Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Leah Mickens: Broadening Catholic Conversations About a "Culture of Life" by Talking About Issues Like Racial Injustice

I'm posting this to recommend to you a series of articles Leah Mickens has published at her Extra Ecclesiam Est Libertas site, critiquing the "culture of life" rhetoric of many traditionalist Catholics. Here's a taste that will, I hope, whet your appetite to read the entire set of Leah's articles on this topic — the following from part one of Leah's series: 

I remember when I was at St F [a Catholic traditionalist parish] often being told that we needed to "return to a respect for life," which implies that there was a point in American history when human life was respected. Even then, I found that idea — that the United States used to "respect life" before falling from grace after Roe v. Wade — absurd, given our history of slavery, Jim Crow, indigenous genocide, and all the other outrages. Any country that would allow the creation, sale, and circulation of lynching postcards has automatically committed a "life fail." 
Despite the obsessive hand wringing over a supposed abortion-induced "black genocide," proponents of the culture of life have nothing to say about the issues that affect actual black people, whether it's police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, or the lack of well-paying jobs. Many "culture of lifers" would say that abortion is so heinous that it cancels out every other issue, but unless you're addressing the reasons that make it difficult to be a parent, you're avoiding the real problems. As the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases illustrate, black zygotes and fetuses may be innocent under pro-life rhetoric, but black people are automatically guilty. There's a reason why pro-life materials overwhelmingly feature white babies and children; all babies are equal, but some are more equal than others.

As I said in my previous posting today, conversations about moral issues tend to be enriched when we admit more than one set of perspectives to them — in particular, the perspectives of those long kept at the margins of various religious and social institutions. A really catholic conversation about respect for life positively demands the contributions of intelligent women of color like Leah Mickens, and Catholic conversations about life issues will remain impoverished until they actively pursue the contributions of those representing these and other marginalized communities. 

The rest of Leah's series critiquing the culture of life rhetoric of traditionalist Catholics is here: part 2, part 3, part 4, conclusion. In the preceding excerpt from part one, I took the liberty of embedding in Leah's text to which she had pointed, and hope she won't mind my having done so.

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