I heard a good sermon at mass yesterday.  Father told us about the Bishops’ new statement on “Faithful Citizenship” (released just in time for the Silly Season) saying that it was about 40 pages long and could reasonably cause one’s eyes to glaze over.  The message regarding pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians, preached Father, could be boiled down to this:  Accept the teachings of Christ and His Church, or no more Holy Communion.  Father said that a certain African cardinal had recently stated that the bishops are arguing over what “any second-grader can tell you” about serious sin, scandal, and Communion.  Father went on to say, to the amusement of the congregates, that “it shouldn’t take 40 pages to state this . . . unless you are engaging in equivocation, I guess.”

And that is a true enough statement.  The irony, however, is that the USCCB’s guide to “Faithful Citizenship” specifically addresses moral equivocation.   It basically says that to equivocate certain issues (say the legitimacy of abortion and economic justice) is a moral and intellectual trap.  We are charged with protecting our fundamental rights and liberties (i.e. life) before considering other rights, liberties, and privileges.  It is not all the same.

This would seem to refute the “Seamless Garment” theory posited by the late Jos. Cardinal Bernadine of Chicago and since echoed by many, many others.  Bernadine thought of abortion as a component or constituent issue in a great mulligan stew of issues affecting human dignity, rather than the mainstream view of abortion as a singular aberration.  He concluded that Catholics should work toward the holistic resolution of all problems dealing with human dignity: poverty, homelessness, economic injustice, etc., along with abortion.

Critics of the Seamless Garment have called it a kind of moral equivocation.  They propose that, by elevating all human dignity issues to the same level as abortion, the theory detracts from abortion as a singular barbarism that must be resolved before any serious discussion of humanity can commence.

It would seem that the recent statement from the Bishops does cast abortion into the pot with all the other social justice issues of the day (torture, racism, capital punishment, etc.)  But the statement regarding moral equivocation, by any thoughtful analysis of the whole document, certainly singles out abortion, the murder of innocent children, as foremost in terms of moral priority.