proclaims supposed death of pro-life Catholicism

Essay by Patricia Miller, a longtime editor for Catholics for Choice, relies on discredited data and dissenting assumptions

The Reports of Our Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated. With apologies to Mark Twain, who first penned a version of those words in a note to a friend on November 4, 1897, Salon readers were recently treated to a similarly exaggerated death notice for faithful Catholics. Entitled, “The Pope Francis Revolution: Inside the Catastrophic Collapse of the Catholic Right” (Jan. 18), the article celebrates the death of conservative Catholicism—described in the article as “the shadowy counterpart to the Christian Right.”

Authored by Patricia Miller, a longtime editor of Conscience, the pro-abortion periodical published by Catholics for Choice, the “obituary” claims that the right wing of Catholicism has been “discredited within a stunningly short period.” Recalling the more robust years of “the Catholic right”, Miller states: “For years they struck fear in the hearts of progressive Catholic candidates. They could, and did, help destroy presidential campaigns. The media took them seriously reporting on their pronouncements as representative of a significant bloc of conservative Catholics.”

Celebrating the supposed demise of orthodox adherence to Church teaching on abortion and homosexuality, Miller blames the leadership—those she calls the former lights of the Catholic right—pointing to Catholic League President Bill Donohue and Most Rev. Raymond Cardinal Burke as having caused the “sudden” death. Claiming that these two men have “seen their clout dissipate almost overnight,” Miller suggests that Cardinal Burke and Donohue were “victims of their own rhetoric run amok.” And, in a final flourish to the epitaphic, Miller adds: “They were not legion; but they were powerful.”

It should surprise no one that Miller, a drama queen for pro-abortion Catholics, would write such a senseless article and that Salon would publish it. Miller engaged in this kind of hyperbole throughout her years as editor at Catholics for Choice.  This is how the pro-abortion side has achieved such success in the past in convincing women that abortion is the safer and better choice.  Their scare tactics surrounding the 5,000-10,000 maternal deaths from illegal abortion before abortion was legalized is still accepted as “fact”.

The lie was created by NARAL leaders more than four decades ago. Bernard Nathanson, formerly a New York abortionist and a co-founder of NARAL in 1969 (who eventually turned his back on abortion in 1980, and was welcomed into the Catholic Church before his death in 2011) reported in his 1996 book, The Hand of God, that, “We spoke of 5,000-10,000 deaths a year—even though we knew the figures were totally false. But it was a useful figure—widely accepted and powerful, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?”

Government data support Nathanson’s recollections. The National Center for Health Statistics reveals that after penicillin became available to control infection, the number of deaths from illegal abortion averaged around 250 per year through the 1950s. By 1966, with abortion still illegal in all states, the number of deaths had dropped to 120 as a result of new and better antibiotics and the establishment of intensive care units in hospitals. By the time of Roe v Wade in 1973, the annual death rate for illegal abortion had fallen to just 24, rising to 26 in 1974 after abortion was legalized.

Promoting the propaganda, Patricia Miller is joined by a long list of pro-abortion politicians who resurrect the inflated statistics and overwrought rhetoric whenever the “right to choose” seems threatened. For example when George W. Bush nominated Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a fierce opponent of Roberts, claimed during the hearings that if Roe v Wade were overturned, “five thousand women a year will die.”

Earlier this month, Miller eulogized former New York Governor Mario Cuomo as a man who “made the world safe for pro-choice Catholics.” Published in Religion Dispatches, Miller’s article criticized the Catholic bishops’ for their “overt political maneuvering over abortion disguised as Church teaching,” and lauded Cuomo as one of the last of the “liberal lions” who was “willing to go toe-to-toe with the Catholic hierarchy at a critical moment for pro-choice Catholicism…he created a framework for Catholic politicians to disagree with their leaders and remain good Catholics that still resonates today.”

Or does it? While Miller is still publishing angry articles and bitter books like her recent release, Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church, it is difficult to take her seriously anymore—especially when she has pronounced so many of us “dead.” Miller must know that faithful Catholics are very much alive—and still inspired, encouraged, and led by courageous and holy men like Cardinal Raymond Burke. And she must know that the Church’s consistent and contant teaching that abortion is a grave evil is not a “right-wing” position, but a moral teaching rooted in Scripture, Tradition, natural law, and commonsense. “Since the first century,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…”

That teaching remains unchanged—and will remain unchanged—and that is why we are still engaged on the front lines in the fight against the unjust deaths of millions of unborn children since Roe v Wade.

[Editors’ note: This post originally stated that Patricia Miller was the author of the 1993 book, The Worst of Times: Illegal Abortion Survivors, Practitioners, Coroners, Cops and Children who Died Talk about Its Horrors. That book was written by Patricia G. Miller, a different author. We apologize for the error.]

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About Anne Hendershott 101 Articles
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.  She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Sophia Books, 2020)