Abortion and the "Catholic Right": A Response to James Hitchcock

Article excerpt

When HLR published James Hitchcock's first attack on The Wanderer in 2007, I immediately called Jim and interviewed him for the paper. I have long admired him and consider him a friend in spirit. I was surprised at the tenor of his 2007 attack, and also somewhat saddened that a major American Catholic historian had gone after The Wanderer while we were celebrating our 140th anniversary - a historic fact that historian Hitchcock completely ignored.

We gave Jim 3,000 words on the front page to explain his views.1 Imagine my surprise when, a year later - in the spring of 2008 - he attacked The Wanderer, and me, again in HLR. He did not mention our 2007 interview at all; nor did he mention the fact that The Wanderer probably prints more of the Pope's homilies and Vatican documents than any other American medium of similar size, and is filled with large amounts of other orthodox Catholic religious commentaries. His 14,000 words focus instead on some alleged sins, on our part, involving politics; and are replete with errors to boot. (With regard to the errors, the reader may rejoice: Space does not permit me to address them all.2)

In 1981, when Senator Jesse Helms named me staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Latin America subcommittee, Jim McFadden called me, congratulated me, and kindly offered me a full set of bound volumes of HLR up to that time, which all of Senator Helms' s staff used for years (the volumes are now in the Saint John the Evangelist Library of Christendom College here in Virginia). I regard this publication highly. Its contributors and readership comprise eminent stalwarts of the pro-life movement worldwide. They deserve to hear The Wanderer's side of the story. Permit me first briefly to introduce the paper.

The Wanderer [is] one of the most conservative Catholic journals in the United States and a publication that is implacably anti-abortion. - Hitchcock, HLR 2007

The Wanderer is indeed not only implacably anti-abortion, but staunchly pro-life. We have defended the Magisterium of Holy Mother Church since our inception, and recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae with countless commentaries. The Wanderer was founded in 1 868 to serve the German-speaking Catholic community in this country, and began publishing an English edition in 1930. It has always been fully loyal to Rome, so much so that it was banned by Hitler in the 1930s (it had 1,400 faithful readers in Austria and Germany at the time). I urge the interested reader who has read Hitchcock's version of The Wanderer to read the real thing.3

Next: While HLR is not a Catholic publication, Hitchcock and I are both Catholics, and I write here as one. I speak for myself. I don't speak for the paper or for Hitchcock's other targets in debate. (I should also point out that a more detailed analysis is available on The Catholic Guys blog.4) This essay attempts, first, to identify and to address two of Hitchcock's major errors that fissures appeared in the pro-life movement only in 2006, and that by criticizing President Bush across a broad range of issues, The Wanderer abandoned its pro-life priorities. Second, it offers an alternative, reality-based analysis of the problems faced by the pro-life movement today. The reader can then decide for himself whether it is George W. Bush or The Wanderer who is more responsible for what Hitchcock admits are the "derailed" fortunes of the pro-life movement. Perhaps he will even confront the question, were pro-life, pro-family advocates wrong to support President Bush so uncritically for so long?

II

In 2006 cracks began to appear on the Catholic side of "the Right," something that cannot be explained in conventional journalistic categories but requires following a tangled and sometimes obscure thread. - Hitchcock, HLR 2007

Hitchcock embraces without inspection the term "Religious Right" and its corollary, the "Catholic Right." And he traces to 2006 the appearance of "cracks" on the "Catholic side" of that entity. …