But, worst of all, such a strategy will backfire if the aim is to reduce the number of abortions. The aim of the Church should be quite simple: to persuade secular liberals that opposition to abortion is fully consistent with other sound liberal positions that support human dignity, such as opposition to the death penalty, war, poverty etc. In other words, it is time to return to the late Cardinal Bernardin's much-lamented "seamless garment" approach to the gospel of life. Ah, but this is outrageous moral equivalency, they will cry! But this is a straw man argument. The key is to persuade. And nobody will be persuaded by a bunch of venomous right-wingers demanding the excommunication of a bunch of Democrats, all the while giving a free pass to those on the other wide to violate Catholic social teaching as they see fit. They will charge hypocrisy. But if instead, the Church spoke with a strong clear voice, claiming that human life and human dignity are always sacred, and that is why it opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research, then this is a different matter. It has the capacity to persuade.
Pope Benedict understands this, and nobody can accuse him of pandering to moral equivalency. Rocco Palmo points to a recent article by Russell Shaw making this point. In the context of an address to the Swiss bishops last November, Benedict reflected on the issue. He noted that issues like peace, poverty, and the environment resonate with many, especially the young. But other aspects of Church teaching do not make such an impact, especially on issues like abortion and the family. There are two ways to address this division. The American right would jump up and down, screaming loudly about how the latter teachings and more important than the first. Not Benedict. One should not discard one set of beliefs for another. In the words of the pope:
"[w]e must commit ourselves to reconnecting these two parts of morality and to making it clear that they must be inseparably united. Only if human life from conception until death is respected is the ethic of peace possible and credible; only then may non-violence be expressed in every direction, only then can we truly accept creation, and only then can we achieve true justice."No moral equivalence there. But a rebuke to many on the US right, and a vindication of Cardinal Bernardin's foresight.