October 07, 2013
On Coherence and Confusion
Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as Our Lady of Victory. The memorial commemorates the victory of the Holy League against the Ottoman Empire on this date in 1571. The Christian victory over the superior Ottoman forces was an important milestone in preserving, at least for a while, the Christian identity of Europe. Today the Board of Trustees of Loyola Marymount University (LMU) may vote on the whether the university’s health coverage for staff and faculty maintains or jettisons elective abortion coverage. This vote is a different milestone which will substantively affect the Catholic identity of LMU.
Some within the temporal media have chimed in the matter of LMU’s crossroads. For example, yesterday, October 6, 2013, The New York Times in an article by Ian Lovett, entitled “Abortion Vote Exposes Rift at a Catholic University,” begins by mentioning that not three weeks have passed since Pope Francis asserted that the Church is obsessed with abortion, but the author cites the pope with his words, “We have to find a new balance.” The New York Times did not mention that within hours of his La Civiltà Cattolica interview being published and from which these words were taken, the Holy Father addressed the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and discussed the matter of abortion in greater depth. If one were truly interested in what Pope Francis has to say about abortion, I would think it relevant to consider in coherent fashion his statements on this, or any, subject so that a brief, perhaps casual remark could be put into its proper context.
In remarks of September 20, Pope Francis exhorted the members of the Catholic Medical Associations to be witnesses and diffusers of the culture of life. Well, this same exhortation should apply to any institution that uses the moniker “Catholic.” As the pope explained, being Catholic entails a great responsibility, in accordance with the Christian vocation to culture, to remind others of the transcendent dimension of human life that bears the divine imprint of God’s creative work. In order not to leave any ambiguity in the meaning of his words, Pope Francis further asserted that, “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection.”
Coherent explanation is important to the law as it is to presentation of news and opinion. In the law, a segment of the law ought not to be read and applied out of the context of the rest of the same law or laws that relate to the same subject matter under in pari materia. But coherence is also important to informing the public of important matters of general concern that affect the common good, and the issue of abortion is one of these matters. To suggest, as The New York Times does, that matters of “academic freedom” and “social justice” are at stake if the Trustees of LMU discard elective abortion coverage from the health care plan is incoherent and confuses this important decision that goes to the soul of what LMU is and is not. Regarding academic freedom, there is little attention paid to the freedom of LMU to remain true to its Catholic nature. It seems that only the freedom of those who are not faithful Catholics is worth protecting. When it comes to the matter of “social justice,” does “social justice” demand the continuance of the snuffing out of innocent human life? Since 1973, there have been over fifty million abortions attributed to the United States. This is for me, and I am sure for others, a genuine concern about social justice, but this factor is also relegated to important facts not worth mentioning by some in the temporal media.
If today’s vote is a “symbolic battle for the university’s soul” as The New York Times suggests about the LMU vote, then perhaps Our Lady of Victory will bless her faithful sons and daughters at LMU with the wisdom necessary to confront the challenges of this struggle which are more than symbolic.