Tuesday, November 11, 2008




There can be no doubt that what motivated Cardinal Bernardin to propound his doctrine of "The Consistent Ethic of Life: A Seamless Garment" was his desire to find a compromise in the midst of the acrimonious debate which followed in the two decades after Roe v Wade. His long period of service as General Secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and his three years as President of that body was characterized by his extraordinary talent for working out compromises whenever it appeared that that body of bishops was about to be paralyzed by polarization.

Back in the 1970's when nuclear arms proliferation became a burning political and moral issue the attempt by the NCCB to issue a pastoral statement on the subject seemed doomed to failure. Then Bernardin, speaking for the doves, in the now famous debate at the Chicago plenary meeting of the NCCB worked with (then) Archbishop John O'Connor, speaking for the hawks, produced a compromise statement that satisfied everyone and satisfied no one.

Bernardin's desire for peace and harmony led him, at the expense of truth, to oppose language which had the slightest appearance of uncivility. There was one occasion, for instance, when NARAL and others began to call themselves pro-choice and the draft of an NCCB statement contained the words "the so-called pro-choice movement" He objected to the words "so-called" as being too pejorative. He lost the argument when it was pointed out that "pro-choice" can be used to describe the gift that God gave to human beings in the power to choose good or evil, and that it was wrong to allow NARAL and other pro-abortion persons to subvert the meaning of "choice" to imply always choosing to kill the innocent unborn children. It was similar to what the homosexual community had done with the word "gay."

On that occasion, Bernardin lost the argument and the words "so-called pro-choice advocates" remained in the NCCB statement.

Unfortunately, Bernardin's speeches at colleges and universities were not subject to scrutiny by others before he delivered them and consequently the world was given his 'great gift' of the doctrine of "The Consistent Ethic of Life: The Seamless Garment," in which relativisim rendered all social issue equal in importance.
Thereafter it was easy for individuals to argue that war, capital punishment, social security, minimum wage, immigration, gun control, etc. were all of importance equal to abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research.

The Popes have condemned that theory.

- Leo Rugiens

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