Homage to a Good Man

Published June 30, 2022

The Catholic Thing

Others have already written powerfully about the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs decision.  So I’ll offer just a quick, related observation here. The abortion issue is to the Catholic left as a flat tire is to a Tesla.  The ride to a better, more progressive tomorrow would be so much quieter, so much smoother – and so much less embarrassing – if it weren’t for that ugly, flapping-rubber sound every time the wheels turn.

The highway to social justice, it turns out, has a canyon-sized pothole.  The contents?  More than 60-million unborn casualties, with plenty of room for more.  Except that the road may now be repaved, at least in some states, by the Court’s consigning Roe v. Wade to the place it rightly belongs: the garbage bin.

Roe was always a badly flawed decision.  Fundamentally anti-democratic, it was a “progressive” judicial coup of the first order, wiping out two generations of new life.  Now that it’s gone, good riddance.  And may a thorough reckoning one day come for the lobbyists, abortion profiteers, media flacks, and corporate allies who supported and still support the abortion license, and all the religious fellow-travelers who provide a gloss of moral “complexity” to the whole brutal industry – and thus, intentionally or otherwise, function as its chaplains.

Case in point:  It’s worth reading the vapid, but predictable, editorial at the National Catholic Reporter and similar articles.  The authors and editors contributed very nearly zero – in effect, nothing but their constant doubts and criticisms – to one of the longest social and legal struggles in recent American history.  We need to remember that the next time they moralize about anything.  Whether pro-life success after Dobbs is ephemeral remains to be seen.  But if nothing else, the fall of Roe proves that hate quite definitely does have “a home here” . . .on the cultural, political, and even “religious” left; not exclusively, but very comfortably.

But let’s turn now to the real point of this column.

Amid all the shouting and political carnage of the day, good still happens.  And it happens at the hands of good people; people like Tom D.  Our family has been active in the pro-life movement since 1973, and in Special Olympics for nearly 30 years.  We have a son with Down syndrome. Several of our grandchildren have disabilities.  Special Olympics, founded by the late (and truly great) Eunice Kennedy Shriver, has been a blessing for all of them – and many other millions of persons with disabilities just like them.  Special Olympics is a master class in the real meaning of mercy, endurance, courage, and love.

And one of the teachers is Tom D.

Most parents with mentally or physically challenged children do love their special sons and daughters.  In the America of the past half-century, dominated by an abortion cult that would have made Baal’s Carthage blush, many could have chosen a less demanding alternative.  They chose their child instead.

Their love, of course, is made easier by the natural bond of family.  And it’s reinforced, again and again in the Special Olympics experience, by seeing that other families have even harder roads.

Down syndrome is a long way from the “worst” disability in the Special Olympics universe, and there’s not much out of the ordinary in a parent loving his or her child, however challenged the child might be. What is out of the ordinary, and what counts as a kind of heroism, is the devotion of Special Olympics coaches and leaders like Tom who have no reason to be involved other than their own goodwill and desire to help others.

Tom D. has a lovely wife, a beautiful family, and a full load of public school teaching – a career he’s pursued with distinction for decades.  I have no idea what his religious faith is, or whether he has any religion at all.

I have no idea what he thinks about Roe or Dobbs; we might very well disagree.  And I have no idea why he gives of his time so generously.  But he does.

At the recent USA Special Olympics games in Orlando, he rose at 5:00 each morning and worked well past midnight doing his team members’ laundry, ensuring their meals, checking their health, dealing with their complicated emotions and (often dubious) personal hygiene, guiding them through Disney World with fellow coaches, and – lest I forget – coaching each of them in five full days of athletic competition.  All this in 100-degree heat.  Without pay.

There’s nothing weird or ambiguous in the generosity of people like Tom D. And my wife (a fellow Special Olympics coach) and I know because we’ve watched him work now for years.  From the outside, nothing distinguishes him.  A passing observer might write him off as a slightly overweight, overworked guy in his 60s.   And so he is.  But he’s also, simply, that most curious kind of creature who, in the noise and bitterness of our current culture, can seem so rare:  a good man. 

The obscene street theater, media outrage, corporate virtue-signaling, refusals to enforce the law, desecration of churches, and venom directed at the Court and prolifers in general since the Dobbs decision – not to mention the moral weaseling from quite a few religious, including Catholic, voices – offer an ugly portrait of our nation’s current health.

There’s nothing progressive about the hatred and violence now stamped on the face of the “abortion rights” movement.  Those septic qualities have always been there.  Now it’s their moment to shine.

As for Tom D., I’d like to be a guy like him when I grow up. . .even if, at my age, it’s not likely to happen.  I can be grateful, though – and I am.  Wickedness is loud.  The goodness in the world is often quiet.  But as Tom and others like him remind me with their diligent kindness, a lot of good is still there.  And it’s worth fighting for.

Francis X. Maier is a senior fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. Maier’s work focuses on the intersection of Christian faith, culture, and public life, with special attention to lay formation and action.

Image: Shinnosuke Ando on Unsplash

Francis X. Maier is a Senior Fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. Maier’s work focuses on the intersection of Christian faith, culture, and public life, with special attention to lay formation and action.

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