Six Unresolved Challenges

Kopp then Trump Pose Questions We Can’t Dodge

John Ryan, friend:

I admire your decision to organize a meeting to discuss the renewal of something that thousands of people did, out of great love, with courage and hope, 20 years ago. But what did those brave people do? Exactly what would you like to renew?

If you are considering a single event or two, then I have nothing to say. But if you are thinking about re-building a movement, I have quite a bit to say. In my view, we are not at square one; I think we have dug ourselves into a hole, and need to find our way out of deep problems before we can start building.

How bad is the rot in the pro-life movement? Quick example: in 2016, when I tried to explain how Trump will drive abortion up (abusing women, eugenics, and dismissing refugees), sometimes I mentioned a detail of the global migration crisis: there are about a million pregnant women on the road each year – desperate refugees. Planned Parenthood offers them “help.” Are we involved? I thought that maybe some pro-lifers would sit up and take notice: “Whoa! I can ignore the men on the run – they are not my problem! But I gotta help pregnant women!” But nope. Not one pro-lifer reacted, as far as I could tell. Not one. Across the country, pro-lifers worked hard to elect Trump, worked with great determination and commitment – even when it meant simply ignoring a million pregnant refugees, with their unborn children. That is serious rot.

Sometimes blindness is due to accident or congenital difficulty. But sometimes it’s just a bad habit.


I think we need to address six overlapping questions, three from the Kopp crisis, and three from the Trump division. I doubt that anyone who was leadership in the rescue movement 20 years ago can do anything to rebuild it now. I pray for a renewal; I remain convinced that a campaign of nonviolence is the only way to protect unborn children and their distraught parents. But I have questions. The issues that need to be clarified include:

1.       What’s nonviolence?
2.       Is honesty and candor important in a campaign of nonviolence?
3.       Are nonviolent leaders responsible for what their followers do? If friends in a movement of nonviolence opt for violence – for murder – are we obliged to stop that murder?
4.       What’s the relationship between nonviolence and politics? What is our tone vis-à-vis the rest of the world adversarial or confrontational? Can a campaign of nonviolence work hand-in-glove with a political effort achieve communication that isn’t polarized when politics usually depends on polarization?
5.       What is our relationship with the Church? We aren’t sponsored by the Church, nor funded by the Church; we are not dependent on the Church for anything – except (?) teaching (?) and inspiration (?) and moral guidance (?).
6.       Do we ignore racism?

(Besides these six, there’s another question looming in the background, isn’t there? We don’t agree that killing in defense of another is murder, do we? I won’t wrestle with that question here – not because it doesn’t matter or because it’s a bad question, but because I answered elsewhere, at length (Emmanuel, Solidarity: God’s Act, Our Response). I want to stick to the question of whether this proposed renewal will be nonviolent. If we need a discussion of justifiable homicide, then the question of whether we are committed to nonviolence is already answered.)

I don’t think that it’s possible for anyone who was involved in pro-life activism in the 1990s to dodge these questions honestly. And I don’t think we’re close to a consensus. Without an open and thorough discussion of the actions and decisions and ideas of Mike Bray and Jim Kopp, and then another set of issues raised by Donald Trump, we can’t rebuild anything.

There may be a quick solution to the matter of consensus on these issues: throw me out. I wish I knew whether that was a joke; and, if so, whether it was funny. But for sure, until I am thrown out, I will press for clear answers, for candor.


preliminary personal issues

Tone! It is quite likely that my angry tone is disqualifying, ruining my work, so that I can’t lead or even teach. It is quite likely that nothing I say will penetrate and do any good, because I am angry. When I started working toward pro-life nonviolence in 1975-6, the first obstacle for me (after general stupidity and sloth) was my anger. I knew that I couldn’t do anything toward nonviolence until I got control of my anger. So I have been fighting anger for 40 years – and I’m still losing.

Sometimes I joke about this, but it’s not just a joke. There are personal issues here that I must face, to make it possible or easier for others to assess whether, or to what extent, anyone should listen to what I have to say about this proposed renewal. Anyone trying to assess whether to give my views any weight should understand some personal issues. I admit freely that I am unfit for leadership, because I used to be angry, and now I’m bitter. I fight it, but it’s still there; and I think it’s disqualifying for a leader. Around 1999, in a very short period of time, several things happened:

1.       I got tossed out of American Life League. The owners of the enterprise did not see fit to provide any explanation, but issues in the air included nonviolence and eugenics and candor.

2.       I broke with the Information Project for Africa (IPFA), whose work mattered very deeply to me, because the person running IPFA refused to stop blaming the CIA for everything.  I have a list of relatives associated with the CIA, including my brother – who was instrumental in the capture of a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, before 9/11. IPFA’s constant ignorant carping about American intelligence became intolerable, and I walked away from it, and left behind a piece of my life that had been a source of great pride.

3.       Jim Kopp killed an abortionist, and pro-lifers closed ranks to protect him – some deceived, some willfully self-deceiving, many playing word games, some privately enthusiastic about Jim’s “courage,” vast numbers desperate to avoid decision. No one – no one! – in “leadership” was determined to act decisively and effectively and responsibly to stop him. By my understanding, the reaction to Kopp’s decisions and actions and flight showed that my life’s work – pro-life nonviolence – had disappeared from the scene.

It seems to me that the Lord, in his wisdom, understood that if he wanted me to listen up and do something new, he had to start the conversation with three good klunks with a 2x4 upside the mule’s head. I half understood: I believed he wanted me to move on, and I did. No more battering my head against (and sometimes through) brick walls! I was done, for the time, with world-shaking. I taught high school English for a dozen years, getting out of bed in the morning thinking about literature I loved and kids I loved, and how to put them together. But I still had a head (battered but functioning) full of memories, good and bad. I half understood, only half: I did not understand what was happening fully, nor did I trust fully. I admit with shame that I allowed myself to slip-slide into sour. So when I criticize anything in the pro-life movement, it is important to weigh this failure of mine, and to decide for yourself: how much of what I say is genuine insight from someone with a great deal of experience, and how much is bitter unease and disease and no-knees?

So weigh away.

But I will speak, about six challenges.


#1: Nonviolence

Nonviolence as explained by Gandhi is a proactive force, not just a public relations limitation. Are we committed to it? Can we tolerate free-lance violence?

You can’t lead if your understanding of nonviolence is simply and only “not violent.” The way forward for serious people who read history is true nonviolence (e.g., Gandhi) or war. And war isn’t compatible with Christianity, so we are left with one serious option. And you can’t lead if your understanding of nonviolence does not include a commitment to honesty and candor – which in turn must include a lively awareness of your own faults and a permanent commitment to on-going repentance.

Pope Paul VI said that in our time, peace has a new name. Ancient words can become encrusted, and lose their clarity. In our time, peace is called “development.” You choose to help neighbors overseas, or you prepare for war. And similarly, it seems to me, the new name for love is “solidarity,” a pro-active decision to join hands and lives with people in need. And similarly, it seems to me, the call to repentance when we are faced with massive social evils is “nonviolence.”

Nonviolence does not mean “not violent.” The word has a history, written in blood; and it is brutish and ignorant to overlook that history. Sure, I understand that drug offenders who have sold a few joints but haven’t shot anyone are called “nonviolent offenders.” But when pro-lifers swore to Cardinal O’Connor, over and over, that they were committed to “nonviolence,” they were talking about what Gandhi did, what King did, what Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa and Solidarity were doing, what the tiny Filipino nuns and millions of others did in Manila. It is a deliberate effort to confront evil and end it by absorbing violence and forgiving, like Jesus. The clearest image of nonviolence is Mary at the foot of the cross – revealing the decision of the Lord to stand with love at the feet of our crosses.

It was bitter, shocking, when the rescue movement abandoned its commitment to Gandhi’s ideas and practices (Gandhi was a pagan, you know, and a pervert) and to King’s ideas and practices (King was a Communist, you know, and a philanderer). When rescue leadership abandoned the promise to O’Connor, they spoke bravely about their commitment to “biblical principles” instead – meaning Calvinist ideas, including an explicit open-ness to lethal violence in the manner of King Saul. In one quick improvement, the rescue movement moved from the Sermon on the Mount to King Saul’s genocide. Dear Lord, preserve our sanity!

In 1990, it was not clear whether the rescue movement was committed to nonviolence as it is described in the Sermon on the Mount, or to something bigger and better, like genocide.

So: which movement would you like to resurrect?


#2. Honesty and Candor

When Gandhi was struggling to explain his ideas as simply as possible, he tried using the Sanskrit word “satyagraha.” It means “truth,” or perhaps “Truth.” But it is not truth as a collection of static facts, objective and measurable, perhaps listed as propositions. The word includes a response to truth: it means “clinging to the Truth.” His idea, which he tried to indicate in four skimpy syllables, was that the Truth is not something you acknowledge intellectually; rather, it is something you live out. Confronting the evil in society includes confronting the evil in our own hearts, because that’s where the truth lives.

Truth. Gandhi’s understanding of nonviolence included reference to truth. Speaking the truth was not a detail of what he taught; it was fundamental.

So it is bizarre to hear people arguing about whether a campaign of nonviolence must include a tenacious effort to cling to plain simple honesty. Deception is as foreign to nonviolence – as Gandhi understood it – as shooting people.

From my perspective, the effort to defend Jim Kopp’s violence by a variety of dodges was and still is as foreign to nonviolence as the violence itself. Can a good Jesuit teach you how to defend theories like the necessity defense applied to the defense of another? Sure, that’s a worthwhile debate – nonviolence versus other theories. But lying and covering up? That’s problematic.

When Jim Kopp was a fugitive, on the run and then living in Ireland, our opponents who identify themselves as “pro-choice” denounced us as liars.

                Q: Is Jim innocent?
                A: Yes.
                Q: Okay, but did he do it?
                A: Mumble.


                “I’m pro-choice. I prefer nonviolence, but I won’t force my morality on others.”

That’s cute. It’s wry and funny, like Jim Kopp’s standard humor. But pro-choicers were right about the facts: Jim shot Barnett Slepian, and Jim shot him from hiding, and the denials about whether Jim shot anyone were lies, and other pro-lifers did help Jim hide.

And I add firmly: when Kopp was on the run, I did not know who was telling the truth about what happened. When he was on the run, I worked at American Life League, and then at Human Life International, and I had activist friends all over the world. With very few exceptions, I did not know who was lying. It is ridiculous to expect reporters from outside the pro-life movement to know who’s lying and who’s reliable if I, who started in the pro-life movement in 1972 and in promoting rescues in 1976, couldn’t tell.

It would be extraordinarily foolish for anyone to be quick to trust the word of a pro-life activist who talks about a renewed movement that is committed to nonviolence. We have earned a reputation for deception.


#3. Responsibility

A lifetime ago (in 1977, I think) the National Right to Life Convention was held in St Louis, and there was a workshop on sit-ins, on pro-life nonviolent action. But there was a great deal of tension between the pro-life politicos and the activists. In fact, within a decade (in 1986?), when the National Right to Life Convention was in Denver, activists were asked to leave, to stay out of workshops, to stay away from general sessions. Security blocked us at doors and elevators going down to convention activities. We wheedled and cajoled and got a reprieve – but we weren’t leading workshops anymore!

Tension between activists and politicos is common in nonviolent campaigns. Some people work it out successfully – like Rep. Chris Smith, like Lech Walesa (with a little help from Pope John Paul II), like Gandhi. Others struggle with it (like Rep. John Lewis).

One source of tension: activists might get sued, and the politicos often have more to lose than the activists. They don’t want to get sued.

One source of tension: there may be deep disagreements about long-term strategy. I reject the NRLC strategy – education leading to a change in the law – as foolishness, appropriate for much smaller issues but not this. There is no precedent in history for the NRLC  policy (we can argue this elsewhere; see Emmanuel, Solidarity: God’s Act, Our Response); so there’s tension between the activists and the politicos. I started asking pro-life political leaders to debate strategy in the 1970s; in 40 years, no one has responded to that challenge. They talk to each other about the Wilberforce precedent, but not to me.

One source of tension: politics is an unbloody contest of wills, with winners and losers. Nonviolence aims for reconciliation, for a win-win conclusion. It’s very difficult to reconcile these two approaches. In practice, pro-life activists have solved this particular tension with politics: we just abandoned all that reconciliation stuff. In general, the activists are far more polarized than the general population. We don’t award prizes, but we do notice who’s skillful at savage insults. We don’t even pretend we want something different from political goals. In other words, in many ways, we have abandoned nonviolence.

But one huge source of tension was about violence. The conventional pro-life leaders wanted guarantees from activist leaders that after we broke the law (or whatever we were doing with the law and necessity defense and suchlike – which included arrests), we would still be able to maintain discipline and avoid violence. We promised. But they doubted we could keep our promise. And in turns out, they were right and we were wrong, weren’t we? Are we ready to do far better?

#3. Responsibility, continued

When leaders of the rescue movement floundered around trying to respond to Jim Kopp, it seemed to me that there were three significant separable issues. (1) Were we serious about nonviolence – about the Sermon on the Mount? (2) Were we serious about honesty and candor? (3) Did we have responsible leadership?

You can’t lead if you aren’t ready to corral the strays and correct the wandering. Leaders will guide the way toward sanity, and will deter craziness and violence. If you are cute about your commitment to nonviolence – e.g., it’s your personal preference, but you wouldn’t want to enforce your morality on others, so it’s okay if they bomb and kill – you are not a leader (aside from the problem that you trivialize nonviolence).

In rescues in Maryland in the 1970s and 1980s, our preparation included logistical details (that Philly always handled far better), and some role play. We also included some spiritual preparation, such as reading and meditation on Songs of the Suffering Servant). But we also included a brief public commitment to nonviolence. Gathered together, we each said, one by one, the following or similar words:

In the presence of God and friends, I say this. In the face of death, I choose life. In the midst of violence, I choose nonviolence. So help me God. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

An important detail: we held hands when we said this. Holding hands mattered, because we were making ourselves accountable to each other, and explicitly permitting others to hold us accountable for what we said and did. For example, at a rescue in Baltimore, an angry cop (likely post-abortive, God have mercy on him) was beating the hell out of a friend, and I intervened. I was trying to explain some things to the cop about his ancestors, things he didn’t know, with a variety four-letter words and brief images. Marilyn grabbed me, put me in a headlock, and started whapping me. “You tell God you’re sorry, right now!” Good idea. I did. There’s an important detail from the Marilyn example: she had explicit permission to grab me.

There is some distance between Marilyn’s approach – if John says “bitch,” smack him hard – and the later approach – hey, if Jim wants to shoot someone, who am I to say no?

Marilyn had it right. Are we going to grow up? Can we make decisions, or just suggestions? Can we decide what we will do, and enforce our decisions?


#4. A Tested and Reliable Prophetic Voice

For Catholics, there’s a serious problem with breaking away from the teaching authority of the Church. It’s not the same problem for Muslims or Jews or Protestants – for non-Catholics in general. But for Catholics, there’s a clear problem (and for others, analogous problems).

If you say that you accept the unity of the Church that Jesus built around Peter, and then reject the authority of the Church to teach and lead on matters of justice, how do you say that the Church’s teaching on abortion means anything? Of course you should make arguments to save a child’s life that don’t depend on the person you want to convince being a faithful Catholic. But for you, yourself: are you okay if you lose your sense that your words about protecting children are from the Lord, given to us with the tranquil certainty of the Church?

Well, you can’t draw on the strength of the Church if you reject it and undercut it, can you? That’s a serious loss.

And you can’t draw on that immense and eternal reservoir of strength if you reject the teaching of the Church – the Second Vatican Council and every pope since then, plus the clear applications of that teaching by the American bishops, all of them (except one lone dissenter who does not have a see).

The same Council, the same popes and bishops, who together confirmed and strengthened a determined effort to end 450 years of division between Catholics and Protestants, and who reached out with tremendous determination to end the millennium-old division between Western Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and who uprooted and rejected the scandal of 18 centuries of anti-semitism – that same Council and those same popes and bishops also asked you to put an end to 13 centuries of warfare with Muslims. The Church says that “we” hold Muslims in esteem. Does that “we” – the Church founded by Jesus and fired by the Spirit and led by Peter and united by the bishops – does that “we” include you?

Pope Francis and President Trump have been in complete and explicit disagreement about how to treat immigrants for years. The whole nation watched when pro-lifers – in near unanimity – supported Trump. I understand that you meant to vote against abortion. But you simply cannot ignore the widespread perception that you stand with Trump, against the Pope, regarding Muslims. What’s your stand?

The same is true about America’s welcome of the children of Guadalupe. The nation is divided over immigration. The Pope and the bishops are not divided; they are united, in a position that is diametrically opposed to Trump’s position. Most of the nation believes that pro-lifers are also united – but not with the Pope and bishops. Most of the nation – including me – is startled to see pro-lifers stand in near-unanimity with Trump against the Pope.

How can you dare to ask anyone to listen you your “prophetic” challenge to protect the unborn, when there is a tested and confirmed prophetic voice, guaranteed to be authentic, that you reject?

It is not possible to build a campaign of nonviolence without the support of a community of prayer. We need to draw on the wealth and strength and wisdom of God, consciously and explicitly and deliberately, including conscious and explicit and deliberate union with God’s people – to the best of your knowledge and understanding. That is, by my understanding, nonviolent action arises from a community of worship, and the community includes many people who are unaware of our local efforts to build a campaign of nonviolence. And also, this community of people called by God may or may not know His name, although they respond to His voice. The community, in my understanding, includes St. John Paul II and Lech Walesa, and also Rev. Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, and also Mahatma Gandhi and Badshah Khan, and also Nelson Mandela and Nat Hentoff. But for Catholics, this deliberate unity with the Church includes an unswerving commitment to the Social Gospel.

A pro-life Catholic who rejects the teaching of the Church is an orphan, a schismatic, a nuisance, a fanatic – a loose cannon, incapable of leadership.


#5. Polarization

Polarization isn’t new, but it seems to me that in America today it’s deeper and more inflamed than it has been since 1865. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been almost completely unable to make decisions for decades. When they do make serious decisions – like health care – the decisions often rely on one party, and the other party waits for the opportunity to reverse that decision. The nation’s ability to make decisions isn’t quite paralyzed, but almost.

Further, both parties are internally fractured. Again, Obamacare provides a clear example for one party. Repeal, just repeal? Repeal and replace simultaneously? Replace with what? The Republicans had the power to do whatever they wanted, if they could decide amongst themselves – but they couldn’t. The Republicans are split. And the Democrats are just as split: Hillary and Sanders, the incrementalists against the revolutionaries, the realists against the idealists. For a while, they are united in opposition, but that’s not a platform, not a stable uniting force. That’s a temporary patch. There’s neither unifier nor unity anywhere in sight.

But it’s not just the nation’s leaders who are divided. The nation is divided, blue against red, left against right, center against coasts, Fox against the New York Times.

And the Church is not uniting us! The Church is split, social justice against personal morality!

So where are the nonviolent activists, the children of God who build peace? Where are the specialists in reconciliation, who absorb violence like a sponge and end cycles of revenge? Where are the bridge-builders? Where are the healers?

Well, actually, at least among pro-lifers, pro-life nonviolence devolved into pro-life activism, and pro-life activism became one of the most inflamed and embittered battlegrounds of the nation’s fragmentation. Heal? Hell! Join me or shut up! Other people deal with grey areas and fuzzy goals and compromises, but not us! We are 100% sure we are right!

I’ve been a pro-life Democrat since 1972. So I can say from experience that:

·         in the 1970s, Democrats were the majority of pro-life movement, and welcomed Republicans;
·         in the 1980s, pro-life rank and file was still mostly Democratic, but the leadership was mostly Republican;
·         in the 1990s, Democrats in the pro-life movement were a small minority, without much clout but treated fondly, sort of a protected species;
·         in the first decade of the century, there was substantial hostility to pro-life Democrats, who weren’t getting with the program;
·         in the second decade of the century, pro-life Democrats are treated with contempt, subject to bitter attack – traitors, fools, obstacles.

The pro-life movement shoved out Democrats, but continued its march to the right. Now, the pro-life movement isn’t just Republican; it’s quite solidly committed to the Tea Party branch of the GOP. (Or so it seems to me.) I am not confident I can convey how much of a shock it was to me when the Tea Party rejected Eric Kantor – who was House Minority Whip, a conservative strategist, and a solid pro-lifer – in favor of David Brat – who is a nutcase, and a pro-abortion vote. The issue in that defining election was immigration.

As the pro-life movement moved firmly into the Republican Party, and then firmly into the Tea Party branch, where were the activists with roots in nonviolence? Well, they too moved right and then righter, but with a twist. On the streets, they shouted louder and louder. The activists brag about their ability to insult, to put down, to humiliate.

The Pope is out there offering ideas about how the pro-life movement can expand – with an outreach to (1) Latinos, (2) Muslims, (3) feminists, (4) environmentalists, (5) immigration activists. To which the pro-life activists say: no, no, no, no, and no.

In fact, if you want to find a lot of people who resist the Pope – not just on political and social issues, but also on matters of (6) prayer and (7) Church unity and (8) sacramental life and (9) the Eucharist – check out pro-life activists! Pio Nono! Pro-life activists, even more than the average conservative Republican pro-lifer, are likely to join the pious resistance against the Pope: no-no-no, no-no-no, no-no-no!

Nonviolence includes, in its very core, a concerted and long-term effort to reach out to opponents. Pro-life activists don’t do that stuff. Instead, there’s trouble with moderate Republicans, Democrats, other social activists, fellow Christians, even the Pope.

Polarization is not startling in politics. Since the Adams-Jefferson contest, we have understood politics to involve a collision of ideas, a contest between competing visions, resulting in winners and losers. Our national sports are collisional, especially football with its sharply defined line of scrimmage. Music is about harmony, but we enjoy “the battle of the bands.” Given a choice between competition and cooperation, Americans are likely to choose competition. For this reason, nonviolence and politics are hard to mix.

Nonviolence seeks a win-win situation. Martin Luther King was not lying or exaggerating when he said he intended to help whites more than blacks. Injustice as a threat to just about every thing blacks had here on earth; but for whites, racial injustice was a threat to eternal souls.

Nonviolence seeks to end a cycle of violence by losing (on many levels of experience), by getting smashed, by being killed, by tossing away everything including our lives, in order to lay hold of something an eternal prize. We sell everything to get that one pearl.

Nonviolence is the way of the cross – with pain, humiliation, and death. Its success depends on the Lord.

Nonviolence is not compatible with habits of polarization. To go the way of nonviolence, we have to face this choice – and repent.

I am not proud of my reaction to the nation’s bitterness and polarization. I’m a guilty party, another fiery partisan. But if someone wants to rebuild a campaign of nonviolence, those involved in it – and certainly everyone involved in leading it – have got to break the habits of the past years.



#6. You can’t lead if you are racist.

"I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." John Tanton, 12/10/1993, letter to Garrett Hardin, a controversial ecology professor.

Beware Buchanan, Tanton, and Bannon. Throughout our lives, the Church has been urging us to confront and reject racism. But also, throughout our lives, racist leaders have been working to divide the Church left against right, justice against morality, the poor against the unborn. It’s simply not possible to speak with credibility about issues of justice if you are known to be – or perceived to be – an opponent of racial justice.

Pat Buchanan worked for President Nixon. He was disturbed by some of the results of the Second Vatican Council: Catholics following the teaching in Gaudium et Spes were leaning toward the Democratic Party, which spoke about justice and peace. He outlined a strategy to end the leftward tilt of the Church, and to coax Catholics back into the Republican Party. Buchanan’s idea (as described by Buchanan’s critics) was pretty simple: if you don’t have a conscience, buy a conscience. That’s probably a little harsh, but it does get to the core of Buchanan’s strategy. Find an issue of conscience, and talk it up, or the Catholics will leave permanently. The issue, urged Buchanan, was abortion. Buchanan was not trying to protect children; he was trying to strengthen his party. I’m sure he is against abortion, but that wasn’t (and isn’t) what he’s really after. He wants pro-life muscle. We’re pawns.

John Tanton is a fascinating guy. He is a key player in making Buchanan’s strategy work, although I doubt the two ever met.

To understand Tanton, you need some context. The eugenics movement got started in the 19th century, and grew steadily for decades. In the 1920s, American eugenicists were able to launch an ambitious legislative agenda, with great success. They pressed for state laws, and banned inter-racial marriage in many places. They pressed for forced sterilization to neuter people whom they labeled “feeble-minded.” And they pressed for laws restricting immigration.

The laws promoted by the American Eugenics Society focused some attention on Jews, who were deemed to be of low IQ, although not every individual was sure to be feeble-minded. So anti-immigrant anti-semitic laws were on the books in the 1930s, when Jews who saw what was coming started leaving Europe. And then, history records, the anti-immigration laws of the USA made unmistakable contributions to the Holocaust.

Consider the infamous voyage of the American ship, the St Louis. There’s an exhibit about it at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The ship sailed out of Hamburg in 1937, carrying passengers to North America, including Jewish refugees. The USA refused them entry; we had too many immigrants. The passengers saw the lights of Miami, but sailed back to Germany – back to captivity, back to death. It is simply undeniable that the American immigration laws supported the Nazi Holocaust. This isn’t a wild supposition; it’s traceable fact. You can write to the museum and get a list of 254 names, people who died in concentration camp because of our immigration policy. Once you see the connection between our law and their slaughter, you realize that those 254 names are just the tip of the iceberg. Was our law complicit in 10 percent of the deaths in Nazi camps? Triple that? A third of that? It’s not possible to measure it precisely; we have no idea how many people who gave up on the idea of fleeing, because they knew they weren’t welcome – and then were killed. You know, a fraction of six million, even if it’s a small fraction, is a lot of murder.

Anti-immigration laws supported the Holocaust in the 1930s, and then later supported the forced abortion campaign in China.

Consider the Golden Venture story.  In 1993, a freighter ran aground in the Rockaways, in Queens, a borough of New York City. Chinese refugees poured out, including some women fleeing from China’s forced abortion policy. There was a debate about whether to send all the refugees back home, or who to accept. Rep. Chris Smith and President Reagan defended the women fleeing forced abortion, but it was a fight to protect them. The incident brought an unpleasant truth out into the open. It is simply undeniable that there was a link between American immigration law and the one-child-only population control policy in China. And again, the Golden Venture was just the tip of the iceberg.

During a trip to Japan, I visited a northern coastal city, hoping to meet the first known woman to escape the Chinese policy by fleeing to Japan. Her name is Li Xue Mei. I did not meet her, but I met her attorney. One detail of her harrowing story was crystal clear: fleeing across the Pacific to America was generally a better bet than fleeing across the Sea of Japan – because at that time, America was still the hope of refugees.

When you understand that anti-immigration laws in America can and indeed have supported population control measures elsewhere, you can understand the John Tanton story. Tanton’s life work may be more ambitious and demonic than Margaret Sanger’s. She made the feminist movement a tool of the eugenics movement. But Tanton is recruiting millions of pro-lifers to support population control. Starting the 1990s, Tanton built a network of organizations in the USA to fight immigration. His principal organization, FAIR, was started with seed money from the Pioneer Fund. When pro-lifers want to show how racist Sanger was, they usually use her letter to Clarence Gamble, the founder of the Pioneer Fund. Tanton was also co-founder of NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Although he started his career in Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club, he has been able to persuade millions of pro-lifers to accept his population theories. The connection between population control and immigration restrictions is generations old, and the connection is tight. Pro-lifers are being seduced into supporting the worst violence in the history of the globe.

Take a look at an ad about immigration that pro-lifers keep sending me, from one of Tanton’s tools, NumbersUSA. ( Watch it, and then ask yourself whether the ad is about immigration, or the population explosion? Sure, the presenter starts out talking about immigration, but if he stuck with that, he’d need 65 marbles. So watch when he shifts to 3,000 marbles. It’s not explicit, but it’s not subtle either. He’s asking you to be horrified about the population explosion, not just about immigration. Restricting immigration is a detail – an important practical detail, but just a detail in the horror he displays. When the marbles flood the table, that’s about poor people everywhere. Aren’t they awful? The marbles flooding across the table are offered as an explanation of why we shouldn’t try to fix the world by permitting immigration. The flood of marbles is not just a reason to restrict immigration; it’s also – far more – a reason to persuade all those poor women around the world to stop having babies. If you do try to fix the marble problem, you need global population control. Am I wrong?

And Bannon.

I have no idea what to do about people who haven’t noticed that Donald Trump and his advisor Stephen Bannon are racist. If you haven’t seen it yet, nothing I can say is likely to help.

Trump’s dad belonged to the KKK. That’s not a serious problem if he shows us that he and his dad are different. But during the campaign, when Trump was asked about civil rights, he talked about law enforcement. That’s chilling. He wants to keep out Muslims, for religious reasons, and Latinos, for economic reasons. He’s got problems with a lot of people of color – for a variety of reasons. At some point, you have to notice that he believes that some people are born better than others, just born that way. He’s a racist eugenicist.

Trump was mired in racism as a child; Bannon didn’t pull him into it. But Bannon has a theory, not just a habit. Bannon buys all the eugenicist theories of ages past. He promotes books from another Tanton creation, the Social Contract Press. He gets enthusiastic about the works of French eugenicists. Probably you have never heard of Charles Maurras, but you should understand him and his impact on Bannon. You don’t want to read Jean Raspail’s Camp of the Saints, but you need to understand a little about it: it focused Tanton’s mind, and now it affects Bannon. Its plot in a few words: Muslims invade Europe and smash it. Its key message: push back or perish.

Bannon’s ideas about the world are very close to the theories that drive ISIS. He expects a war to the death between Islam and Christianity. The only difference between Bannon and ISIS is that he wants the Christians to “win.”

The Catholic Church, I repeat, firmly rejects a renewal of the Crusades. We have turned a corner, and we won’t go back. We esteem Muslims, and intend to build a new civilization with them. Sooner or later, you must choose: follow the Pope and the bishops and embrace Muslims, or follow Buchanan and Tanton and Bannon, and put on the armor of hatred.


Racism, continued: what feeds abortion?

I think we are feeding the lions, keeping them healthy until it’s time to play the Games. Shouldn’t we be careful to oppose the forces that lead to abortion?

It’s obvious that a part of the background of abortion is an attitude towards sex. If a person is convinced that sex is a wonderful game with free toys, then it’s hard to believe that this game could have very serious consequences. If sex is just a game, then it’s just not sensible that pregnancy would be a big deal; so of course we can stop the game and end the pregnancy. I don’t think that’s particularly controversial, although it may be hard to live out a commitment to a more serious attitude toward the gift of human sexuality.

And it’s obvious that there are abortion promoters. If you hang around Planned Parenthood, they are likely to teach you to get along with abortion.

What’s less obvious is that eugenics leads to abortion. The abortion movement globally and in Britain and in the United States was built by the eugenics movement. The work of Margaret Sanger and of Planned Parenthood was not – and is not – feminism. Sanger made feminism subservient to the eugenics movement. This is apparent is her two books, Pivot of Civilization (pivot = women, civilization = eugenics) and Woman and the New Race (woman = feminism, new race = eugenics). Read the books! And it’s also obvious when you look at population control globally, supported by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood supports choice as long as people choose abortion; but in China, where women need help to resist a brutal depopulation policy, Planned Parenthood supports the government, not women. (Read Germaine Greer for more.) It’s pretty bizarre that if a woman feels trapped when she is facing a pregnancy, and there are two options – abortion costing $200 or so, birth and what follows costing more like $200,000 – that the organization helping make the cheap option available get to be called “pro-choice.”

From the outset, abortion has been a key part of a depopulation effort. The connection between Francis Galton and the abortion clinic downtown is a smudgy connection, but it’s real, and it’s tremendously important to understand.

The eugenics movement has another huge project underway to squeeze populations. It’s restricting immigration. That effort began with eugenicists, and it is still led, in America, by FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA, organizations founded by a eugenicist who left Planned Parenthood to do something more effective. And – this is truly weird! – pro-lifers sign up for this flavor of eugenics!

How bad does this get? Well, there are about 65 million refugees on the road this year. So that means there are about a million (+/-) pregnant women on the road this year, fleeing from war or violence or poverty. A million pregnant women. The pro-life response? Not my problem! Keep them outta here!

Pregnant women on the road are just the most obvious part of the problem. Abortion is often an act of naked despair, akin to suicide. Women don’t have abortions because they need something cool to do this weekend; they get abortions because they feel trapped. When women feel trapped, children die. Okay, what makes women feel trapped? What makes people in general feel trapped? Many things, but a new and ferocious one in our time is that the world’s escape valve, the nation that has accepted refugees for generations, has closed its borders. So you want a better life? Suck it up! You’re stuck! Restricting immigration aggravates despair (which cause abortion).

Does that mean America has to fix every little thing in the world that makes people unhappy? No, of course not. But when we take actions that make people – including pregnant women – feel trapped, we should be ready to explain why. The effectiveness of population control in other nations depends in part on our immigration restrictions. We close the holes; they kill the rats. Should pro-lifers be a part of that? (Recall the voyages of the St Louis and the Golden Venture.)

Unborn children and immigrants show up in our lives on their own schedules. They disrupt our lives. So we can be hospitable, and meet God. Or turn our backs and refuse to help – and … well, go read Matthew 25. Hospitality is not a decoration, like a polished piano in the corner of the front room. Hospitality is a fundamental human virtue, a ray of light straight from the burning heart of the Trinity.

Wait a minute, you might say. Eugenics, and especially immigration restrictions, lead to abortion, just like lust and Planned Parenthood? That’s not what I see at the abortion clinic. I never met a mom at the door of a clinic who was talking about eugenics and immigration.

True enough. Eugenics is why the abortion clinic is there, not why she is there.

So why is she there? Often, what you see in her is despair. Often, you see pretty clearly that she was abused; she’s there to escape the brutality of some guy who has been using her. Sometimes, what you see in abortion-bound parents is a brutal materialism, or a blind selfishness. So it’s not always about immigration or eugenics.

True. But it still amazes me that so many pro-lifers not only demand that the nation be inhospitable to immigrants, but also – now, in this unhappy year – expect pro-life miracles from a man who is known for his naked materialism, blind selfishness, lust, and misogyny.

Does it make sense to oppose abortion – and at the same to support (or at least tolerate) just about every power and ideology and habit and vice that leads to abortion? How can that work?


Racism again: the Kantor scandal
Pro-lifers have a history of entanglement with racists. For years, at the annual March for Life, the featured speaker – or at minimum, one of the featured speakers – was the formidable Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms. He was a pro-life leader – and he supported segregation. For decades, the March for Life had flags and signs up front, flanked by the gorgeous streamers of Tradition Family and Property (TFP), a Brazilian Fascist organization that was founded to fight Communists and other social justice activists – including the post-Council Catholic Church, which denounced TFP in Brazil. For decades, the movement lionized Pat Buchanan, an isolationist and a racist, who figured out how to blunt the social justice claims of the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party. More recently, the pro-life movement has been a strong and reliable element of the Tea Party – although in 2014 the Tea Party mobilized to upset a conservative Republican House leader, Eric Kantor, and to replace this sold pro-life vote with a pro-abortion vote. What was the reason to oust this powerful conservative leader? Kantor’s crime: he agreed to negotiate with Democrats about immigration reform.

And what was the pro-life response when the Tea Party hurt the pro-life movement in order to stay fiercely anti-immigrant? There was absolutely no response! The new priorities of the pro-life movement were thus exposed: we are tied tight to the Tea Party, with all our eggs in one cracked teacup.

Racism again: Throwing Bell Curve balls

When it began, eugenics was embraced by conservatives and denounced by Engels. It is noteworthy that over time this ideology of arrogance proved to be appealing on the right (Galton), then the left (British Socialists), then the right (German National Socialists), then the left (American environmentalists and the abortion movement), then the right (see the Bell Curve debate). Now, the eugenics movement has shifted right again.

In the 2016 election, pro-lifers were faced with two pro-abortion candidates. One from the left, one from the right. Every person here understood the threat from the left, from Hillary Clinton.  (Everyone at this meeting voted for ABH, anyone but Hillary – with a single slight exception, who voted for ABHUIT – anybody but Hillary unless it’s Trump.

Every pro-lifer understood the abortion threat from the left, but not everyone understood the threat from the right.

There’s a huge campaign of civil disobedience coming, and I don’t mean us. In his first few weeks in office, Trump managed to threaten 10 percent of the population of the nation, including 11 million people who came here without documentation and who now know that Trump meant it when he said he wanted them all to leave, plus three million Muslims who learned quickly that there will indeed be a new wave of religious oppression, and 20 million people whose life and health depends on Obamacare. The speed with which Trump moved to implement measures was startling.

Pro-lifers were tested when physicians in Texas realized that if they traveled to Iran to treat unborn patients there, they might not be able to return – so they cancelled their trips, and their patients slid toward death. And the deep worries of pro-immigrant activists were realized when the USA deported a man who said he would be killed if he was sent back home – and it turned out he was right.

There will be a huge campaign of civil disobedience resisting Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies. It has not taken shape yet, but it’s coming. It will include references to natural law theory, and a global perspective on human life. It will seek to defend Mexicans and others fleeing from death by raising the necessity defense.

If we re-build, we need to be able to explain the relationship between what they do and what we do. What we do will always be contrasted with what they do. The new Latino and Muslim campaign will not be a dozen tree-huggers; it will be huge groups who will claim – honestly and credibly – the mantle of Martin Luther King. They will fight for the rights of the children of Guadalupe, and they will assert the necessity defense, on behalf of others. The will say that the right to a trial is a God-given right, not an American creation. They will assert that the right to legal advice – the right to a Paraclete – is a God-given right, not an American creation. They will quote the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address, and Kennedy’s inaugural address – we hold a revolutionary belief: that the rights of man come from the hand of God, not the generosity of the State. They will insist that justice requires balancing rights – the rights of Americans to control the border, but also the rights of immigrants to freedom from violence and drug gangs.

Are we positioned to respond to their arguments – which sound like ours? Will we support their claims, or resist, or just try to stay out of it? If they assert the necessity defense, and we don’t speak up to affirm this defense, will most Americans be completely appalled by our inconsistency?

Muslims and their friends will launch a huge push to protect religious rights from bigots. They will quote the First Amendment, Vatican II, and Pope Francis, and the American bishops. Are we going to talk about religious rights – and ignore their far more pressing arguments about religious discrimination? Again, are we positioned to respond to these arguments? Or will most Americans be completely appalled by our inconsistency?

Muslims fought with us against global population control, repeatedly. The global pro-life alliance for decades has been: pro-lifers from the USA, two European nations, the Vatican, Latinos, and Muslims – and sometimes feminists against coercion. Trump has insulted the Pope, sworn to build a wall and keep Latinos on the other side, urged a struggle against Islam, and offended feminists. Can pro-lifers rescue the global alliance, or is it already smashed beyond repair? Regarding Muslims in particular: will we recall their work? Will we be grateful to our allies, or not?

The Church’s strength: three changes from Vatican II

The Social Gospel was not new with the Council, but the Council strengthened it immensely. The Church sees justice as part of her work. Embracing the “social gospel” means that we are deliberately engaged, as a Church, in work for justice, as well as charity. This work was perhaps de-emphasized for a few centuries when Catholics and Protestants were fighting each other, but now we’re back where we belong, speaking out for justice – like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the whole prophetic tradition.  (See Gaudium et Spes, or, to use the English title, The Church in the Modern World.)

Embracing the “social gospel” also means that for those who intend to be in unity with the Church, it’s new and important to understand that the Church claims to have authority to address issues of justice in the light of the Gospel. This is part of the teaching mission and authority of the Church, not some kind of optional or local or temporary aberration on the part of a wayward bigmouth priest or bishop or national council (or pope).  It is our formal teaching now that work for justice is a constitutive element of evangelization.  (See the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.)

The Church has embraced a new or renewed respect for all religions. We still believe that there are matters of immense importance that we understand better than others – not because we are better people than anyone else, but because we have accepted a gift. And we do feel immense urgency about making what we know available to anyone who wants it.  And yet, at the same time, we do not feel obliged to press our views to an unreceptive audience. The “great commission” is not an excuse for hatred or discrimination. We recall the respectful dialogue that Paul initiated in Athens; whatever the outcome, it is clear he did not feel obliged to threaten or condemn. (See Nostra Aetate.)

Nostra Aetate, 3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.


It is a matter of the greatest urgency that we rebuild a solid movement of pro-life nonviolence. But we can’t do it carelessly. If we make a list of unnecessary foolish mistakes again, the price of our carelessness will be oceans of blood – children’s blood. So we shouldn’t dither and let ourselves be paralyzed by lengthy debates; but before God, we must not be stupid again.

1.       What’s nonviolence?
2.       Are you committed to honesty and candor?
3.       Will you take responsibility for the forces you unleash?
4.       Nonviolence or polarization: it’s a choice. What’s your choice?
5.       What is your relationship with the Church?
6.       Will you ignore racism?

If we (or you) can overcome these hurdles, then we (you) can start.

St. John Paul II, voice of effective nonviolence, pray for us.

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