I am in strong agreement with Rick Brookhiser’s opposition to the behavior of the Pharisee in the story of the Pharisee and the Publican. This behavior is, in my view, not condemned often enough these days: The moral soapbox now has 24/7 cable-news cameras trained on it, and thus stands in more need of critical attention than ever. So I have a message to anybody out there who’s thinking, “I’m a better person than James J. Kilpatrick, because he got a very important issue wrong”: Stop and consider not just the personal sins and wrongs you may have committed in your life, but even the opinions that you now take for granted, opinions that are considered obviously correct in your social milieu. How would you feel if you awoke from a Rip Van Winkle sleep after 50 years to find that those views made you a pariah?
I suspect that something like this will happen, in the lifetime of some young people now living, on the question of abortion. If abortion goes the way of smoking — at first socially disliked, then shunned, then never done, then (finally) outlawed — people will come to think the very idea of it barbaric. That will not make the pro-choicers of today, retrospectively, villains; it will show that they were people of their time, with all the frailties that flesh is heir to. And those human frailties will not be abolished, even in the people of that later age; they will be in need of mercy, as we all have been, back to me, back to Kilpatrick, back to Methuselah’s granddad.
It’s okay to recognize this, and recognize that people are complicated. It doesn’t mean we have to retreat an inch from the view that, e.g., abortion and racism are wrong.