By Kurt Jensen
Although speakers at the Napa Institute’s annual summer conference found much to celebrate with the Supreme Court’s decision that ended abortion as a constitutional right, they acknowledged that the way forward is sown pitfalls.
The nonprofit Catholic institute’s conference was held July 27-31 at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., and drew sidewalk protests for the first time against abortion and bad treatment of indigenous peoples.
The five-day conference drew around 800 in-person attendees and thousands more watched online July 28-30 with keynote addresses and other sessions delivered via virtual conference.
“Catholic morale has never been higher, and the reason: because Roe v. Wade was overturned,” said Tim Busch, an Orange County, Calif. attorney who co-founded the institute. in 2010.
“We have been given a generational chance to protect life and end abortion once and for all,” he said in a July 28 speech.
On June 24, the High Court overturned its landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, who legalized abortion nationwide. The court’s ruling came in its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
The court upheld the state ban in a 6-3 vote and overturned Roe in a 5-4 vote, returning the abortion issue to the states.
The goal, Busch said, is to abolish legal abortion at the time of conception in all 50 states, which will require significant effort in states where abortion remains legal. Thirteen states enacted trigger laws that were in place to ban abortions immediately after Roe’s overthrow.
“We must now engage in a civil discourse with our fellow Americans about what abortion really does to our country,” Busch said.
“The devil knows his lie is being unraveled,” he added. “We already have the heart of America. We just have to educate them and inform them.
Busch praised Leonard Leo, co-chair of the Federalist Society, who was instrumental in selecting and confirming pro-life Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “That’s why we have the court we have today and the court America deserves.”
“The war is not over,” warned Ryan Anderson, president of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy in Washington, during a July 29 roundtable. “It has just entered a different, possibly violent phase,” as protests against the Supreme Court ruling and threats against pregnancy resource centers escalate.
Anderson called the Dobbs decision “truly the start of a new chapter in the pro-life movement.” Now, we not only have the constitutional authority to protect unborn babies and their mothers from the legal violence of abortion, we have an obligation – we have a duty – to do so.
But he warned: “We don’t have public opinion everywhere on our side yet – so we have to be in the realm of persuasion.
A Pew Research Center poll released July 6 indicated that 57% of Americans disapprove of the Dobbs decision, with 43% of respondents strongly disapproving. About 41% approve of the court’s decision, with 25% strongly approving.
It also found that most women (62%) disapproved, with 47% strongly disapproving. Among men, 52% disagreed and 37% strongly disagreed.
The survey results also showed a broad partisan divide on the issue: 84% of Democrats said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 38% of Republicans.
“We have to have the public sentiment on our side,” Anderson said. To that end, he said the argument must be “Yes, he is a human being, yes, he is a human person, yes, he is my equal, because we are all created in the image and in the likeness of God”.
Key to the argument, he said, is that “abortion is based on a lie of what women’s equality looks like. It takes my body as the norm, and it tells my wife that her body is somehow flawed, and to be equal to me, she has to sterilize her body, and she has to kill her own children.
“Over the past 50 years, we have built a culture based on this lie,” he concluded.
Anderson called for “high-tech targeted marketing” as the first step to changing that culture.
In another July 30 presentation, former Illinois congressman Dan Lipinski, who was considered the only pro-life Democrat in the House of Representatives when he lost his 2020 primary, said that polls showed that “Americans believe that the divide in our nation…is a threatening element.”
“In the absence of divine respect for human dignity,” Lipinski said, the political culture is now so crude, “women are called traitors to their sex because they are pro-life,” and the judge of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, another pro-life lawyer, is called a “race traitor.”
“I have never regretted my choice not to become…a bigoted Democrat,” he said. “I will not give up my fight.
Until losing the 2020 Democratic primary on the abortion issue, Lipinski had represented Illinois’ 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House since 2005.
In another July 28 presentation, Father Roger Landry warned, “Cultural poisons are poured into almost every aspect of life.
Father Landry, attached to the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, said Catholics should “resist the growing ideologies of our time”. It means “resisting manipulation,” he said.
“Jesus doesn’t just show us the way. He says he is the way,” Landry concluded. “We tell the truth, even when it’s harsh or unpopular.”
The Napa Institute was founded in response to a warning from retired Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia regarding “the next America,” which he said would be hostile to morality and religious liberty and would become increasingly more secular.
According to its website, Napa Institute events are built on “the three pillars” of community, formation, and liturgy.
During the summer conference, masses were available every 45 minutes and attendees were encouraged to bond through meals, wine tastings and evening activities.