The Unborn

Offered below are a collection of articles written for the parish bulletin over the years, touching on the controversy surrounding abortion in our nation and our world. Key themes remain the Dignity and Sanctity of Human Life (created in the image and likeness of God), as the foundation for a Consistent Ethic of Life.
“Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good.”  (Evangelium Vitae, n.87)

 


An Intimate Community
The Disposables
Moved by Mercy
The Exceptions
The Imperfect Child
Sacred or Not Sacred
Safe – For Whom?
Selfishness
Dignity — Unearned & Enduring
Time and Location
What We Owe
A Safe Place?
Choice: Choose What?


An Intimate Community
2017-01-21

Human beings are social beings.  We come into existence through others, in the midst of others, and throughout our lives, we remain dependent on others, in countless ways.  We would not be the persons we are without other people.  And sometimes that grates on us.

Perhaps the clearest example of the restraints of living in community is experienced by every person who drives on our highways.  Yes, that is “our” highways, not “my” highways.  Roads are built as a community project, and are intended to benefit all.  Yet how often do we act as if the highway is “my” highway, and we wail and gnash our teeth at the person who dares to interfere with my unimpeded use of that road? Driving is a social activity, and we try to act as if we are the only person entitled to travel this highway. (Doesn’t he/she know I have to get to work?!?)

Or take something as timely these days as staying home with the flu.  We are particularly pleased with paid sick leave, if we have it, which allows us to take time off from work when we are ill.  We may even claim it as our personal right.  But we are much slower to recognize that staying home with an infectious disease is actually something we owe to others.  Conversely, I have no right to knowingly expose others to illness or disease, especially since some of them may be more vulnerable to complications, or even death, from something that I experience as mere inconvenience or at most, passing misery.

One of the bedrock principles of Catholic Social Teaching is to always speak of rights alongside responsibilities.  Certainly there are a number of fundamental human rights which are inalienable, simply because we are created in the image and likeness of God, beginning with the right to life itself. However, every one of those rights is exercised in the midst of a particular community. It is wrong to think I can demand that my own rights be respected while refusing to respect the fundamental rights of others. Exercising our rights in community demands that we fulfill our responsibilities to others as well. And sometimes, that grates on us.

This illustrates the fundamental and grave error at the very heart of the so-called “pro-choice’ movement.  Certainly there is a right to privacy which should be respected by all. But I cannot exercise that right without also living up to my responsibility to respect the rights of others.  Every “choice” to have an abortion fails to recognize the right to life of the unborn child.  That child, dependent and vulnerable, is within the woman’s body, not part of her body.  (Check the DNA.) Abortion violates the most intimate community of all.

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The Disposables
2017-01-22

Have you ever heard of “selective reduction”?  It is a practice usually associated with in-vitro fertilization, and is one of the reasons the Church condemns the use of these procedures to bring a child into the world in the face of fertility problems.  When performing in-vitro fertilization (IVF), multiple eggs are fertilized, resulting in 2, 3, or more embryos.  Usually multiple embryos are implanted in the womb, to increase the chances of a pregnancy.  (Most IVF attempts fail to achieve pregnancy, and each attempt costs thousands of dollars.) And sometimes multiple embryos do implant, resulting in the woman being pregnant with twins, or even triplets or quads.

Being pregnant with multiples increases the risks, both to mother and the children.  It is therefore not uncommon in these cases to turn to “selective reduction”.  Tests are done to try and determine which of the fetuses are healthiest.  At that point, usually in the early weeks of pregnancy (11-13 weeks), one or more of the children are aborted.  They will try to eliminate the least healthy of the fetuses — if all seem healthy, the choice might come down to whether a boy or girl is preferable.  And all this is being done by people who want to have a child — just not too many.

This is of course perfectly legal, since we have abortion on demand in our country, since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973.  And I’m sure those who choose “selective reduction” anguish over the decision.  But I doubt that once they’re older, the children who do survive are told that they had a brother or sister who was killed in the womb.

I realize this discussion may seem rather gruesome, but it simply describes the situation of a society where some human beings are classed as being simply disposable.  No one can deny that the embryo is a human being.  Science is science, facts are facts, and from conception forward, there is a separate human being developing within the womb. This human being is within the mother’s body, attached to and dependent upon the mother’s body, but is not part of her body as if he/she were an arm or a leg. (Check the DNA — it’s different.)

By denying the status of personhood under the law to these human beings, Roe v. Wade created a class of human beings who can simply be treated as property, instead of being accorded the dignity that is proper to all human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

Many in our society would say that only the woman’s voice matters, and it is her choice.  But who speaks up for the unborn child, who as yet has no voice?

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Moved by Mercy
2016-10-02

These words are taken from our first reading this Sunday, from the prophet Habakkuk:

“How long, O LORD? I cry for help. but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!”, but you do not intervene. “

An appropriate lament, I think for this first Sunday of October, and for Respect Life month.  All around us, we see an epidemic of violence. Almost every day, another shooting in a mall or school makes the headlines, while in Aleppo, “bunker buster bombs” rain down on neighborhoods and the innocent civilians.  Abortion clinics thrive, while in Belgium, euthanasia is legal even for children. The lives created by God, sacred by that fact, are under attack.  What follows is an excerpt from a statement by Cardinal Timothy Dolan for Pro-Life month, entitled “Moved by Mercy”:

God offers his gift of mercy to each and every one of us, no matter what. But we have to decide to receive that gift—whether or not to turn away from sin and turn, instead, toward him. We have to decide whether we want God.

The theme of the 2016-17 Respect Life Program is “Moved by Mercy” (usccb.org/respectlife). When we let our hearts be moved by God’s mercy, it shapes everything. As Pope Francis said, “We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us” (Misericordiae Vultus. . . ).

God made each of us in his own image and likeness.  He desires to be united with us forever in a loving relationship.  God loves us, treats us with respect, and asks us to do the same with others.  Every person is sacred and must be treated with the dignity they deserve.  No one should ever be treated callously or carelessly—everyone should be cherished and protected!

From each tiny child waiting to be born, to individuals nearing death, all are precious and deserve our care and protection. Women and men suffering after abortion, individuals tempted to end their lives, couples longing to conceive a child, people pushed to the margins of society by a “throwaway culture,” expectant mothers facing challenging pregnancies, and every other person—each “has a place in God’s heart from all eternity” (Amoris Laetitia. . . , 168).

Let’s ask God to make us channels of his loving mercy: Lord, help us to receive your mercy and turn to you each moment. And please guide us in extending your mercy to others today. Now is the time for mercy.

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The Exceptions
2015-01-25

This last Thursday, our morning Mass  was the “Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”, recently added to our Missal by the U.S. Bishops.  The occasion for that Mass was of course the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which effectively legalized abortion on demand in our nation.

In my homily that day, I recalled the great legislative victories for justice that resulted from the civil rights movement.  While some of those victories have been eroded of late by legislation and court decisions, those laws are a testament to a greater level of justice achieved for so many.  Today, some 50 years later, we would be naïve however if we were to imagine that those laws eradicated racism from our midst.  Tragically, racism continues to thrive in institutional structures as well as individually, sometimes quietly, sometimes more openly.  Since racism is an infectious disease of the human heart, it takes much more than laws to overcome the hatred and bias and prejudice.

I offer this as simply context for the quest for the legal protection of the unborn.  Certainly the goal to enshrine in law the protection of human life from the moment of conception is a worthy one, even as we recognize that it will not happen today.  Because we believe in the innate dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, the fundamental rights of that person cannot be based on the choice of this or that individual.  Fundamental rights exist whether they are recognized in law or not.

Yet we would again be naïve if we believed that changing the law, or the constitution, would resolve the problem.  Much like racism, we are concerned here with attitudes of the human heart, and specifically, an attitude of respect for all human life.  While working for a just society and just laws is a worthy activity for the Church, we also need to remember that our core mission is the conversion of the human heart, through the power of God’s grace.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk connecting the respect for life with the need for a just society.  I pointed out that when it comes to human dignity, the devil is truly in the exceptions.  Most people value life.  The issue arises with the exceptions: to value life, except when the other is called enemy, or is a guilty criminal, or except when the other is old and dying, or when the other is just not yet born.  It is the exceptions who are at risk.

So we continue to pray.  We continue to work for laws that respect life.  And we continue to strive for a more just society, where no one is the exception.

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The Imperfect Child
2014-01-19

In an address given to the Vatican diplomatic corps on January 13th, Pope Francis said the following:

“Peace is also threatened by every denial of human dignity, firstly the lack of access to adequate nutrition. We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed “the throwaway culture”. Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary”. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”

Some studies find that 70-90% of unborn children diagnosed with Downs Syndrome are aborted.  Because they are not perfect, they are deemed to be ‘unnecessary’.  In some cultures, particular from Asia, a disturbing inequality in births of boys versus girls is being seen, as gender-based abortion is practiced.  These unborn babies, because they are girls, are deemed to be ‘unnecessary’.  And the reasons for judging some children to be ’unnecessary’ go on and on.

In the quote above, Pope Francis recognizes that every denial of human dignity threatens the human dignity of all.  The devil is in the exceptions:  “I value children—except if he is not perfect.  I value children — except if he is a she.  I value children — except where I need soldiers, or if I can make money from selling them.”  Again, the list of offenses against human dignity goes on and on.  Every attack on human dignity, whether the victim is born or unborn, elderly or dying, guilty or innocent, or simply inconvenient, diminishes our respect for every human life.

On January 22 each year, we mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court legalization of abortion on demand, in the infamous case, Roe v. Wade.  Each year, that date draws our attention to the unborn children who are disposed of every year, found by their parents to be ‘unnecessary’.  On February 5th, 2014, the state of Louisiana is scheduled to execute Christopher Sepulvado, another attack on human dignity.  Ironically, Sepulvado’s offense was the brutal murder of a child, leaving us to wonder where he learned that this little boy was ‘unnecessary’, even as we condemn his actions.  And once again, in the face of judicially condoned homicide that is called ‘capital punishment’, we have to ask, Does killing the killer deepen our respect for human dignity?  Or is it simply one more exception, judged ‘unnecessary’ because he is guilty?

Returning to the words of Pope Francis, we discover he mentions abortion in the context of listing a broad range of threats to peace.  In doing so, he teaches us that the kind of world we live in, the level of violence we endure in our cities and homes, the number of wars that are waged among nations, all depend upon our respect for human dignity.

Beware the exceptions.

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Sacred or Not Sacred
January 20, 2013

During the week ahead, our nation will be marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which basically legalized abortion on demand in our nation.  This was accomplished by making absolute the right to privacy with regards to pregnancy.  While well-intentioned with regards to a woman’s right to self-determination, the failure to accord any rights to the other person involved is the fatal flaw in the argument.  By denying personhood to the unborn child within his or her mother’s womb, the legal decision abandoned reality by pretending that only one person was involved in the equation.

There remains something particularly horrific about so many children being killed at the request of their own mothers, assisted by members of a profession who’s fundamental ethics proclaim, “First, do no harm”.  The industry that has grown up in response to this offense against human dignity uses words like “choice” and “privacy” to cast a blanket of deception over the unseen child who is efficiently disposed of.

Yet it remains important to remember the broader context, in order that we become ever more pro-life in the fullest sense, rather than just anti-abortion.  I remain convinced of the importance of an ethic that upholds the fundamental dignity of all human life.  The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “consistent ethic of life” argument, (later adopted by the U.S. Bishops and affirmed in Pope John Paul II’s “Gospel of Life” encyclical), still is the strongest argument we can make on behalf of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.

So even as we focus on the unborn who are killed, we hold on to the image of kindergarten students gunned down in their classrooms.  We stand up for the elderly and terminally ill who can be euthanized legally, as well as for the guilty who sit on death row.  We recall the innocent ones, nameless and voiceless, who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, whom we dismiss with terms like “collateral damage”.  The list goes on.

Either we believe every life has dignity and is sacred or we don’t.  If we hold that only some lives deserve our protection, then we stand with those who favor abortion, for they believe the same thing.  In that case, we only differ as to which lives are disposable. Nor can we ignore other attacks on human dignity, as in our own state, the health care system for the poor is gutted, benefits are denied to the dying in need of hospice care, and victims of domestic violence are refused safe refuge.  Such actions are not pro-life.  Every society is and should be judged on the basis of how it cares for the most vulnerable and powerless in their midst – innocent or guilty, old or young, healthy or ill, born or unborn.

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Safe – For Whom?
2013-05-26

Finally, the gruesome and horrifying trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell has ended, with guilty verdicts on three counts of murder (infanticide) and one count of involuntary manslaughter.  Thankfully, he did not receive the death penalty, so we avoid the contradiction of teaching that killing is wrong by killing again.  News coverage of the trial was sorely lacking at first, as mainstream media outlets apparently did not want to shine light on any of the despicable acts connected to the abortion industry.  And of course no one wants to hear stories of a physician pulling living babies from their mother’s wombs, and then snipping their spinal cords, or plunging forceps into living children’s brains.  But that is what this man was doing.

Yes, it is gruesome, and horrible.  Yet you should know that there are those in our universities who call themselves ethicists who argue that parents who give birth to a handicapped child should have a “window” of a few weeks to decide whether or not to dispose of their newborn, but “defective” baby.  When abortion on demand is the law of the land, whether an unborn child is a person or not depends on where that child is, not who that child is.

The pro-abortionists will of course argue that Dr. Gosnell is an exception.  They will claim that conditions at the numerous abortion mills run by Planned Parenthood, for example, are nothing like Gosnell’s operation, even as they fight state oversight and block health inspections. They will say that this trial is proof that we need to make sure every abortion is safe.  What they will not admit is that no matter how sterile the instruments, no matter how well-trained the staff, no matter how close the monitoring of women at risk, there is no such thing as a safe abortion – if one happens to be the baby.

There have been articles written exploring whether this case will change the national conversation on abortion.  I don’t think it will.  The self-labeling of the pro-abortion industry as “pro-choice” is still too seductive.  We all like choices, and we value our freedom.  But the pro-choice rhetoric refuses to admit that we cannot evaluate the goodness of any choice until we name what is chosen.  Are we in favor of choice, when someone chooses to rob a bank?  Do we defend the “right to choose” when the choice is to murder one’s spouse?  Are we “pro-choice” when one’s spouse chooses to have an adulterous affair?  Saying one is “pro-choice” means nothing unless one is willing to name what is chosen:  a mother’s choice to kill her baby.

The horror surrounding the Gosnell trial should not blind us to the fact that every abortion, even “safe” ones, is the intentional killing of a child created in the image and likeness of God.  That is gruesome indeed.

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Selfishness
2013-10-27

Recently in the news was the story of a 14 year old girl who made the horrible decision to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night with her 13 year old friend to party (and drink) with a group of older boys.  One of the 17 year olds at the party took advantage of her alcoholic stupor and raped her.  (Her young friend was raped as well.)  The case is making its torturous way through the legal system.

The event itself is horrible enough, (and all too frequent), as an abuse of power, and a subsequent denial of all responsibility by the perpetrators.  One other aspect of the story caught my attention this week.  The partygoers left this comatose 14 year old on the porch of her home, half dressed, in below freezing weather, where she was found in the morning by her mother.  My question:  Why didn’t they ring the doorbell?

Compounding the sexual abuse that this girl had suffered was the failure after the fact to treat this young girl with any kind of care and concern.  Why not ring the doorbell?  The person who dumped her there was avoiding consequences for himself.  The rape was an act of violence.  The abandonment was a blatant act of selfishness.

My point here is that it is all too often precisely selfishness, pure and simple, that stands in the way of treating others with the respect that human dignity demands.  Usually, respecting human dignity will cost something—time, attention, relinquishing prejudice, being willing to change, etc.  When human dignity is trampled upon, it is usually to advance one’s own agenda, and one’s own selfish ends.  Respecting human dignity will almost always cost us something.  When we selfishly refuse to pay that cost, we use and abuse persons created in the image and likeness of God.

During this pro-life month, it is good to recognize the role that selfishness plays in human suffering.  This is particularly true since our society and politics have drifted more and more toward a rigid individualism where the responsibilities of living in society are denied and ignored.  Our society takes up Cain’s rationalization, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Perhaps this is most obvious in the pro-abortion movement’s championing of “choice”.  As long as one focuses purely on one’s own individual needs, wants and desires, one can avoid considering the other person, not yet born, who while powerless and voiceless, is no less deserving of respect and consideration.  Blessed Mother Theresa recognized this when she said, “It is a poverty that a child must die in order that you might live as you wish”, or as you might live as you choose.  Is there selfishness here?

Living in society demands choices, and doing so with respect for others means sacrifice.  Being pro-life demands that we not choose based on selfishness.

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Dignity — Unearned & Enduring
2012-01-15

You may have noticed that the crosses are going up around town.  A number of our church parishes (that have lawns) are erecting a display of white crosses near the road.  These crosses dramatize the number of children who have been victims of so-called “pro-choice” legislation in our nation.  They remind us that there is no such thing as a safe abortion, if you happen to be the baby who is being killed in your mother’s womb.

It is of course the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which occasions these displays.  In recent years, we have seen legislation in a number of states which attempts to restrict abortion on demand.  But as long as the human beings we call “fetus” are denied the legal status of “person”, these defenseless infants will remain at risk of having their lives snuffed out before they are even born.  As Mother Theresa said, “It is a true poverty that a child must die in order that you might live as you wish.”

This time of the year affords us an opportunity to reflect upon the basis for our Catholic opposition to direct abortion.  That basis is of course the dignity of the human person.  The dignity of that unborn child, denied and trampled upon by our courts, legislatures, medical professionals and even their own mothers, teaches us something important for all of us.

Human dignity is not earned or achieved.  Nowhere is this more abundantly clear than in the case of the unborn child.  Not yet able to choose and act, they are simply incapable of earning or achieving anything.  Their proper task in life is simply to live and to grow, if they are allowed to do so, in the security of the mother’s womb.  All of that child’s achievements and failures lie in the future.  Still, that child possesses a dignity and worth that endures.  That dignity is rooted in the simple fact of having been created in the image and likeness of God.  This means as well that the dignity that is our by virtue of simply being human belongs to everyone, without exception.  This includes those who appear to be different from us, those who disagree with us, and even those we have chosen to call enemy, as well as those who are not yet born.

Another fundamental aspect of this human dignity is that it endures, regardless of events, actions and choices.  No matter what we do or don’t do as we progress through life, we cannot erase or surrender this human dignity, even when we fail to act in accord with that dignity.  This is important because in the abortion debate, much is often made of the fact that the unborn child is innocent.  While this is most assuredly true, it is irrelevant to the issue of the child’s dignity and value.  Guilt or innocence does not repeal the fact of being a person created in the image and likeness of God.  Dignity endures.

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Time and Location
2011-08-28

What do you do when the unimaginable is imagined, and more?  What do we do when the unspeakable crime is spoken in action?  Recently, we were shocked, and more, when news broke of the terrible death of a little boy, Jori, at the hands of his own father.  Having a disability that made him, in the eyes of his father, more of a burden than a gift, he was brutally murdered.  Then he was brutally dismembered.  Having been refused the dignity of the living, he was even denied the respect due to the dead.

Shock and outrage, disbelief and calls for justice all characterized the comments and reports.  Eventually, this precious child was laid to rest as his short life was remembered and honored by those who loved him and many who did not know him.  This is as it should be.  But I feel that something more must be said, without in any way diminishing the tragedy of this evil deed that led to Jori’s death.  What is the context in which this occurred?

You see, as horrible as this act was to behold, the killing and dismemberment of children by their parents is something that takes place every single day.  It is done about 7 years earlier, in the privacy of a “health care” clinic.  We have an entire industry devoted to making profits from the disposal of these children.  These innocents were simply “unplanned”, or they were diagnosed as having some disability, as did Jori, or they simply had the misfortune of being of the wrong sex.  The only differences between these children and Jori are those of time and location.  They were much younger, and they had not yet left their mothers’ wombs.  Just as Jori’s home became a place of danger for him, so these children are living and developing in a place of grave danger, their own mothers’ wombs.

Some will object that there is a huge difference between abortion and infanticide.  Again I say that the differences are of time and location:  how long since the child’s conception, and whether the child is still in the womb.  Once we have created an entire class of disposable human beings (the unborn), then the question becomes, which children are disposable?  The prominent “ethicist” Peter Singer has publicly suggested that parents who give birth to a child with disabilities be given six weeks or so after the child’s birth to decide whether or not to dispose of him or her.  The dying, the guilty, the enemy, all seem to be disposable.

Without a doubt, laws need to be changed.  But more fundamental than laws are attitudes of (dis)respect for life that are deeply flawed.  Who is next to be judged, “disposable”?

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What We Owe
2011-01-30

As the anniversary of Roe v. Wade has passsed, and with the reform of health care again in the news, I share with you these thoughts from a talk given by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin:

“Over the past years I have addressed many issues in the light of the consistent ethic [of life]. In addition to the central question of abortion, I have spoken about euthanasia and assisted suicide, capital punishment, the newer technologies used to assist human reproduction, and war and peace, to name a few.  The foundation for all of these discussions is a deep conviction about the nature of human life, namely, that human life is sacred, which means that all human life has an inalienable dignity that must be protected and respected from conception to natural death. . . .

“For advocates of a consistent life ethic, the national debate about health care reform represents both an opportunity and a test.  It is an opportunity to address issues and policies that are often matters of life and death, such as, who is covered and who is not; which services are included and which are not; will reform protect human life and enhance dignity, or will it threaten or undermine life and dignity?  It is a test in the sense that we will be measured by the comprehensiveness of our concerns and the consistency of our principles in this area.

“In this current debate, a consistent life ethic approach to health care requires us to stand up for both the unserved and the unborn, to insist on the inclusion of real universal coverage and the exclusion of abortion coverage, to support efforts to restrain rising health costs, and to oppose denial of needed care to the poor and vulnerable.  In standing with the unserved and the unborn, the uninsured and the undocumented, we bring together our pro-life and social justice values.  They are the starting points for a consistent life agenda for health care reform. . . .

“When many of us Americans think of justice, we tend to think of what we can claim from one another.  This is an individualistic understanding of justice.  But there is another American instinct which has a broader understanding of justice.  It has been summarized by Father Philip Keane, a moral theologian, who wrote, ‘Justice shifts our thinking from what we claim from each other to what we owe to each other.  Justice is about duties and responsibilities, about building the good community.’”

This talk on the essential role of social justice values in the building of a “good community” was given by the late Cardinal in May of 1994.

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A Safe Place?
2011-01-16

Having moved into the new year, we find ourselves approaching the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legitimized abortion on demand.  While threats to life come in many forms (hunger, poverty, euthanasia, capital punishment, war), one would think a child would be safe within its own mother’s womb.  A few quotes from Church teaching on the sanctity of life seem appropriate:

“The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”  (Pope John Paul II, Christifideles Laici (1988), no. 38)

”It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.”(Pope John Paul II, Evangelium vitae (1995), no. 101)

“At this particular time, abortion has become the fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good will. …. For us abortion is of overriding concern because it negates two of our most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life, and preferential concern for the weak and defenseless.“ (U. S. Bishops:  Resolution on Abortion (1989))

“Among important issues involving the dignity of human life with which the Church is concerned, abortion necessarily plays a central role. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, no. 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice.“ (A Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life (2001), Introduction)

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Choice: Choose What?
2010-10-31

As a follow-up to last week’s prayer for life, and in response to a question, the prayer was excerpted from a litany for life offered on our U.S. Bishops’ web site.  More prayer resources on this topic may be found at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/liturgy/liturservices.shtml.

I would also take this opportunity to follow up on one aspect of the pro-abortion rhetoric common in our country.  This rhetoric is both attractive and effective, in that it covers over the truth.

The deception I would mention is the use of the term “pro-choice” in describing the pro-abortion movement.  This is remarkably clever given the love that our society has for its choices.  We Americans like to be able to choose, and we don’t take kindly to anyone limiting our choices.  So the idea of being pro-choice is just downright attractive, and understandably so.

But when we dare to raise the question of right or wrong, we see how deceptive this language can be.  Quite simply, I cannot say whether I am for against any particular choice, until one specifies what is being chosen!  Am I, for example, in favor of person’s choice to rob a bank?  Would you be in favor of a husband’s choosing to beat his wife?  Suppose someone chooses to break into your home and steal your belongings?  Would those who claim to be “pro-choice” support all these “choices”?

Consider the truth about the particular choice, with which the pro-abortion movement is so enamored.  Most of us would agree that a woman should have the right to make choices about what happens to her body, as should we all.  This is good thing.  The problem arises when we ignore the unique situation of pregnancy, when a woman is concerned not only with her body, but also with body of the child living within her.  To treat this child as if it were just like her arm or leg is to ignore the truth and evidence of science and common sense.  The child is conceived within his or her mother’s body, is dependent upon the mother’s body, and is dwelling within the mother’s body, but is a separate entity from the mother.  Check the DNA!  It will be different from the mother’s, and therefore is a separate person.

So to say that one is pro-choice in this situation is to affirm that one is in favor of the mother’s choice to kill the baby within her womb.  When one strips away the veil of the rhetoric, I dare say the choice is not nearly so attractive.

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