By David Larson
David Larson is an editor and/or writer for a number of publications and has a master’s in theological studies from Spring Hill College. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter.
Over the last few months, there have been frequent stories in the mainstream press about whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians will or won’t be allowed to continue to receive Communion. A recent example is the coverage of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s letter critical of pro-abortion public figures receiving the Eucharist. Since Cordileone is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bishop, much ink was spilled on whether she would be denied the sacrament. The same has been asked of President Joe Biden, another pro-abortion politician.
When these stories are written, the press is careful to include all sides of Catholic belief on the issue—both the Catholic side and the non-Catholic side. The media’s go-to group for a pro-abortion Catholic position seems to be a Washington, D.C.,-based non-profit known as Catholics for Choice.
In a post-election Associated Press article, titled “Catholics divided as bishops examine Biden’s abortion stance,” the trusty AP gave both sides their due, with the USCCB condemning Biden’s position on one side and Jamie Manson of Catholic for Choice on the other. Manson was quoted as saying that Catholics who voted for Biden were not compromising their beliefs, but rather were “well-informed and have used their consciences in their choice both to elect President-elect Biden and to support reproductive health care.”
The same dynamic was at play a few months later when Pope Francis said clergy could not bless same-sex unions because they “cannot bless sin.” National Public Radio (NPR) did an interview with Manson to give the “other” Catholic position. Manson said the pope’s statement was a “profound disappointment” because it indicates homosexual “love is inferior,” and it will be the “final blow” causing many Catholics to give up on their faith.
But are groups like Catholics for Choice faithful members of the Church criticizing it from within, or are they former members of the Church who are no longer led by her teachings or the Magisterium that guards this Deposit of Faith?
If a group called Vegetarians for Steak popped up, would the media make sure to interview them on every article about vegetarianism, just to give balance? No, because obviously this group would be in direct opposition to the whole point of vegetarianism. So it is with “pro-choice” Catholics who deny the value and dignity of life given by God. The whole of the law is summarized in loving God and our neighbor, and they are clearly and obstinately refusing to do this in their support of killing the unborn.
It doesn’t take but a moment of digging to see how anti-Catholic the leaders of this group and their mission are. Would faithful Catholics lead a campaign called “See Change” to eliminate the Vatican’s permanent observer status at the United Nations? Catholics for Choice did. That seems like something an enemy would do, not a member in good standing. So, who are these “Catholics for Choice”?
First, with any group, it can be very telling to “follow the money” to see who is paying the piper and calling the tune. According to the non-profit-watchdog site Influence Watch, this group’s biggest funder is Warren Buffet’s Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his wife, which gave $18 million to Catholics for Choice between 2006 to 2014 alone. Catholics for Choice also received millions from the Ford Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.
And why would Warren Buffet want to back this “Catholic” group? Is he a devout Catholic given a special revelation by the Holy Spirit that the Church has had this one thing wrong since the first century? Nope. According to The New York Times, he’s a lapsed Presbyterian who calls himself “agnostic” and “avoids houses of worship.” He’s also likely the largest promoter of abortion in the world, with his foundation giving billions to groups like Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute, and the Hopewell Fund—and, of course, to smaller abortion promoters, like Catholics for Choice. If it has to do with killing babies, he’s in.
But at least the people running the group are proud, faithful Catholics, right? Hardly. It was started months after Roe v. Wade by three members of the National Organization for Women who were “concerned that the gains of Roe could be temporary if an organized anti-abortion movement, supported by the Catholic Church, gained momentum.” It’s current president, Jamie Manson, who was mentioned earlier, did work at National Catholic Reporter for 12 years, but that hardly builds her Catholic credibility.
Manson’s bio on the group’s site says, “She was an often-solitary voice [during her time in Catholic media] for reproductive freedom and justice and was one of the first to sound the alarm about the right-wing push for religious freedom.”
It is very telling that religious freedom, as such, is seen as something alarming. Ironically, their talking points lean heavily on the right of “conscience” for Catholics to justify breaking with Catholic teaching, but their agenda is full of conscience-denying items when it comes to the religious freedom of Catholics who want to actually live out their faith. So, it seems, not only is their Catholicism pretty suspect, but they aren’t even really for “choice,” as they support both taxpayer-funded abortion and LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws—stripping the faithful of any choice on whether to participate in these activities.
The other top staffer listed is John Becker. Becker just released a press statement in late April titled “Catholics for Choice Condemns U.S. Bishops for Attacking Biden on Abortion.” It states, “The Catholic laity understand a profound truth about our faith that the bishops still don’t seem to comprehend: all are welcome and worthy at God’s table, and nothing can estrange us from God’s love.”
Becker, though, seems a little less interested in God and love if you follow him on social media. Just glancing at his recent posts shows someone who regularly mocks religion and human life. On May 10, he retweeted someone who answered “The Bible” to a question, “You’re on a first date with someone, and they tell you the name of their favorite book. You immediately leave. What’s the book?”
On May 12, a popular liberal commentator, Touré, celebrated a story about how a Dunkin’ Donuts employee assaulted and killed a 77-year-old white man. The employee told police the elderly man had called him a racial slur, which justified the killing in Touré’s mind—and apparently also in Becker’s mind, who responded, “Thoughts and prayers, gramps,” accompanied by shrugging, kissy-face, and peace emojis. The police, according to the ABC story, wouldn’t specify what the slur was, but that didn’t stop Touré and Becker from filling in the blanks.
Sure, if this old man called someone a racial slur, he should be banned from the store and maybe even given some negative attention in a news story, but he should not be killed. It’s possible they were having some kind of age-related mental degeneration. It’s also possible the employee lied to police after realizing he had killed someone he was having an argument with. Regardless, faithful Catholics definitely shouldn’t celebrate and mock death that casually, but it’s not surprising from those who promote killing the most vulnerable among us. So, let’s not pretend people like Becker, and his views, deserve an equal and opposite weight with our bishops in news stories on the Church.
Their rebuttal seems to be that “Nobody Gets to Say Who Is and Who Is Not Catholic.” In a Huffington Post article by that name, past president of Catholics for Choice Jon O’Brien said nobody can make this call, “Not the priests, not the bishops and not the pope. One is a Catholic after baptism. Period.”
The statement, though, is as inane as saying the Elks Lodge has no right to say who is and who isn’t an Elk. The Church is pretty clear on how one stays in good standing and that those who aren’t Catholics in good standing shouldn’t present themselves as such, for sacraments especially. If the Church isn’t the appropriate body to make these calls, then who is?
I guess Jon O’Brien since he seemed to think he was qualified to declare that the whole question was as simple as “One is a Catholic after baptism.” The article was a response to a USCCB spokesperson saying that journalists asking Catholics for Choice about the Catholic view of abortion was like asking Catholic Atheists their view of the existence of God. This was almost a decade ago, but the media still hasn’t gotten the memo.