Several pro-life outlets are cheering the fact that Timothy Dolan came in ahead of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People poll. I, too, was pleased to see the result, though I have to admit that it strikes me as a little lamentable that today it seems natural to pit a prince of the church, a shepherd of souls, against a run-of-the-mill political operative like Richards (who is the daughter of Texas governor Ann Richards and former deputy chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi).

Certainly Dolan and Richards are opposed on the question of life, but Dolan’s mission is far, far broader than anything comprehended in Richards’ tightly focused (and abhorrent) political goals. This leads me back to something First Things contributor John Haldane said in a recent speech :

Catholicism is not first and foremost about sexual ethics, or abortion, or liturgy, or justice and peace, or environmental stewardship. Rather it is about coming to know, to love and to serve God. Perhaps the rest follows, but it follows and does not lead, and nor is it an acceptable substitute for faith.

I don’t know any prolife activists who make this mistake, but Haldane’s observation is a helpful reminder of the proper place of political action in the Christian life. Here’s hoping that next year we see Cecile Richards pitted against, say, the brilliant Charmaine Yoest .

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