Did I just hear Cardinal Egan change the abortion debate? Perhaps I did.
Tuesday, the Archdioces of New York issued an unequivocally blistering rebuke to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her mind numbing attempt to keep the question of when life begins "above her pay grade" (not to mention the pay grades of Barack Obama , Cardinal Egan, the Pope and pretty much the entire Catholic Church.) Egan, perhaps fresh off a raise, is apparently of sufficient pay grade to answer this nagging question. And answer it he did, with clarity and certitude and with passion.
What he did not include in his answer, and this is the game changer, was scripture.
"We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb."
Game, set and match to the pro-life crowd. Cardinal Egan just pulled a reverse of the Scopes Monkey trials. He demonstrated that scientific proof was on the side of the Bible, but knowing he was speaking to a lot of folks who put no credence in the scriptures, he avoided even bringing them into the conversation.
By not using the Bible as reference, he was (to quote the scriptures) being "wise as serpents" while being "harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16). It was a magnificently crafted response, the richness of which grows everytime you read it. While giving the profound, gentle and almost sweet defense of unborn babies, Egan slipped in some hardcore political commentary with the conclusion that the pro-choice movement is not equipped with "the slightest measure of integrity or honor." In otherwords, the Democrat ticket is devoid of even "the slightest measure of integrity and honor." It was elegant, yet lethal politically.
Compare this with other pro life acitivism. There was no protest outside an abortion clinic. There was no language about how God is bringing economic doom the United States because of abortion and homsoexuality. Not a whiff of Hurricane Katrina being part of God's punishment on this country in general and the "Big Easy" specifically. No banging of the Bible across the heads of those who don't believe in the Bible, much the way almost every Southern Baptist Convention position on abortion has included for decades.
There was not even the seeker sensitive Rick Warrenesque commentary about how everyone running for President is "a patriot" and "a great American." It was simple truth being injected into the abortion debate (and the 2008 campaign) with clarity and no grey areas.
And the nature of his proof, resting in a common sense analysis of what high tech equipment makes so obvious, was give public relations cover to folks who in their gut want to agree with the pro-life stance, but cannot stand the idea of agreeing with a "bunch of Bible thumpers" clinging to their guns and religion. Here was a man of God using rational thought and science to make his point. Here was a pro-life advocate beyond any caricature often associated with the movement. Here was someone gently pointing out the obsolete nature of the science available at the time of Roe V. Wade without even mentioning the Supreme Court.
And as gentle as his words were, his message was very direct.
"Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being ‘chooses' to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name."
In other words, no endorsement of Obama-Biden will be coming from the Catholic Church anytime soon. It cannot, because by the Cardinal's own definition, those men "should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy." Ditto for Pelosi.
But not a single word of scripture in the statement. No threats about God's retribution. No mention of anything religious really. It was simply a man of God using reason wisely. Much like the Apostle Paul, who used logic and reason to debate the Athenians (Acts 17) about Biblical truth, Cardinal Egan was aware of his audience and his stage and he was indeed "all things to all people, so that by all means (he) might win some" (1 Corinthians 9).
If much of the evangelical pro-life movement would take His Emminence's lead, some real traction can be made on this issue. Amen, and pass the plate.