Saturday, May 16, 2009

Is getting arrested for pro-life causes effective?

I just saw Randall Terry being interviewed on Fox News in place of Dr. Alan Keyes who is in jail for civil disobedience. Randall Terry said that people would be on the inside, ready to disrupt President Obama's speech, which is exactly the kind of thing Bishop D'Arcy is warning humble Catholics to avoid.

While the bishops have been reticent over the past 40 years, this is changing, and it is not Randall Terry who is driving that bus, but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not need public protests against the bishops to move them. Our prayers are needed at this time to continue to strengthen our bishops and to give them the holy boldness they need to take concrete actions. Bishop D'Arcy's last statement on April 29, 2009 couldn't have been stronger, keeping in mind that a bishop can only do so much canonically. What will be interesting to watch is what happens in the weeks and months after President Obama appears at Notre Dame. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the USCCB's November meeting.

I have seen different faces of the pro-life movement over the years. There are many ways to drive change in the culture, to shift it pro-life. The ultimately goal is to save the lives of babies, and the souls of those who would cave in to the culture of death for various reasons. At least, that is my position on the goal. Having laws overturned is just one of many objectives, as is educating the public.

That is my basis for raising the question, what does it do to get arrested through an act of civil disobedience? What about intimidatory tactics?

Some might argue that it draws media attention. Sure, it does when there are pictures of peaceful protestors crossing a line and getting that attention as they are arrested. Or, when there are disruptions of any kind, along with shouting and arguing. However, what do these things do to help those sitting on the fence, or those who are pro-abortion to change their hearts and minds?

I wonder if it doesn't have the opposite effect and actually drive people away, or harden their pro-abortion positions.

I look at people like Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life who has undoubtedly affected thousands, if not hundreds of thousands with his approach, and he does it without being jailed, condescending, or misleading. He too makes use of graphic pictures, but not as a primary tool. Many have been converted with the graphic pictures and videos he has, but he does not force people to look at them. Rather, they are there for the viewing in a list. He uses reason and dialogue, prayer, warmth, and some sound catechesis to move people.

I also look at Msgr Reilly, founder of Helpers of God's Precious Infants who uses a similar approach. Prayer is at the forefront, as is sidewalk counseling. It's not in any way condescending or intimidating in the way that it is done. Msgr. Reilly talks about the mission of his apostolate in this video at Gloria TV. (View pictures of past HGPI events in metro Detroit here, and mark June 13th down for the next vigil which will be led by the monsignor himself who is coming to Detroit for the day).

I don't doubt the sincerity of those who use civil disobedience or disruptive methods such as those being threatened by Randall Terry at Notre Dame this Sunday. I just have to ask....does it help or hurt? Think of the many ways the money being used to bail people out of jail could have been used to more productive ends in the pro-life movement.

I also can't help but think of the methods used by Christ most of the time. Sure, he went on an angry rampage through the temple with a whip - once. But, how many more times did he teach with gentleness, even in the face of terrible sinfulness?

God gave us all a free will. What it boils down to, is how we feel we can move people to exercise their free will in God-pleasing ways. Intimidation is actually a form of trying to force people to act a certain way. This is not God's way. Is this more effective at getting people to choose life than the methods used by people like Fr. Frank Pavone and Msgr. Reilly?

I don't think so. I just don't think so.

What say you?

I'll keep the combox open reasonable dialogue. Please be charitable. I'm hoping for some thoughtful discussion.

In the meanwhile, I hope and pray that Randall Terry, et al, don't become the focus of news coverage, taking away from the larger issue. We ought not draw attention to ourselves, but to the issue at hand. This means willingness to blend in with thousands of others in peaceful, prayerful protest.

UPDATE 1: 80 Year Old Priest Arrested on Campus of Notre Dame

UPDATE 2: Deacon Greg Kandra comments

UPDATE 3: I am beginning to be open to people being arrested with some reservations: "Jane Roe" - Norma McCorvey is Arrested at Notre Dame

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!