Martin Sheen ... Pro-Life
No doubt you've heard the news that Our Lady's University will be honoring actor and activist Martin Sheen with its prestigious Laetare Medal:
SOUTH BEND -- Actor and human rights activist Martin Sheen has been awarded Notre Dame's Laetare Medal for 2008.The appropriateness of the award has been called into question by some given Mr. Sheen's remarks on abortion that appeared in an interview with The Progressive:
He will receive the medal, the oldest honor given to American Catholics, during the Notre Dame's 163rd Commencement May 18.
"As one of our nation's most recognizable and accomplished screen actors, Martin Sheen has achieved a level of celebrity that few Americans enjoy," said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president. "He has used that celebrity to draw the attention of his fellow citizens to issues that cry out for redress, such as the plight of immigrant workers and homeless people, the waging of unjust war, the killing of the unborn and capital punishment. We welcome the opportunity to lift up his example for our church, our country, and our students."
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Sheen was born in 1940, one of 10 children of a Spanish-born father and an Irish-born mother. His legal name is Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez, but he later adopted his stage name in honor of the pioneering televangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
A self-described Catholic peace activist, opponent of abortion and student of Catholic social teaching, Sheen acknowledges his spiritual debts to St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan and the late labor leader Cesar Chavez.
Q: What are your views on abortion?Now, that's certainly an unfortunate quote, especially given that he repeats verbatim the "personally opposed, but ..." mantra that so many pro-abortion politicians have invoked dating back almost 25 years to Mario Cuomo's infamous speech at Notre Dame. Anyone who has read this blog knows that I'm certainly no apologist for that "personally opposed, but ..." nonsense. But is that an isolated quote from Sheen (although he does include the interview on his website)? And how old is it? Five years? Has he said anything like that since then?
Sheen: I cannot make a choice for a women, particularly a black or brown or poor pregnant woman. I would not make a judgment in the case. As a father and a grandfather, I have had experience with children who don't always come when they are planned, and I have experienced the great joy of God's presence in my children, so I'm inclined to be against abortion of any life. But I am equally against the death penalty or war-- anywhere people are sacrificed for some end justifying a means. I don't think abortion is a good idea. I personally am opposed to abortion, but I will not judge anybody else's right in that regard because I am not a woman and I could never face the actual reality of it.
Notwithstanding Sheen's statements in that interview, I think it's pretty clear that Martin Sheen has promoted and supported various pro-life causes throughout the years (as well as countless number of left-wing causes ... none of which are contrary to Church teaching, but a few of which - in addtion to his naming Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich as "elected officials that I admire very much" - expose him as being a littly nutty). Here are some examples of Sheen's pro-life credentials:
(The previous 2 links, by the way, are from Jill Stanek. If Sheen's pro-life enough for her, that ought to settle the matter.)
Finally, it's not like the guy is running for office as a "personally opposed, but ..." candidate (although he played one on TV). If Sheen were a politician instead of an actor, there would be more cause for taking issue against Notre Dame's decision to honor him. But he's not a politician. Furthermore, as noted above, it's pretty clear that the guy in his personal actions (apart from voting) is opposed to abortion and has taken substantive steps to promote the pro-life cause. Surely his actions speak louder than one soundbite.
Besides, plenty of prominent Catholic pro-lifers (including Fr. Pavone of Priests for Life and Austin and Cathy Ruse - the current president of the pro-life Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and the former chief pro-life spokeswoman for the nation's Catholic bishops, respectively) have come out in support of John McCain - a man who talks a pro-life game now that he wants conservative votes but who supports abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and a threat to the life of the mother, and who is a vocal proponent of ESCR funding. If McCain is somehow palatable to pro-lifers despite his shaky credentials and lack of fire in the belly when it comes to pushing the pro-life agenda, surely we can cut Mr. Sheen some slack.
In short, I've got no problem with Notre Dame acknowledging where Mr. Sheen is right on the issue of life. In fact, if we're really serious about winning political liberals over to the pro-life cause, we should all be willing to acknowledge when they are right. For that reason, I support Notre Dame in honoring Martin Sheen for his work on behalf of society's least of these (including the unborn).