One of the hallmarks of abusive behavior is to alter the details and blame the victim. This kind of behavior is manipulation and gaslighting. In domestic violence, "I barely touched you, and you forced me to do it; you deserved it."
Yesterday, the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (ORCRC), an ecumenical group that supports abortion, did just that in a piece they released on the violence that was perpetrated at the Respect Life Mass and Roe Remembrance.
The ORCRC started their statement, "The Ohio RCRC lament a lot of things, but let us be clear: the momentary and nonviolent interruption of an anti-abortion mass (sic) at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Columbus is not one of them." The statement ends saying, "Until the Diocese of Columbus halts their sustained harassment of abortion clinics, their leaders should expect the same treatment in return and they should not expect sympathy from Ohio RCRC or from the vast majority of the State's population who have consistently and nonviolently stood firm for dignity and bodily autonomy."
You can read the whole piece here. We aren't going to link to it - it is easy enough to change a statement on a blog, and we don't want to send them the traffic, but here it is. If the images are blurry, you can download it here.
First of all, let's be clear. This was not a "momentary and nonviolent" interruption. It was a prolonged, obscenity and blasphemy-laden desecration of the Mass at the spiritual home of nearly 300,000 Catholics in central Ohio. It started with individuals screaming past a security officer, knocking over a table, and running into people. Children were terrified and crying. It was a trespass on the property of the Church. It was likely a violation of the federal FACE act.
To reframe what happened as a "momentary and nonviolet" act is a blatant twisting of the facts and a distortion of the truth. It could only be voiced by those who would deny the violence of abortion - which is the intentional death, dismemberment, and destruction of a human child, by wrapping it in euphemism and promoting it as a right sanctioned by God.
There are numerous false and ridiculous claims made in the statement to justify and give cover to this act of violence and to silence those who hold that respecting the dignity of the person and autonomy of the body as being extended to those inside and outside of the womb. It is manipulative and abusive to tell those who are gathered in peaceful and somber observance that they deserve to have their worship interrupted because they hold views that another person finds absurd or offensive. It is a classic case of victim blaming. It is manipulative. It is also unamerican. No person deserves to have their worship be disrupted and condemned in any church, mosque, temple, or other holy place. No one.
Greater Columbus Right to Life does not speak on the behalf of the Bishop or the Diocese. We do run a sidewalk counseling program in the central Ohio region. To our knowledge, the Diocese does not run a program, but many Catholic (and protestant) churches and their members participate in our program. We do not own the sidewalk, and do hold our volunteers to high standards. We do not use voice amplification devices and we make sure those who do are aware that doing so is against the law. We do not trespass. We also do not agree with the tactics and techniques used by some groups and some individuals. We do not own the sidewalk and we cannot shut down the speech we do not like. None of our volunteers would be tolerated to behave in this way. We have still managed to participate in some 600+ of what we call "turn-aways." That is what we call it when one of our volunteers encounters a woman who is considering an abortion and makes the choice to turn away. If you are motivated to join us, learn how here.
For the ORCRC to itemize their bizarre lamentations to justify this behavior suggests that their organization is based more on changing and situational ethics than any Biblical or theological truth. This is incredibly problematic not only in contemplation of moral theology but also in response the mission of many faiths to change the world in pursuit of justice. We will talk about this a bit more in a moment. The ORCRC implies that it is acceptable to storm into, riot, and shut down a Mass in as a religious and public policy response to those who oppose abortion. This implies that it is acceptable to storm into, riot inside of, and shut down an abortion clinic as a religious and public policy response to those who oppose abortion. This simply is not true.
While it would not be productive to take apart each of these blatantly ridiculous statements put out by the ORCRC, I want to hold two particular statements up to some light. The first is "we lament that the Roman Catholic leaders in our region have shown far more interest in speaking up for the sacredness of their right to enjoy quiet cathedral worship than for the rights of people in our state to have the final say over their own health care." This is an attempt to obscure the real issue here. It is never ok to desecrate a house of worship. It is never ok to terrorize children. It is never ok to threaten people from exercising their religious conscience. It is never ok to threaten someone for their political beliefs. This past summer, many people came to peacefully protest the death of George Floyd. A small number of those protesting turned to vandalism, arson, looting, and violence. Those who objected to this behavior were accused of caring more about glass breaking than the life of Mr. Floyd, as though someone could not care about two things at once. We can, and we should. The foundation of pro-life work is that we can care about the unborn child and the mother. We can exercise our religion and work to pass laws that conform to consciences shaped by our beliefs. The hypocrisy is maddening, but it is more important than that. This type of deeply flawed logic makes it increasingly difficult to function as a republic.
The second statement I would like to hold up is "Whether in the sanctuary of St. Joseph's Cathedral or on the Statehouse steps, we trust that honest words spoken in truth and righteous anger will transform hearts and renew relationships in necessary ways." Again, I restate this. Abortion advocates are welcome to (and frequently do) express their positions in events at the Statehouse. They have the same right as Greater Columbus Right to Life to do so. Their words, however gross, are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Their ability to hold those events without disruption is governed by the laws of the state and the policies of the Statehouse. Those laws and policies hold that if a person holds an event at the Statehouse those who properly obtain a permit are granted the exclusive right to use that space. They also have the right to exclude those who may try to disrupt it, and that trespass on that right will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those protections should be extended equally to Ohio RCRC and Greater Columbus Right to Life. This is the very definition of justice - the constant and permanent determination to give each person his or her due. This is why the church and the well-formed soul will speak out against violations of the dignity of every person, whether it be a person who is a victim of racial bias or ageism. The opponents of abortion are willing to have this debate. The advocates shut it down. This is how injustice is perpetuated. Likewise, however flawed a teaching it is to teach that God delights in the death of anyone, the faith leaders in the ORCRC are welcome to preach that from their platforms.
But let us look at the "honest words spoken in truth and righteous anger" that they speak of. I apologize for the language.
"2, 4, 6, 8. This Church Teaches Hate"
"Catholics and pigs"
"Your church is a f*cking hate church"
"So funny that you teach the love of life when you teach people to hate"
"Don't F*cking touch me" (as the police are trying to remove them)
"We hate you"
"If hell was (sic) real, you would burn in it."
"Stop looking like a weirdo, maybe get some Rogaine"
"You look like a prehistoric turtle"
"I will have an abortion if you keep talking to me. I will abort right now"
"I wish my mom had aborted me so I didn't have to deal with your dumb *ss"
"Stay out of or lives and we will stay out of your stupid life."
"The police, like the pigs they are, are defending them"
"Are you guys just bored because you have to protect this dumb building all of the time?"
To an OSHP officer "How many times you jack off in there, actually - where were you January 6th?"
"F*ck you and your permit, b*tch."
"Do you want to eat my p*ssy, because you keep following me like you want to taste me, and I'm confused.. Because I don't like white men. I don't like white people. Especially not pedophiles and pigs"
"you guys are f*cking trash."
"Look at these pigs, oink, oink."
"Fund abortion, not cops"
"What the F*ck are you doing, you ugly *ssed b*tch"
"Time for pig stew"
"This is a man who has to be in control and can't stand when women are the f*ck in control."
This was just a small selection of the content.
To characterize this as "honest words, spoken in truth and righteous anger will transform hearts and renew relationships" is laughable.
Righteous anger is anger that is constrained by reason and oriented toward the good. It is powerful and moves us to virtue. You can hear it echo through the words of those who have brought about great change and human advancement in the dignity of the human person. It motivates and compels us to action. It changes the world.
This was not righteous anger. This was contemptuous and hateful. It is lacking reason and its ends are consuming. It is evil.
The Ohio RCRC does itself or its members who genuinely seek the dignity of the person no service when they confuse good for evil, not just in their ends but in the means by which they seek it.
LOOKING FOR MORE INFO ON THE CATHEDRAL AND ROE ATTACKS?
GCRTL Statement (1/23/21)
Update with LTE and Statehouse Complaint (1/28/21)
Response to RCRC (1/29/21)