by ROSE BRENNAN, A&E Editor
On Sunday, March 31, The Quadrangle received an anonymous message which came out in opposition to the article “Knights of Columbus: Contradictory to MC’s Lasallian Mission,” which was published in print and online on Tuesday, March 5.
The message was delivered in an interdepartmental delivery envelope, and contained a portion of the Catholic Catechism which detailed the Church’s social teaching on abortion. On top of the paper was a Post-It note, typed, which said, “I would like to submit the attached from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in response to the article in the Opinions & Editorials of the March 5 edition of the Quadrangle entitled ‘Knights of Columbus: Contradictory to MC’s Lasallian Mission.’ The Knights of Columbus is a charitable Catholic organization and it would appear that the author’s disagreement is not with the Knights but with Catholicism.”
As the author of the original article, I would like to take this opportunity to address the claims of this note.
Before I begin, I would like to express my sincere disappointment that this was delivered to The Quadrangle anonymously. The published editorial clearly states, “The opinions expressed in The Quadrangle are those of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board, the College or the student body.” In short, I am the one who wrote the article; The Quadrangle merely published it, so the grievance should have been sent directly to me, not The Quadrangle.
This brings me to my second point. I had the guts to put my name on the article, and therefore assign myself to beliefs that could be considered heretical. This grievance with the article was delivered anonymously. Should the author of this anonymous note have wished to discuss the article with me, they easily could have reached out to me personally, and I gladly invite them, along with any other people who might have taken grievance with the original article, to still do so.
But that wasn’t how everything played out. So, because I cannot address this person’s concerns privately, I have no choice but to publish it in The Quadrangle to ensure they see it.
So, let’s do this.
To the author of this anonymous note: Yes, I am well aware of the Church’s stance on abortion, and I did not need a printout of the Catechism to remind me. Nowhere in the Catechism does it say that people have the permission to intervene when a woman is exercising her right to choose, especially since there is a separation of church and state in the United States. Intervening in this process in the way the Knights of Columbus sought to do is harmful to the woman seeking an abortion, and in my opinion, it actually violates the Lasallian core principle of “respect for all persons.” That principle is highly inclusive and implies that even people with whom you don’t agree are inherently worthy of dignity and respect.
In the original article, I stated that I did not believe abortion is a sin, but if I were to take the Catholic position on people who have abortions as sinners, I would like to direct the author of this anonymous note to this quote from the very same Catechism they sent to me: “There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel: Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.”
This passage is an explicit example of the Lasallian core principle of “respect for all persons,” and it also recognizes that we must strive for fairer conditions for marginalized people in society which, as I noted, are the people who are primarily targeted by the horrid acts of CPCs.
I would also like to add that the copy of the Catechism provided to me is also out of date with current Catholic practice. This Catechism still assigns the penalty of excommunication to the “offense” of “formal cooperation in an abortion.” However, Pope Francis did give priests the permanent ability to forgive abortion in the sacrament of Reconciliation, as I mentioned in my original article. So as we can see, even the Pope recognizes that abortion is not the black-and-white situation the Church often makes it out to be. Abortion, like any other “sin” the Church recognizes, should be able to be forgiven and absolved from a person’s conscience. The Pope has recognized this, and it is high time for the Church to “get with the times.”
Let me state, for the record, that I am not opposed to people believing differently than I do. If you will notice, in my original article, I did not even mention the fact that various chapters of the Knights of Columbus participate in the March for Life every year, and that is because I am not opposed to the Church protesting institutions in which they do not believe. I have actually participated in several peaceful protests myself, though for different reasons. I am not opposed to peaceful protest.
However, I believe directly interfering in the process of a woman seeking an abortion in the way that volunteering at a CPC does is going way too far, and would go so far as to say it is an act of violence. It aims to shame women and judge them so they will not seek an abortion out of fear of isolation from the Church. Furthermore, it seeks to have control over women’s reproductive ability, and assumes that a man outside of the women’s experience truly knows best, as opposed to the person who is actually pregnant and has a more all-encompassing view of their circumstances which led them to make such a decision. This presumption and enforcement of male privilege is why I cannot support the Knights volunteering at CPCs.
As I stated in the previous article, these men will never know the journey women seeking abortions must endure in order to procure an abortion. The Knights of Columbus are simply a manifestation of the already-inherent patriarchy of the Church, in which men’s voices are brought to the forefront and the voices of women are ignored, if not institutionally silenced.
Traditionally, in the Church, women were not allowed to advocate for themselves, and they still cannot, in many ways. In the year 2019, I still know of churches where women are not allowed to approach or stand on the altar, not even as lectors, cantors, altar servers or eucharistic ministers. Women’s voices continue to be ignored and silenced because the Church still does not allow women to preach, nor does it allow them to be ordained to the priesthood. This exclusivity is both wrong and counter-intuitive, because not only is this discrimination inherently gendered, but women also have a beautifully nuanced view of Catholicism and the Catholic experience that is by definition inaccessible to men. Nevertheless, it is ignored and not utilized.
Furthermore, the Catechism of the Church was written by men, and that is an issue for two reasons. First is the idea of “men” being fallible. The Catechism was not written by an infallible being, such as Jesus Himself or even the Holy Spirit. It was written by humans, who are inherently fallible. I know I am most definitely not perfect, and in truth, no one is. Not only that, it was written by human men. Women, like in several other aspects of the Church, were not consulted when the Church wrote a doctrine to govern our reproductive ability without our input and without our consent. Once again, women are expected to sit down, shut up and not make waves.
In short, the Catechism is not the Bible, and we should not pretend that it is. It is certainly part of the social teaching of the Church, but it is not the cornerstone of the Catholic faith. That cornerstone, of course, is Jesus Christ Himself, who taught his disciples and us that it is our duty as Christians to care for oppressed and marginalized groups, many of whom (women, people with low incomes and people of color) are targeted by CPCs. In my opinion, if the Knights truly do care about women and are a “charitable organization” as the author of this note suggests, there are countless women’s shelters throughout the whole of New York City, and perhaps their efforts should be concentrated there instead.
Finally, I would like to assert my anger regarding this response to my article, particularly its selective outrage. As I mentioned in my article, information about the Knights was distributed wherein a pamphlet referred to women seeking abortion as “abortion-minded women.” And now, the author of this note has done the same thing to me. To them, my defining characteristic is that I am defending people who want to have abortions. Once I made that claim, every other valid argument I had to make about the issue was therefore invalidated. Moreover, the language of this note implied that I was not truly a Catholic because of it.
The person who wrote this note has no right to tell me what I believe, nor do they have the right to insinuate that my belief surrounding the Knights of Columbus’ involvement with CPCs distances me from my belief that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and for theirs. Why should my position on Catholic social teaching, which was instituted by men, interfere with my belief in the Catholic faith, which was instituted by the divine?
In truth, I am hurt by this anonymous message because it implies that I am “not Catholic enough” because I expressed that I do not believe in an aspect of the social teaching that oppresses another essential part of my identity: womanhood.
So, for the time being, I will continue to participate in all the rites my faith allows me. I will continue to go to Mass. I will continue to take Communion. I will continue to sing in my college’s Music Ministry, because singing praise to my God is the way in which I most intimately connect with Him. I will continue to give up caffeine for Lent, no matter how hard it is. Most importantly, I will continue to wholly identify as both a Catholic and a feminist, and I still believe the two are not mutually exclusive.
The Church may have had success in isolating countless women from their faith in the past. I refuse to become one of them.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in The Quadrangle are those of the individual writers and do not not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board, the College or the student body.