Critism of a pro-life journalist: textualism or jealousy?

To begin, this is just an overview of my criticisms for now. I am not going to dive too deep into this, nor am I going to pull up exercepts of this fellow’s work to make my point. A lot of the passages where he gets into his anti-abortion diatribes make me anxious and uncomfortable to begin with, so I’d rather not quote them for now.

So… I read this newsletter called The Pillar, hosted through Substack, initially, though I think they have since migrated to a similar service. Anyway, they have some very hard-hitting stuff in the Catholic world. Financial woes, clergy debocles, descrimination, etc. I like it. I’ve been reading it for a few years. However, during these years, a creeping animosity often seeps into the twice weekly updates, and usually from one cofounder/lead editor, that being Ed Condon. Both Condon and the other co-founder, JD Flynn, are canon lawyers, meaning have a degree about the laws that govern the Catholic Church. They also, like many Substack creators, previously reported in legacy media. In their case, it was National Catholic Reporter, which is a left-center magazine in ideology. As far as their successor’s leanings, it is similar, but sometimes more right.

Condon is sometimes a textualist as far as Canon law goes, meaning he often goes directly by the texts which govern the Church before making decisions or changes. It’s a philosophy that can be applied to any sort of set of laws, rules, or regulations. Quaranic law, rabbinic law, civil law, rules of American football, etc. Maybe because I am very literary minded and somewhat of a low-context communicator, I consider myself often to be a textualist as well. But there are limits to textualism, as constitutions, regulations, and canons can only include so much. They are written generally, and do not “hold your hand” to any specifics. Like, SpongeBob in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants gives an example of something that would never be in an employee handbook to his boss, Mr. Krabs (who, in the moment, he does not recognize as Mr. Krabs, but a robot impostor): “If we were discussing Krabby Patty secret formula while eating vanilla pudding on the third Wednesday in January and it’s not raining outside, what would you say?” Thus, Condon seems to know to still treat LGBT people fairly, provide women with equal opportunity (to an extent, he still is rigid on exclusion to women’s ordination to priesthood), among a few other progressive thoughts.

However, I do not believe he treats those who have, give, or support abortions with enough of the respect they deserve. He is very staunch and argumentive about how Catholic doctrine cannot support this. He uses his expertise as a canon lawyer to justify his distaste. Still, it is very hard for me to see his textualism as solely the reason for his harshness. He has provided several anecdotes about his personal life. One that particularly strikes me is that he and his wife made several efforts to conceive a child with no avail for around a decade and a half, give or take.

Thus, I take it his knowledge of accidental pregnancies irked him, and filled him with jealousy. And to see this accidents end in abortion just twisted the knife. I really regret having to make another SpongeBob reference again, but it was like when SpongeBob and Patrick ran a profitable food stand, Mr. Krabs shrieked after learning they had burned, shredded, burned, and gave away much of their earnings. “You have the opportunity I want, and you destroyed it.” That’s really why you are pro-life, Mr. Condon. Unfortunate personal experiences. Not simply because you are a canon lawyer or journalist in the Catholic niche.

Admittedly, Condon knows he is hot-tempered and begrudging. He does intend to work on this, and I implore him to explore this aspect of himself. I encourage him, instead of chatisting a liberal Catholic movement or group, such as Catholics for Choice and others, listen with them. No, don’t just listen to the gimmicky rallying cries, but actually listen to them in their own words, intimately. Don’t just pray for them to change. Some Catholic hospitals out there do perform abortions or give birth control and other gynecological care. Talk with them.

I say this because I know his burdens will feel so lessened if he radiaccally accepts this reality. It is so weighty harboring so much jealousy in your heart. I already do like some of the efforts to where his pro-life exploration has taken him. His coverage on fighting eugenics (especially the emphasis on how people with Down syndrome are leading the fight), and eliminating death penalties, and curbing the ease of assisted suicide, especially in Veteran Affairs facilities in Canada, are all great, respectable pro-life angles I’d love to read about.

Anyway, I just thought it would be good to write an open letter about this, as I really don’t want Mr. Condon to think I am being accusatory. I think there are a lot of people in the pro-life movement who may think like him and ought to hear something like this.

I just started a virtual retreat

It’s run through the Office of Ignation Spirituality, a Jesuit group.

The focus is to pray the examen wherever you are. Try to find moments in the day where you can reflect. It’s more of a meditation than a prayer. There are several different versions depending on your interests and concerns. Even though it’s a Jesuit practice, I think it could fit into any other order of Catholicism (Franciscan, Notre Dame, Dominican, etc) but not only any Catholic, any faith. It reminds me a lot of the meditation and reflection a psychologist, counselor, or social worker would teach you, with questions like “What were you grateful for today? How do you want to improve yourself?” I feel like it could be adapted to a general monotheistic faith, or even a polytheistic one too with a few edits.

I plan to record some of the responses to these meditations in my notebooks and maybe make a longer post either here or Medium once I’ve gotten the hang of it.

Giving it up for Lent

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 26. Prompt by Priya Parker.

I was raised in Roman Catholicism, and consider myself to still be part of the community today, despite how lapsed my engagement currently is. I remember attending CCD/Faith Formation weekly, and much of the later part of the year was dedicated to discussing Lent and Easter. For several of my early years of Faith Formation, I was part of the Wednesday sessions, which was very fortunate as during those years my class would get to attend a prayer service and receive our ashes for Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent, forty days of resistance before Easter. It’s meant to emulate Jesus’s forty days in the desert where he was tempted by the Devil.

Catholics commonly vow to give something up for Lent, usually a poor habit, or inversely, vow to do a good one more often. One year, I gave up all hard candies, lozenges, and gum. That was an incredibly difficult one, but I did it. Other times I vowed to make my bed more, clean up a little more, cut out crackers, chips, and other temptations. One year I gave up the “Big Three” social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Since that year, I mostly kicked the habit of Twitter and Instagram. I had updated there sporadically since then, but not nearly as much as I had before. I was glad to be rid of that itch to check them, as between the three Twitter and Instagram made me the most unhappy. They were the bigger magnets for jealousy, negativity, and general spite (not that Facebook is entirely immune to that, but I appreciate the allowance to customize what you can view while saving face and maintaining your friends list). This year I attempted to keep in touch with friends more often, as I’ve been out of work and school and it’s been hard to stay in the loop, but with the Covid-19 pandemic I did not get to accomplish this vow to the capacity which I desired.

It’s a little like a New Year’s resolution but with a more digestible period of time, as you have a designated start and end time. More importantly, it’s cutting back instead of fully cutting something out, which is less daunting. I imagine an exercise like this would be helpful even for non-Catholics if they want to change those pesky behaviors.

The grand finale, Easter, has varied over the years. We generally receive a basket of candy and have a feast. Sometimes a brunch, sometimes a dinner. We celebrate the Resurrection and our own willpower and how it emulates that of Christ’s. Finally, we remain steadfast throughout the Easter Octave, awaiting later celebrations like Pentecost and the May crowning and procession of Mary.