By Joseph P. Wall
Before World War II, our Catholic people, with some exceptions, were working class or lower middle class; decent, hardworking, the backbone of the nation. They had, however, very little influence on how it was run, on its culture. That was the province of the (mainly Protestant) upper middle class. As a result of the GI Bill, passed for the benefit of World War II veterans, millions of Catholics were able to attend colleges and universities and then graduate into the ranks of the upper middle class—the people who run the country.
The bright promise of the forties and fifties was that these newly-empowered Catholic members of the upper middle class, now able to influence American culture, would move it in the direction of a Catholic Christian civilization with immense implications for the future of the world. They failed. Although they now had the skills, the power, the money, and the contacts to make things happen, they did not come through. They did not put their supposed Catholic beliefs into action. They were seduced, bought off, scared off.
This present generation of upper-middle-class Catholics, recently emerged from the ranks of the working class, the lower middle class, are simply terrified of going back. They fear that if they did anything to oppose, to offend the prevailing secular-humanist ethos that rules America, they would lose the hard-won material and social gains achieved over the past fifty years. To put it in another way, they might be sent back to that shabby row-house on the grimy backstreet where they grew up. Our college-educated upper-middle-class Catholics fear this above all else and will do anything to avoid it.
This is what lies behind, I believe, their refusal for the most part to take part in the titanic struggle against the American Abortion Holocaust. They are obsessed with the fear that if they did, they might lose their well-paid positions, their stocks and bonds, their lovely homes in the suburbs, their soft pleasant life. They have made a choice; instead of converting the milieu, they have been converted by it. They have made their choice; but what do they tell their children?
Following is an imaginary conversation between a father and his son illustrating what they are indeed telling their children, not in words like these but far more effectively by their actions, their life-style.
“Well then son, you’ve raised a really interesting question: what is the purpose of life, what’s it all about? This tells me that, since you’ll soon be entering high school and are no longer a child, you aren’t satisfied with the usual off-hand answers your mother and I have given you so far. You are starting to think about things. Hey, that’s great; now we can sit down and really talk together, man to man.
“You have asked me ‘what is the purpose of life, what’s it all about?’ Okay then, here’s the answer.
“Right now, the purpose of life is for you to get into a good prep school, say St. Joe’s or Malvern; better yet, if we can swing it, Episcopal Academy or Perm Charter. Then, one of the first-rate colleges like Harvard or any of the Ivy League schools. Failing that, one of the better (former) Catholic colleges like Villanova or Notre Dame.
“After graduation, get a well-paying job with a large corporation or a government bureaucracy, or master a lucrative profession like law or medicine, or start a profitable business. In any case, make a lot of money and invest it wisely.
“Buy a large home on a sizeable piece of ground in the swankier outer suburbs. Fill it with costly furniture and rugs, making sure there are plenty of closets to hold the huge collection of fashionable, expensive clothing you will accumulate. Of course, you will have all the latest appliances and gadgets including large-screen TVs, state-of-the-art computers, sports equipment and anything else that strikes your fancy. Be sure your house has a large driveway to accommodate your late-model up-scale car as well as your wife’s similar vehicle. You will also need room for your boat and trailer as well. Don’t worry about keeping up the grounds; hire a landscaping outfit to do that.
“Join a fashionable country club where you can meet the right kind of people. That is, those who will be good, not only for your social life, but also for your business or profession. The important thing is to associate with those who share your view of ‘the purpose of life.’ The same holds true for other groups; stick with charitable organizations that are ‘respectable’ so that you don’t have to constantly explain why you are associated with them.
“What about kids, you say. Have two; preferably a boy and a girl. Any more might cramp your lifestyle. Hey, why do you think birth control was invented? True, kids can be a bother but there are ways of handling that. When they are young, you can hire a ‘nanny,’ maybe an illegal immigrant from Latin America who will work cheap, fearing deportation. When they get old enough, send them off to boarding school. If it was good enough for the Kennedys, why not you? In any case, put them into expensive private schools. If you feel guilty because you are neglecting them, load them down with toys, gadgets, TVs, clothing, computers, HiFis, anything you can think of to pretend that you ‘care’ about them. Of course, sometimes reality breaks through and they fall into drugs, promiscuity, even suicide. Hey, that’s life; try not to think about it.
“You ask about this ‘pro-life’ business you’ve been hearing about recently; people protesting, rescuing, being arrested. What’s it all about? Look, I am ‘pro-life’; I do not believe in abortion unless, of course, it’s necessary. As for the pro-lifers they mean well, their hearts are in the right place, but they are breaking the law. We simply cannot permit that! The law is the law and it MUST be obeyed! Much as I sympathize with them—they are, as I say, well-meaning people—they must accept the fact that you cannot break the law, no matter what the reason.
“Religion. You ask me how does religion—God, sin, heaven, hell—fit into all this? Let me set you straight. It’s kind of like Fire Insurance. Sure you hope your house or business never burns down but you still pay your monthly premiums, just in case. Okay, it’s annoying to write that check, month after month, but if you ever have a fire you’ll be mighty glad you did. Same thing; go to church once in a while, contribute, say the right things, don’t perform the grosser sins. Hey, you don’t have to be a fanatic about it; do the minimum, that’s all. The Bible says that you can’ serve both God and Mammon. My answer to that is; sure you can!
“Now you know what it’s all about. Brian. Oh yes, say hello to your girlfriend Amy for me. She’s a sweet kid.”
“Then He said to them, look well and keep yourselves clear of all covetness. A man’s life does not consist in having more possessions than he needs.’
“Then He said to His disciples, ‘I say to you, then, do not fret over your life, how to support it with food; over your body, how to keep it clothed.’ ”
“You should not be asking, then, what are you to eat or drink, and living in suspense of mind; it is for the heathen world to busy itself over such things; your Father knows well that you need them. No, make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be yours without the asking.
“Sell what you have, and give alms, so providing yourselves with a purse that time cannot wear holes in, an inexhaustible treasure laid up in heaven, where no thief comes near, no moth consumes. WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOU HEART IS TOO” (Luke 12).
The late Joe Wall was a long-time pro-life activist from Philadelphia, Pa who had been involved in every aspect of the pro-life movement.