion — Planned Parenthood and its allies — is a major funder of the Democratic Party. Then there is the surreal claim that the “right” to terminate an unborn life — a “right” that’s been a great boon to predatory, irresponsible, and callous men — is essential to the equality of women. Yet another part of the answer involves the shameful congressional career of the late Father Robert Drinan, SJ (D-MA), whose consistent votes to support the abortion license decreed in Roe v. Wade provided cover for fellow-Catholic legislators to conform themselves to the spirit of the age rather than the truths of the Gospel. Decades of ineffective religious education and timid preaching are also involved. 

And then there’s the lay responsibility for all this: How many Catholic laity have urged fellow-Catholic Members of Congress to stop surrendering to the mantra of “choice,” which always avoids the crucial question — choose what? The issue here, after all, is not something on which reasonable people can conscientiously differ, like tax policy, environmental policy, or immigration policy. It’s the sanctity of life and its protection in law. Lay leadership in confronting wayward politicians is every bit as important as episcopal spine.  

The Second Vatican Council taught that various Christian communities are in different degrees of communion with the Catholic Church. The same truth would seem to apply analogously within the Church. Catholics who reject the ancient Christian teaching on the grave moral evil of abortion and facilitate its practice — a teaching affirmed and a practice condemned by every pope in Rep. DeLauro’s lifetime, including Pope Francis — are not in full communion with the Church. They are always welcome at Mass. But their own integrity demands that they refrain from receiving holy communion until they are no longer in a gravely defective state of communion with the Church.

And that is the sad condition of the signatories of the DeLauro “Statement of Principles” who were in Congress last year. For each of them “earned” a 100% 2020 NARAL-Pro Choice America voting record in the House of Representatives. 

Each of them. 100%.

Featured photo by Alex Wong | Getty Images

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”