Some Tough-Minded Questions for Tenderhearted ‘Seamless Garment’ Pro-Lifers

By John Zmirak Published on November 10, 2018

They don’t use the term “Seamless Garment” much anymore. The invention of flamboyantly pro-gay and left-wing Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, that phrase lost its luster the fiftieth time some pro-choice Irish- or Italian-American politician used it to burnish his Catholic credentials during a campaign. To hide her support for killing children to suit our sexual convenience behind the promise of more cash for Medicaid, or extra food stamps. 

Here’s how Wikipedia spins this leftist, pacificist Catholic movement, in its softball entry  on the topic:

The seamless garment philosophy holds that issues such as abortion, capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, social injustice and economic injustice all demand a consistent application of moral principles that value the sacredness of human life. 

In practice, this rhetoric serves people in high positions at rich Catholic organizations that claim pro-life credentials. They insist that you can’t oppose intentionally killing children, unless you also sign on to a very long list of very specific policies. Which always somehow turn out to be leftist. To grow the federal government. To garner hundreds of millions of dollars for left-wing, nominally Catholic groups such as Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services. (Last year, forty percent of the U.S. Catholic bishops conference budget came from such taxpayer-funded contracts.) To cast Uncle Sam as a messiah who will dry every tear, and wipe each runny nose.

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These people have cast about for a new, less tainted phrase to use to describe themselves. Some tried to steal “Whole Life” from my old friend Jason Jones. He coined the term to mean comprehensive respect for human rights and dignity. Not, you know, a laundry list of free stuff and services for bored government employees (or Catholic contractors) to dole out to future voters.

Others use the term “consistent life ethic.” They strive to seem holistic, and to cast those of us who actually want to, you know, outlaw abortion, as single-issue cranks. We’re not sophisticated, you see. We don’t want to get to the root of the problems underlying abortion. We just want to treat the symptoms.

Keep Abortion Legal but Make it “Unthinkable”

That was the message of self-styled “New Wave Feminist” Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, when she jumped on the doomed campaign of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke for Senate. She went so far as to endorse the 100 percent pro-choice candidate just a few days before a close election. Here was her logic:

This idea of eliminating abortion by simply making it illegal is far too low of a bar to set. Abortion must become unthinkable and unnecessary if we want to eradicate it from our culture. And the only way that will happen is by creating a post-Roe culture while Roe still stands.

Abortion becomes unnecessary when women have so much support from within their community that the one violent choice never even becomes an option in their minds. Abortion becomes unthinkable when women of color realize that having their children will not cost them their own lives because we have men like O’Rourke actually addressing the disproportionate number of minorities and children dying during childbirth.

You want women to stop feeling pressured into abortion? Then start by addressing the very things that lead so many of them to that desperate choice in the first place.

I’ve dismantled arguments like hers before. Rather than repeat myself, let me point you to just one piece. Okay, maybe just two.

I’ll assume for the purpose of argument that De La Rosa is sincere. That unlike Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and R.F. “Beto” O’Rourke, she actually opposes abortion. Thinks that it’s killing. And I’ll pose some questions for people like her to try and answer for themselves.

Would you say this about slavery?

Would you have tut-tutted at Abolitionists who wanted to outlaw slavery? Told them they were fixated on merely a surface problem? That we should leave slavery legally in place, while working for a world where it was not illegal but “unthinkable”? Would you have focused government efforts not on forcibly freeing slaves, but compensating slave-owners? Or importing new cheap, free labor — to take away the “root cause” of slavery, as in the need to have someone cut the cotton cheaply? Would you have demanded we root out racism first, before passing the 13th Amendment?

If not, why not?

Can You Name Anything That Isn’t a “Life Issue”?

The favorite argument of Seamless Garment workers is that there are many, many “life issues” of equal weight to abortion. The almost implausibly witless Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago made such a claim. In fact, he greeted the news that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts for profit with the following gem of moral analysis.

[W]e should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.

So we can’t condemn human organ traffickers unless… we adopt the Cardinal’s solutions to a very long list of other problems. We have to offer limitless free medical care, at taxpayer expense. Open the borders to all comers. Solve racism. Eliminate all economic inequality. Take every citizen’s guns. And stop executing murderers. Only once we’ve met every demand on that ransom note will the Cardinal agree that we can’t kill babies. Huh.

Would you have focused government efforts not on forcibly freeing slaves, but compensating slave-owners?

I don’t think he goes far enough. Don’t we have to solve climate change? Eliminate misogyny in the Muslim world? End human-trafficking? Cure cancer?

Those affect human life too. In fact, every single political issue does. That’s why we argue about politics.  

Is there any issue trivial enough that people like De La Rosa wouldn’t consider it equal to killing babies? Wouldn’t say that we need to embrace government coercion and redistribution to solve it first? If so, I wish she would name that issue.

I’ll wait. I’ve got lots of time.

Are you sure about the root causes of abortion?

De La Rosa seems pretty sure she knows what lies at the root of abortion. It’s economic deprivation. But is that really true? Because I have another theory. Are you ready?

It seems to me that abortions happen because sexual intercourse is pleasant. But it sometimes results in pregnancy. And men are naturally (as feminists endlessly tell us) inclined to pressure women for sex without commitment. But they don’t always want to man up. To support the women they impregnate, at least financially. Our culture blasts the rather obvious message “Sex is fun” into our heads almost 24/7. Groups that target children like Planned Parenthood encourage sexual experimentation (and ample perversions) at ever younger ages. Churches that discourage premarital sex get constantly ridiculed, and harassed by the government.

Maybe the root cause of abortion is … men pressuring women for sex. And women saying “yes” when they should mean “no.”

Do you want to dig down that far, and fix that problem at the root? Maybe by promoting chastity? Enforcing child support more ruthlessly? Banning porn? Promoting marriage?

I don’t think “Beto” is on board with that.

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  • Patmos

    The general theme of The Old Testament is that when you start to wiggle away from God, things go bad, really bad. Yet liberal twisting of scripture insists that we continue to ask, “Yeah but what if we did this instead?” It’s sort of like smearing feces on your face, only more crazy.

  • pablocruize

    When Christians abandon the clear teaching of scripture they ideologically merge with prevailing cultural opinion. That’s why God wrote things down, if anyone wants to check…

  • John

    For “almost implausibly witless Cardinal Blaise Cupich”, please read: witless, hapless, deceitful and let’s stop there in the interest of brevity. To mask the current homosexual sub-culture in the church as “clericalism” shows how serious he is about getting to the root of any problem.

  • Anne

    I agree with John, but would ask him to consider an addition to the third from last paragraph in which he discusses his perception of the root of abortion. Women, as they will tell us, have minds of their own. …they create their “own” identities, make their “own” choices; although, I did not have to be told for I am a woman. But, having lived as a teenager through the 1960’s and its “sexual” revolution, I’m going to say that women were “liberated” to live as men did/do, and use sex for pleasure rather than procreation. Men are no more than and no less guilty than women for the the murder of the unborn. The sexual revolution and the ensuing moral decline is a result of men and women’s focus on self….having, in fact, become their own gods. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans about sin and the sinner:

    Romans 1:28 “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”

  • tz1

    Make rape legal (or at least an equivalent theft of service) or unthinkable.

    Beware the naked man that offers you the seamless garment off his back. Yes, pushing the envelope.

  • AvantiBev

    Great article as usual and thank you for mentioning what our feckless bishops won’t: chastity. The entire Sex Revolution has borneborne evils fruits shack ups, hook ups, divorce, disease, despair, fatherless homes and abortion. Uproot the whole poisonous tree.

  • Tim H

    Good points John. I agree with with everthing you said. And in addition we need to help people understand that government “help” is far more like a “boot stamping on a human face forever” than a cheerful, loving, hand up from difficulty. We have to find a way to disabuse people of the notion that the government is here to help on these intractable problems. Government, especially far away government like DC. is like King Midas, except everything it touches turns to ash and sludge. Somehow we have to reassert local control again.
    We need to keep pointing out that we got into messes like healthcare concerns and the financial crisis of ten years ago BECAUSE of government. And keep asking, somehow more government is the answer??

    • Well said Tim. Government is the problem. People are the solution.

    • Tom G

      Government is made up of people.

  • Rex Gehlbach

    I mostly agree with your points (and your other ones you linked to). However, we need to accept the fact that decades of trying to outlaw abortion has accomplished nothing, while “making abortion unthinkable” and supporting crisis pregnancy centers and praying and counseling and advocating for jobs and decent wages and buying ultrasound machines has resulted in the closing of many abortion clinics due to reduced demand. What you are railing against has saved babies. We also need to accept the fact that when we do elect “pro life” candidates, and in fact when they have been in the majority, they have not outlawed abortion. They have used the issue to garner votes just as the other side has done the same. I have voted pro life for decades without results but recently I have started to also look at other issues. It still results in a pro life vote most of the time but I am no longer a single issue voter. By the way, you misspelled Bernardin.

    • Zmirak

      False. I didn’t “rail against” crisis pregnancy centers or ANY of those good things–in the middle of which you threw in the irrelevant “advocating for jobs and decent wages.” So if you’re willing to lie about that, I don’t even believe your claim that you vote for pro-life candidates.

      • Tom G

        Does the fact that you’re completely ineffective ever give you pause in your job incessantly waging your war-against-the-left? What have you actually accomplished in terms of making anything better for anyone?

        • Dr_Grabowski

          Defending the Faith, answering objections, devising plans, designing blueprints, writing manifestos, declarations, all of these are indeed “ineffective” unless someone acts upon them

          • Tom G

            I understand what you’re saying, but the gap between the historical figures you referenced along with their accomplishments and Zmirak is far too large for the comparison to even remotely apply.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Of course, once duly and properly informed, and to an extent inspired by Zmirak’s writing and speaking (have you heard him on the Eric Metaxas show? Good stuff), other people, persons other than Zmirak may indeed take action(s) aimed at preserving, extending Western ideals.

            Anyway, since you accept the principle at least, I say all hands on deck! We should all stand up for human rights, especially those of helpless innocents.

            What, by the way, is your own understanding of things? Where, on what issues, do you take principled exception to Zmirak, or the Stream, and why?

    • Dr_Grabowski

      If politicians break solemn promises to act on behalf of vulnerable unborn children, they should be voted back out. Fine. But to vote for politicians, who say they will act to keep abortion legal, in order for you to get some other policy enacted that you happen to desire, is to overlook the fact that life is the “mother right” from which everything else flows.

      Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not things that corpses show much interest in

  • David M Paggi

    Outstanding points, as it really comes down to the fact that abortion is based on lies. First, the lie that that happiness, true love, human fulfillment, and any number of other good things can only be obtained through sexual expression. Having placed all this value on sex, the second is that everyone has some sort of right to these goods without a commitment to accept any children that may result; i.e. marriage. Third, and the most insidious, is the mendacious devaluing of the miracle of human life in the womb with such euphemisms as “products of conception” or “bunch of cells”.

    There is one thing about the proponents of abortion that is absolutely true: none of them will be around when to her horror and unending pain the would-be mother realizes that was her child whose life ended in deliberate violence.

  • ckbckb

    Wow, excellent! Great points, well written, thanks. This is a keeper that I’m going to be quoting and citing whenever I can.

  • woundedpig

    I guess the seamless garment folks have forgotten and are ignoring Church teaching on Prudential Judgement vs. Intrinsic Evil. Most prominent example in recent weeks is Cupich as detailed in this article. We must continue to pray and act.

  • Lack of temperance or self-control is the main problem. The only spirituality that I know of which has the fruit of the Spirit temperance is Biblical spirituality (Galatians 5:22-23). This may be something to revisit.
    You’ll find it in the New Testament; especially the epistles.

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