I've done some more digging into the "Manhattan Declaration". I learned that the three principal draftors were Robert George, Timothy George (I don't know if they're related) and Chuck Colson. I've no doubt that these are fine, well-intentioned gentlemen. I believe only Robert George is Catholic. I also downloaded the declaration into a Word document to do a little looking.
In response to inquiries I made to people who are enthusiastically promoting this effort, all they could, or would, tell me is that "Bishop So-and-so or Mr. Prominent-Prolife-Leader signed it, so it must be ok!" Some of them even implied that I had sprouted an extra eye ball in the middle of my forehead for daring to question what appears to be a herd-mentality stampede towards who-knows-what. This highlights one of the big concerns that I have regarding this, well, fad. How do we, as thinking, rational Christians and Catholics, arrive at our decisions? If we say that a course of action is the way to go simply because some prominent people are going that route, then we are in effect letting them do our thinking for us. That sort of abdication of personal responsibility cannot be morally acceptable in my opinion. Now understand that I'm not questioning the decision per se as much as I'm wondering about the decision-making process.
I am a Catholic and a pro-life activist, and have long been going out in front of abortuaries to offer witness along with some good friends. We go out in all kinds of weather. Occasionally we're mocked, assaulted and even threatened with arrest. We're no strangers to the rough-and-tumble; we aren't wimps. I agree with the statements in this declaration that we may have to engage in civil disobedience, as we cannot obey laws that are inherently contradictory to those of God. I will point out, though, that such statements are to be found in Evangelium Vitae.
I do find serious fault with this declaration, though. That fault lies more with what it doesn't say. It lists many social and moral ills: abortion, divorce, gay lifestyle. But what is the lynchpin to these sins? Hint: Humanae Vitae. As I said, I downloaded it into Word and did word searches. There was no mention of the words "contraception", "contraceptives", "birth control". Why this omission? Please don't tell me that "opposition to contraception is peculiar to Catholics". That is patently false! Until as recently as 1930, all Christian denominations understood the intrinsic evil of contraception. That ended with the 1930 Lambeth Conference. Even the Washington Post, in an editorial during that time, lamented the resulting societal destruction that the embrace of contraception would bring (back then, there must have been sane people at that helm). If this document is being touted as some statement of foundational principles, it is seriously wanting. As far as I'm concerned, the omission of the contraceptive mentality as a precurser to all the other problems is a deal-breaker for me. I've no bones in saying that those who hold contraception to be a "minor detail" are very short-sighted.
"But all the pro-life leaders say it's ok!" (I can just hear some say). Do they? If we insist on playing "who's who" here, shall we look at the whole picture and notice who didn't sign it? Some names that we all respect are missing. I don't see Fr Euteneuer of Human Life International. I don't see Fr Pavone of Priests for Life. I don't see any of the Scheidlers from Pro-Life Action League. Nellie Gray's name is absent, as is Judie Brown's and Pat Buchanan's. Realizing that what I downloaded is a few days old and that they could have signed between now and then, I checked their respective websites and saw no mention whatsoever of this Manhattan Declaration; I interpret that as a sign of them not being on board. I'd suspect that they were approached for support. Do we not see support because of the gloss-over of contraception? That possibility shouldn't be lightly dismissed.
As I said earlier, I certainly believe the drafters have the best of intentions. However, I would advocate some independent reasoning here. The Manhattan Declaration is somewhat problematic and is certainly no silver bullet.