Bishop LaValley describes Planned Parenthood as “culture of death”

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican is reporting that Bishop Terry LaValley, head of the Diocese of Ogdensburg,  is urging followers to use love and prayer and not “vitriolic language” to oppose abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood.

In the wake of the Tucson shooting, everyone is at least paying lip service to the idea of moderating the tone of these culture war debates.

But in comments over the weekend, the Bishop also accused Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups of being part of “a culture of death.”  That’s pretty tough stuff.

Are those two rhetorical flourishes contradictory?  Planned Parenthood seems to think so.

A spokeswoman argued that an anti-abortion march held over the weekend “increases the violent, ugly rhetoric around this issue because of the hateful signs.”

So what do you think?  Is there a way Roman Catholic and other anti-abortion activists can get their message across without labeling their opponents as being part of a death culture?

Or is this simply blunt, honest language in a debate where people often talk in euphemisms?

(In your comments, remember on this topic to keep your language and your approach civil.  Abortion is hard to talk intelligently about, so think twice before hitting the Send button.)

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40 Comments on “Bishop LaValley describes Planned Parenthood as “culture of death””

  1. JDM says:

    This is a comment relating more to the subject of this new found civility, than to abortion.

    Those who are purporting this desire to seek a new “civility” in their speech are too late to the party.

    Check the rear bumper of your car before you demand this newly found civility. If there is a bumper sticker saying “Bush lied, people died”, you are too late to the party.

    Where were you during the Bush years? Oh. That’s right. Lefties.

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  2. Pete Klein says:

    The problem here to me is simple. There is church law and there is civil law and the two should be kept apart.
    It would be just as wrong for the government to force a woman to have an abortion as it would be for the church to force the government to make abortion illegal.
    This is what the Catholic Church and other religions are try to do.
    The church has every right to tell a woman who is a Catholic she is committing a mortal sin and will go to hell if she has an abortion.
    Ask yourself the following. Would you like it if Muslim religious leaders tried to get the government to pass laws making things illegal and with civil penalties according to Muslim beliefs?
    Probably not.

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  3. Mervel says:

    I am pro-life and against abortion and I support Bishop LaValley. However I think within this cultural debate and discussion we should get rid of that language. I am no fan of Planned Parenthood but you know they are just people most of what they do does not have to do with abortion or even birth control, some of it is just pregnancy testing, pap smears etc, general women’s health issues. I know what he is saying and that is the language I am used to hearing in the pro-life movement, however I would be for changing how we use the language just because I think the case is pretty strong and does not really need inflammatory phrases to be successful.

    Also I think you can be ardently pro-life and anti-abortion and not believe we have to change any laws, there are other ways to end abortion.

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  4. hermit thrush says:

    i think there are two separate questions here that need to be kept separate. one is whether bishop lavalley is being hypocritical, to which i think the answer is plainly yes — labeling the other side a “culture of death” is pretty much diametrically at odds with his call to eschew caustic language. the other is whether “culture of death” is undesirable language in absolute terms, which i’m far less sure is the case.

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  5. JDM says:

    “Or is this simply blunt, honest language in a debate where people often talk in euphemisms?”

    I think this is the case. Words matter.

    You used the phrase “anti-abortion” and “pro-choice”. This is from the left.

    The right would say “pro-life” and pro-abortion”

    Words do matter in the discussion. To call for civility is something that comes up when the left is on defense. When they feel they are in control, anything goes as far as rhetoric. I could quote Obama again, here, for emphasis, but you know what he said.

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  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Nobody is really “pro-abortion”. I’ve never heard anyone say “hey, let’s go get pregnant so we can get abortions.” I’m pro-life and pro-right-to-keep -abortion-safe-and -legal-and -as- rare- as-possible.

    Many people believe that the right to have an abortion should not be denied. Calling it a culture of death does nothing to prevent abortions.

    Everyone can agree that we would all like to see fewer abortions. If people who believe abortion is murder want to reduce the number of abortions they could go to Planned Parenthood and try to find out how they can help stop unwanted pregnancy.

    Of course that is another problem for the Catholic Church.

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  7. Mervel says:

    Its not a problem it is just another alternative another choice about how to live our life. I would agree that the choice the Church offers is getting less common today. But who would want to belong to a Christian Church that encouraged people to ignore the basic teachings of what it believes is truth?

    But anyway yeah I think actually there is more common ground on this issue than either side wants to admit.

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  8. JDM says:

    Back to the civility issue.

    It is interesting that Brian chose to pick an issue from the right of the spectrum to pick on.

    That is what this civility thing is. An attempt from the left to limit free speech.

    Talk about “me, too journalism”. This is the buzz on all the leftist media outlets this week.

    I guess there are no people on the left who make uncivil remarks. At least, no self-respecting leftist journalist will ever report one.

    Whoops. Here’s one.

    Toward the end of the town hall meeting Saturday morning, one of the shooting victims, J. Eric Fuller, took exception to comments by two of the speakers: Ariz. state Rep. Terri Proud, a Dist. 26 Republican, and Tucson Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries.

    According to sheriff’s deputies at the scene, Fuller took a photo of Humphries and said, “You’re Dead.”

    Deputies immediately escorted Fuller from the room.

    I guess we missed that one.

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  9. Pete Klein says:

    I don’t see this as a left or right, liberal or conservative issue. Neither do I see it as a freedom of speech issue.
    As I said in my original post on this thread, the Catholic Church has the right to preach whatever it wants to it members.
    But I would now like to make something very clear about Catholic Church Dogma.
    It believes and teaches there are only certain allowable circumstance for humans to engage in sexual activity.
    One, it must only take place between a man and woman who are married to each other. Two, they must be open to conception. Any and all sex that takes place outside of marriage is a mortal sin, which if not confessed will condemn you to the pains of Hell forever and ever. Same rules also apply to men and women married to each other who engage in oral or anal sex.
    Further, it doesn’t matter if the sex is self-sex, same-sex or opposite sex. Love is no excuse for sex. Love is not a requirement for marriage between a man and a woman. Being open to procreation is a requirement.
    This is one reason why the Catholic Church will readily grant an annulment if one partner in the marriage is discovered to be infertile.
    The Bishops can sugar coat the message all they want by saying they are pro-life. It doesn’t change the fact that they are anti-sex unless it takes place in a marriage open to procreation and limits all sexual acts within the marriage to those that could result in the women becoming pregnant.
    Once you understand this, you will begin to understand everything the Bishops teach about anything having even the remotes connection to sex is about the primacy of procreation to the exclusion of everything else
    Your wants, feelings and opinions are of no interest to the Bishops. They don’t care about your person although they will counter by saying they do care about your immortal soul.

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  10. chip says:

    “It is interesting that Brian chose to pick an issue from the right of the spectrum to pick on.”

    Not really, Brian seems to be a down-the-line ultra-liberal on just about everything.

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  11. hermit thrush says:

    I guess we missed that one.

    no jdm, only you.

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  12. Mervel says:

    I do hope that civility means no more referring to the tea party movement using a crude sexual slur for example.

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  13. Nature says:

    While the Catholic Church is far from perfect, I believe it (and Bishop LaValley) are certainly right on this one. And yes, I think his call for civility while not watering down the message is appropriate.

    While an unplanned pregnancy can be very difficult for the man and women involved, most especially the women. This does not change the fact that there is a living being involved; namely the baby. I do not say what I am about to say to condemn anyone or pretend that I am “holier than thou”. But I say this to hopefully inspire deeper consideration of what Life is. After all, it seems the difference between an “unborn baby” and a “fetus” is whether or not that baby is wanted. Whatever you wish to call it, a new life has begun.

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  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel they chose the name, we just enjoy using it. If I start calling myself dumb-ass or wide-stance I would expect plenty of people to go along with me. And to laugh.

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  15. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Pete, good thing I’m an atheist because I would surely be going to hell if I was a Catholic.

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  16. JDM says:


    “I do hope that civility means no more referring to the tea party movement using a crude sexual slur for example.”

    I am with you.

    I somehow don’t recall any of Brian’s blogs calling for civility during that period of time. Must be it wasn’t part of the journalistic template-of-the-day back then.

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  17. Mervel says:

    Knuckle according to our own teachings most Catholics are also going to hell based on our own actions, except for one thing which is the whole point of Christianity. The Christian walk is often referred to as a process of falling down and getting back up.

    But anyway the tea party movement did not choose the name tea party as any sort of reference to a certain kind of oral sex it was not a play on words for fun it referenced the original tea party. Sure you could say the whole thing it just stupid which is okay but I think the sexual slur crosses a line its not just “having fun” with it. Why doesn’t that having fun with it idea apply to the conservatives then? No one even worried about the term it was all in good fun I think JDM is kind of on to something with his worries about the double standard.

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  18. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, you aren’t using the word they started calling themselves and it wasn’t “tea party”. Then people started Googling the word they used and found it had a different slang meaning. It was funny. It wasn’t that their opponents gave them that name. Yes it was immature after the first several hundred times but we are a society with a very immature sense of humor. A movie about people named “the Fokkers” is a big hit. Fokkers, hehehe, that sounds dirty!

    Along with being more civil, people need to get a sense of humor about themselves. The funniest thing about people calling themselves Teabaggers was that they had no sense of humor about it and we all reverted to 7th graders and laughed.

    Conservatives like to call environmentalists “tree-huggers;” instead of getting angry we just started calling ourselves tree-huggers. No big deal. Next we’ll see the movie sequel about the liberal kid from that family, “The Tree Fokker.” Hehehe, get it? Tree-Fokker.

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  19. Mervel says:

    I didn’t know that the Tea Party people called themselves a different name not knowing the meaning, okay that is kind of funny.

    Yeah I agree with the sense of humor, as long as it cuts both ways. I think for example Rush calling Harry Reid, Dingy Harry is kind of funny because aesthetically it kind of fits. A whole bunch of what Rush says for example is tongue in cheek.

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  20. Sheila Newtown says:

    I think this is just one more example of the use of hyping emotion to call attention to your cause. For years this has been a political tactic, what better way to rally people to a cause than to get them angry,sad,or whatever other emotion that the advertising gurus tell politicians, institutions, and corporations that works. There are whole media networks, talk radio multimillionaires, and supposed journalists who have become practically untouchable because they’ve gotten people to rally around them using hyped emotion. This is why being more civil as far as the media, all the corporate media, is concerned is a no go because it would interfer with their bottam line. Unfortunately, anyone backing a cause feels it necessary to use vitriol to get the public’s attention because Americans are addicted to it. Yes, it is hypocritical to state one position and then immediately contradict it but this is how religion, politics and the news media in America works. Everything is labled “culture war” to make sure nothing gets solved and that misdeeds can be covered up.

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  21. Walker says:

    Bishop Terry LaValley didn’t urge civility, he “urged followers to use love and prayer.” Where is the love in saying that Planned Parenthood is part of a “a culture of death”. And isn’t this exactly the kind of language that could lead someone unhinged to turn to a “second amendment solution.”

    And it’s an interesting claim: if Planned Parenthood supporters were indeed “part of a culture of death,” you’d think they would also be supporters of the death penalty and war. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Is the good bishop bearing false witness?

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  22. Bret4207 says:

    So…how do you say someone supports murder of an innocent with civility? That’s kind of tough.

    I think this idea that we need to be “civil” has a certain amount of dishonesty to it. I feel what many are really asking for is for people to stop using plain language, to stop speaking clearly and to put our thoughts into non-confrontational terms so that no feels threatened or slighted, so the playing field is dead level. Isn’t that dishonest? I mean, if I want to say murder is wrong, should I have to couch it in terms that aren’t honest even though they may make people uncomfortable? I don’t mean that people need to resort to profanity and outright childish behavior, but can’t we call a spade a spade without people bursting into tears? If I say someone is black I’ve been taken to task for not referring to him as African-American, yet if I say Obama should be called an African-American I get labeled a birther! If I mention Obama and refer to him as The King, The Messiah or, God forbid, the The Chocolate Messiah as some of his supporters did, I’m a right wing, racist, hate monger that wants to kill him with my guns that I only have so I can kill people. I know none of that is accurate, but I don’t break down and cwy about it either. If I tell my very pro-abortion (and yes, she is PRO abortion) sister in law that I don’t like abortion she’ll go off on the same rant we heard back in the 60’s and 70’s about how it’s all part of a plot to enslave women and that I want to take away womens rights altogether and that I want women to die in ugly back alley abortion clinincs where some butcher with a coat hanger mutilates women. I still love and respect my SIL, even if she is a bit nuts, but I don’t feel “threatened” or that her rant is “inflammatory”. She feels passionately about it, same as I feel about the Constitution, gun rights, taxes, responsible gov’t.

    The hypocrisy is coming from both sides now that politicians from the right jumping on the “can’t we all just get along” bandwagon. Do we really think that the language police will stop Democrats from “shooting for targeted goals”? Will the term “right wing hate monger” disappear form our lexicon? Will “Target” change the pronunciation of it’s name to “Tar-jeh”? Will “Bullseye” shellac have to be rebranded? Jeeze, let’s just be honest and clear and leave it at that.

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  23. mervel says:

    The Bishop is simply teaching Catholic Doctrine.

    The Catholic Catechism calls abortion a moral evil, and an abominable crime; is this better language? A Catholic Bishop’s role is to teach the faith you can’t expect him to do anything else. But from a language perspective this is relevant to our discussion and I think kind of interesting.

    From the Catechism:

    “2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

    You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”

    God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

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  24. hermit thrush says:

    i totally agree that there should be no place in our discourse for terms like “teab*****.” no, it’s not nearly as bad as violence-infused rhetoric, and yes, tea partiers themselves unwittingly started it, but so what? we don’t need to respect each other’s ideas and viewpoints, but we should all be able to respect each other as human beings.

    on the other hand, mervel, yes, calling abortion a moral evil or an abominable crime is much better language. i don’t find the “culture of death” language particularly odious as far as these things go, but it does have the bug of not being true, and hence is a slur. pro-choice people don’t consider abortion murder (and there’s good reason for that — just as there’s perfectly good reason for pro-lifers to feel otherwise), and as walker points out people on the left tend to be much more pro-life on other issues. so it’s quite emphatically not a culture of death. that kind of language is just about demonizing the other side. however calling abortion a moral evil or abominable crime is just stating basic church doctrine, and i don’t think there’s anything uncivil about that.

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  25. Mervel says:

    Thanks Hermit,

    That is basically how I feel.

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  26. JDM says:


    I’m not intending to pick on you, but rather, your post made it easy for me to illustrate the following point.

    Here are some of your comments:

    “no, it’s not nearly as bad as violence-infused rhetoric”

    “yes, calling abortion a moral evil or an abominable crime is much better language”

    “i don’t find the “culture of death” language particularly odious as far as these things go”

    “and i don’t think there’s anything uncivil about that”

    Each of these represents a personal view on civility. There are as many levels of civility as there are people in the US. That is why the “civil-speak” is nothing more than censorship.

    It is a censorship tool in the hands of whoever the “civil police” end up being. And, given the way the national media and Brian are using it, it looks like the lefties are lining up to claim that post.

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  27. Pete Klein says:

    One thing that seems to be lost here is the the question of belief.
    Some people believe there is a god and some people don’t.
    Some people believe a human being exists at the moment of conception, some people believe a human being exists sometime after conception but before birth and some people believe a human being doesn’t exist until it is outside the womb and breathing air.
    Anyone can draw a line in the sand wherever they want but it is all belief until the birth takes place.
    Religion is all about belief. It is what we do when we don’t know. It’s all about what we hope and fear. It is not knowledge.
    Argue all you want but these are the simple facts.
    As far as the whole culture thing – I’m sick of the word culture. I rank it right down there with community. Both are words that try to fit everyone into one little box and try to exclude the individual.

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  28. DK says:

    I’m surprised that nobody has pointed out the obvious hipocrasy of a catholic bishop calling any group a culture of death, considering there history. Sounds like he’s trying to incite more violence to me.

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  29. Bret4207 says:

    DK, people and groups change. The Democrat party, to the best of my knowledge, no longer supports slavery, segregation and the KKK. Yet that is among the darkest parts of their history. I’m not Catholic and have my issues with the Catholic Church for other reasons ($$$$$), but I’m not going to hold the modern Catholic Church to a higher standard based on something done in 1083.

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  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Ah, a new level of political correctness emerges. DK is correct, talk about the pot calling the kettle black (oh I said black, someone could be offended! By black I only meant the color or pigment named for either the lack of visible light or the full range of pigment, whichever is appropriate–certainly not the melanin content of the skin of people who themselves or their ancestors came from the continent we in the west know as Africa).

    When you write tea******* I know what you mean! I’m trying to wash the image from my brain–lalalala, I can’t hear you and I’m closing my eyes.

    Seriously, it seems ridiculous that anyone should be offended to read that word I used above that none dare say when insurance executives can sit in front of Congress and say the word “rescission”.
    Partial definition of this obscenity, from Wikipedia: In health insurance and specifically the individual and small group insurance markets, rescissions have generally followed the diagnosis of an expensive-to-treat illness in the patient (policyholder), typically because of withheld information about a pre-existing medical condition.[7] This practice was popularized during the 2009 US healthcare debate, known colloquially as “cancel coverage when you get sick”. The practice of health insurance rescission will be partially limited starting[8] on September 23, 2014, following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. A House committee report[9] found that WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant rescinded policies for more than 20,000 people over a five-year period;[7] the House report also found highlighted 13 particular cases.[9]
    In 2010, it was revealed that that WellPoint specifically targeted women with breast cancer for aggressive investigation with the intent to cancel (rescind) their policies.[10] The disclosures followed the discovery that Assurant Health similarly targeted all recently-diagnosed HIV-positive (AIDS) policyholders for rescission.[11] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to WellPoint urging the insurer to immediately end their practice of dropping health insurance coverage for the women.[5]

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  31. DK says:

    lol, thanks for the new word knucklehead I’m gonna try to work that in tomorrow.
    sooo, back to the name calling. I think it’s irresponsible of the bishop to speak like this, the people that work in these clinics are terrorized everday, and their only trying to do what they think is right and what law of the land says is right. He should know that his word carries alot of weight and chose his words a little more carefully.

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  32. Chris LaRose says:

    PP’s CEO needs to get a grip of what happens by an abortion! An innocent human being created by God is developing in her mother’s womb, simply wanting to be born and loved. Abortion cruelly ends this life masked under the title of pro-choice. The mother then is scarred forever both physically and emotionally -this is NOT a healthy life! An unwanted pregnancy is not a health issue and no child is unwanted, millions are waiting to adopt.

    For women facing an unplanned pregnancy, there is help besides killing your baby. For confidential help contact: Chris LaRose at (315)403-8123

    If you’re going to make a choice, always Choose Life.

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  33. Pete Klein says:

    “An innocent human being created by God” is not true according to Catholic teaching. According to Catholic teaching we are all born sinners. No one is born innocent.
    Also, God performs a fair number of abortions but we call it a miscarriage.

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  34. oa says:

    “DK, people and groups change. The Democrat party,”
    Yes, and one thing that conservatives like to do is change the name of the Democratic party to the Democrat party.
    It’s all in this guy’s playbook:

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  35. Chris LaRose says:

    Pete, you know what i mean by the term “innocent.”

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  36. Chris LaRose says:

    Just as murdering someone in this country is illegal, so should the killing of a human baby developing in her mother’s womb – both are murder! It is the moral law as given by God, Peter.

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  37. Pete Klein says:

    And there you have the legal problem, Chris. So what should the penalty be? 25 to life or the death penalty.
    Or to keep everybody happy, perhaps a small fine and community service?
    When you make something a crime, there must be a penalty. This is never discussed by those who want all abortions to be illegal.
    As to the “innocent” term – as I state from time to time, only nouns and verbs are factual. Adjectives and adverbs are opinions and are often used to evoke an emotional response.

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  38. DK says:

    this is not a question of whether abortion is right or wrong, it’s a question of whether it’s a good idea for people in positions of power to use inflamatory language to get their message across. Alot of people consider a bishops word the word of god, and a polititions word the word of law. I think that they have to take into consideration that they may be giving an already unstable individual licence to commit a violent act against another just because they hold a different set of beliefs. This is wrong and extremely irisponsible, and may very well may have been a factor in a recent horrific incident.

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  39. Chris LaRose says:

    The point is Peter that it should be illegal. The penalty will need to be determined to ensure it doesn’t happen illegally either. Just being illegal will save millions of babies and also the after-effects the abortion causes the mother.

    The baby is innocent in that she has done nothing to deserve being killed!

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  40. Two Cents says:

    Bishop LaValley speaks the truth. PP promotes, feeds, teaches and makes money from the culture of death. PP kills babies thru chemical and surgical abortion. But the Catholic Church promotes a culture of life, respecting the defenseless among us, loving the baby and the mother, offering help to those in a crisis pregnancy and healing retreats to those who are suffering from abortion loss…

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