"When, for economic gain, a Catholic institution associates itself with such a high profile proponent of the destruction of innocent lives, members of the Church and other people of good will have the right to be confirmed in their commitment to the Gospel of Life."Burke clarified that his opposition was based not on Crow's personal beliefs, but on her public advocacy for these issues. First of all, calling it "economic gain" is callous. I believe the benefit was designed to raise money for sick children. If Burke really wanted to rail against immoral "economic gain", he could have a field day with the Bush administration's corruption...But I digress. So where to begin? For a start, this was a pretty stupid move. If the aim is to promote Catholic teaching on these topics, it clearly backfired. This kind of ham-fisted intervention just creates sympathy for Crow.
My main problem, though, is the inconsistency. Yet again, we have criticism of a public figure (I suppose an entertainer qualifies as a public figure!) based on opposition to selective moral principles, in this case, abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. Of course, one could argue that, unlike issues like tax policy and poverty, there is no room for diversity of opinion among Catholics. They are wrong in their object, irrespective of intent or circumstance. But as I've said over and over and over and over, so are many other issues. The illicitness of using nuclear weapons is non-negotiable, but would Burke call for a boycott of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly for saying things like the "atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God" (see here for the story and argument). And what about torture? So many public officials and backers of the Bush administration today defend torture on consequentialist grounds. Would Burke issue a blanket ban? And remember before Northern Ireland peace process when Sinn Fein still supported horrendously-evil terrorist acts, and were still invited to march in the New York St. Patrick's Day parade, right past the cathedral? Were was the outrage then?
To be consistent, the Church would be shunning a lot of people! But here's the rub: it should not be making these kind of personal attacks in the first place. Yes, the Church needs to speak clearly and not to compromise on its moral teachings, but it needs to do so in a consistent manner. Its main selling point is that it offers a consistent ethic of life that transcends secular categories of "liberal" and "conservative". The key is to persuade, and nobody who is inconsistent can persuade. It needs to persuade those who today are not persuaded. It benefits nobody to preach to the choir, making a bunch of conservatives feel good about themselves. Instead, the Church needs to challenge secular humanists to recognize the virtue of the consistent ethic of life, the seamless garment. Cherrypicking the issues simply won't wash.