A few weeks ago, at the height of the media’s outcry in reaction to pro-life statements by Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec City, the Quebec Conference of Bishops issued a short statement calling for people to tone down the rhetoric and name calling.
The statement is quite short, just one page. Most of the space is devoted to exhorting for a calmer debate. As we’d say in French, people need to breathe through their nose. The Church’s teaching on abortion is summarized at the end. The statement was published in parish bulletins across the province so many people must have read it during the homily. 🙂
At first, I was a tad disappointed over this statement since it doesn’t mention Cardinal Ouellet by name and doesn’t seek to defend him.
But after further reflection, I realized that this was an ingenious move. Whether they fully realizing what they did or whether the Holy Spirit spoke through them, I don’t know. The bottom line is that this is a very smart tactical move. The pro-life position is highly rational. It relies on rigorous science about the nature of the unborn child and on sound reasoning about the value of human life and the folly of letting the State decide which lives have value.
The pro-choice side, on the other hand, avoids the science entirely and relies on emotional, touchy-feely arguments related to the distress of the pregnant woman, her supposed “rights”, her “oppression” by men, etc. It’s not rational at all. If we are to ever win this debate, we need to engage people in a calm manner, while they’re still able to reason. Once they start getting hysterical and wishing people to die painful deaths, it’s all over. It’s not possible to have a constructive conversation. Passionate screams of “baby murderer”, while well-intentioned, will be futile at that point.
We need to engage them while they’re still thinking straight. Rather than express our passion by raising our voice or by employing over-the-top rhetoric, we need to channel our passion into a strong and relentless effort, never failing to take advantage of the opportunities placed before us to witness. That doesn’t mean that we need to completely sterilize our discourse. Please continue to call a spade a spade. But be wise enough not to push your interlocutor over the edge into the land of emotional defensiveness.