Combating "Friendly Fire" in the Pro-Life Movement: A Gonzaga Lesson

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 17, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Combating "Friendly Fire" in the Pro-Life Movement: A Gonzaga Lesson Email this article
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by Jim Anderson
March 17, 2005

Recently, several dozen Christian and pro-life leaders signed an open letter of support for Fr. Robert Spitzer, President of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. In it, they defend the life’s work of this Jesuit author and philosopher in regard to some articles and opinion pieces released on the web in recent weeks. Fr. Spitzer is author of the pro-life philosophical book, “Healing the Culture." Jim Anderson is newscaster for the weekday newscast, ‘LifeNews Radio,’ a production of

FRIENDLY fire is not just a battlefield problem. Churches have dealt with it for years. Now it is becoming too common in the pro-life movement.

Let me be really clear by using just one real-life example: The specific case of basketball-great Gonzaga University and its president. Everyone knows that over the last umpteen years the faculty there that hires all new faculty has produced teaching that is not always faithful to Christian, let alone Catholic teaching. (But try finding just one of the handful of schools of whom this may not be true!) When Gonzaga’s regents hired Fr. Robert Spitzer as their president, many thought he could walk on water and make all things new. Well, I for one ‘do’ think he walks on water, but as for all things made new … that is the work somehow due with our returning Messiah. But when he recently failed to meet someone’s expectations, they decided it was time for what Jesus forbade: Eye surgery from across the country done by someone with a log in his eye that probably matches mine. (That’s an added, perhaps humorous, irony. Fr. Bob is, in reality, quite blind. And, no, he probably wouldn’t volunteer for remote-control surgery.)

Perhaps only a few of those close to Fr. Spitzer know how he has stuck his neck out for the pro-life cause each year. These critics of Fr. Spitzer probably have not heard how pro-abortion advocates view him. They consider him their adversary.

Just for the record, I could make a case for doing and allowing things at Gonzaga’s ‘law’ school that I think would be wrong at a Christian ‘liberal arts’ school. There is a big difference between Gonzaga Law School’s ACLU chapter being denied the privilege of adhering to its national organizations pro-abortion stand and a pro-abortion group trying to move into the liberal arts environment of Catholic University of America. I could likewise make a strong case that Gonzaga Law School students were wrong to think that their votes could not control who would be their officers. Or, if they thought they could make the teaching at Gonzaga more Catholic by demanding that only Christians be allowed as officers of their club, I think they were equally mistaken. But even if I am wrong, a little ‘friendly fire’ is not the answer.

The problem remains as to what we should do with problem people in the movement. First, even if Fr. Spitzer is not perfect, all we have in this movement (that simply must have its place in history) is frail human beings just like him. Who is our next target? I assure you, none of us can escape. And even if we go all the way to the ‘bottom of the barrel,’ to the very worst example of betrayal, to the son of perdition, Judas himself, could we prevent that overt betrayal? Remember, he was one of those that the all-knowing Son of God chose to be a disciple.

The fact is, Jesus showed us, in his disciples, and then told us, in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13, how to take care of ‘fake wheat’ or “tares” sown in our midst by the evil one: Leave them alone—and grow wheat! He taught that all we can do in pulling at the ‘fake’ wheat is to harm the harvest, the ‘real’ wheat. If someone is not doing what is right, most of the time you will not find an easy opportunity to simply ‘weed’ them out. No one is saying that we shouldn’t review institutions to make sure they are what they say they are. But, when it comes to attacking individuals, most attacks simply turn into that ‘friendly fire.’ Correction of individuals is pastoral work and it takes time, not military rapid-attack.

A wise, old preacher once gave advice to a young, upcoming preacher. He said, "Son, don’t try beating the goats over the head with a baseball bat. What happens, son, is the goats duck. And the sheep get hit every time."

There is plenty of good work to be done. We should each find that good work and do it. And we should support other’s good works. A few of us will be called to report on the outward appearances of a matter. And perhaps you want to be careful which Christian workers you want your children to spend time with in their education. But for heaven’s sake, let’s not get in the way of that which builds the life movement and creates a culture of life.