Sr. Simone Campbell: poor in moral theology, rich in excuses

Stephen P. White comments on the inverted, politically-correct principles of Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK:

In Catholic teaching there are some things that are always wrong — intrinsic evils, we call them — things that no amount of moral gymnastics or creative casuistry can justify. High among such evils is the intentional taking of an innocent human life — including human life in the womb. All Catholics are expected to work to make the civil law reflect, as fully as possible, what the Church teaches with absolutely clarity: Abortion can never be justified.

Many, many other issues require prudent judgment: Medicare growth rates, marginal tax rates, defined-benefit versus defined-contribution entitlements, even the decision whether or not to go to war. These matters have moral implications, but getting the right answer means using one’s best judgment to discern the best response amid complex circumstances. There is no moral principle that tells you categorically what the interest rate should be on a federal student loan or even whether the government should offer student loans. Reasonable people can and do disagree on such things, and in good conscience, too.

Which brings us back to Sister Simone Campbell. Before taking the podium at the DNC to denounce the moral failings of the Republican candidates, she was asked by John McCormack of theWeekly Standard whether she believed that performing abortions should be illegal. Her response? “That’s beyond my pay grade. I don’t know.”

This is astounding. In Sister Simone’s moral universe, there is only one just policy when it comes to government spending on social programs (more of it), but the undeniable implications of an unchanging Catholic principle — namely the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” — are beyond her pay grade.

Sister Simone’s words captured with almost perfect clarity the bizarre moral inversion that has taken place among so many of the American Left, including the Catholic Left: moral absolutism on matters that should allow for prudence combined with near-infinite plasticity when it comes to fundamental moral norms.

Here is a woman who, because of her Catholic faith, embarked on a cross-country bus tour to proclaim Paul Ryan’s budget anathema — not just imprudent, mind you, but fundamentally incompatible with Catholic morals. Yet this same woman cannot bring herself to admit so much as the possibility that legal sanction for the intentional killing of innocent human beings might be unjust.

Read the entire piece on the NRO site.

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About Carl E. Olson 1227 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.