9 days to go to Ireland’s abortion referendum and whether or not to retain or repeal the pro-life 8th amendment to the Irish constitution and replace it with a liberal on demand abortion regime.
Mass appeal….please go to our home page for more info on Sr Briege McKenna’s appeal for as many Masses to be said as possible…
A Failure of Love
George Orwell wrote in a an essay in 1946 “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”1 He also talked about the deliberate vagueness of certain phrases that were being used to mask the brutal reality that they referred to. Pope Saint John Paul II expressed a similar concern in his great encyclical letter on life, ‘Evangelium Vitae’, (Gospel of Life), which came out on 25 March 1995, about the language of choice and abortion.
“But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.”2
And let’s just do that, let’s look at the truth behind these euphemisms. Abortion as I said earlier always involves the deliberate and direct killing of an innocent and defenseless unborn child. The term ‘termination of pregnancy’ is used even more insidiously. All pregnancies are terminated, for the vast majority when they are born, others die naturally before they are born and we call this miscarriage and others are deliberately killed. When abortion advocates use the term ‘termination of pregnancy’, what they are speaking of is a procedure which will deliberately kill the child, which morally speaking is an act of murder. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in England, the practice of early delivery of babies usually after 15 weeks is no longer widely used because of the distress surrounding the survival of a percentage of these babies which then must be left to die. Instead what happens now is a large syringe with potassium chloride (KCl), with the help of an ultra sound, is injected into the babies heart and causes a massive heart attack and the baby dies. The body of the dead baby is then delivered.3 Is this just me or does this sound to you like “cruel, inhuman torture”? Is this a “violation of human rights”?
But it is not enough that we say something is bad for society we must say it is wrong, that it is sinful. Yes I know I said the dreaded “s” word. For abortion is first of all an offence against God. How can you say this I hear you ask. Well it has to do with the nature of who we are. You have probably heard the phrase ‘life is sacred’, well, I often found it hard to articulate why it was so until I read this quotation fromDonum Vitae quoted in EV. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves ‘the creative action of God’ and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being”4
Life is a gift from God and this needs to be proclaimed from the roof tops, instead there seems to be an embarrassing silence around mentioning God in relation to pro-life arguments. It seems we have accepted the secularist argument that faith is a private matter and there is no room for religious arguments in the market place. Secularism or I could use the word liberalism, seeks to frame the discussion of social and political issues by separating the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ spheres. It seeks to keep them in parallel, so to speak, so that the supernatural sphere never crosses into the natural, thus the argument remains a purely rational one. “Under such circumstances, the supernatural is no longer properly speaking another order, something unprecedented, overwhelming and transfiguring: it is no more than a “super-nature”, as we have fallen into the habit of calling it, contrary to all theological tradition; a “super nature” which reproduces, to what is called a “superior” degree, all the features which characterize nature itself.”5 In other words what Du Lubac is saying is that the resurrection is deprived of its transformative powers, its transfiguring glory, when we try to compartmentalise it by creating these dual spheres of the natural and supernatural. It effectively cuts off any supernatural reality from impacting on concrete issues so what we are left with is empirical reality or reality that can be measured, this is generally known as ‘positivism’. Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the German Bundestag in 2011 had this to say about positivism:
A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, as the natural sciences consider it to be, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers. The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field, and they remain extraneous to the realm of reason in the strict sense of the word.6
Then how do we bridge the gap, so to speak, of the supernatural and the natural, the heavenly and the earthly, faith and reason? One way that Saint John Paul II proposes is to speak of the dignity of the person and that dignity is intricately connected to the Creator. In Evangelium Vitae he speaks of the unborn child, right from the start, being made in the image and likeness of God; “In procreation therefore, through the communication of life from parents to child, God’s own image and likeness is transmitted, thanks to the creation of the immortal soul.”7 And God is not just involved at the start of the process but continues to intervene in the act of creation; “You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love; and your care has persevered my spirit” (Job 10:8-12)8 “Here the Christian truth about life becomes most sublime. The dignity of this life is linked not only to its beginning, to the fact that it comes from God, but also to its final end to its destiny of fellowship with God in knowledge and love of Him.”9 And in paragraph 34 we read; “The life which God bestows upon man is much more than mere existence in time. It is a drive towards fullness of life; it is the seed of an existence which transcends the very limits of time:“For God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of His own eternity” (Wis 2: 23).”10
I’m not saying that we must use this argument in absolutely every case, that we can’t use arguments that appeal to reason when we’re debating with non-believers or secularists. However there needs to be some group consistently putting this perspective out there in the marketplace finding creative ways to get this message to the masses. The phrase “Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself,” is one that was often used by John Paul II throughout his pontificate, and in his very first encyclical,Redemptoris Hominis, he outlines this as the way of evangelisation for the Church leading up to the great millennium and on into the twenty first century.11
Returning to the great encyclicalEvangelium Vitae, where JP II makes an observation that is as relevant now as it was then, maybe even more so. “We are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of individuals but also to that of civilisation itself.”12 And in light of our recent abortion legislation this sentence is particularly poignant; “(Abortion) is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.”13Beyond the responsibility of the parents abortion is a societal issue, we all have a part to play in healing this ‘wound’ of our society. Apart from the killing of babies that is now permitted in our own hospitals up to 4,000 women go each year to England for an abortion. That is the equivalent of killing everybody in the town of Cashel every year. In the last thirty years we have managed to kill the equivalent of a city the size of Cork. The killing has to stop. Does not their innocent blood cry out to God like that of Abel’s? How shall we give account of ourselves, as individuals and as a community, on that day of reckoning, as indeed one day we must, when God calls us to account for all this spilt innocent blood? Shall we say “are we our brothers keeper?” Saint Paul warns the Colossians to “see to it that no one deceives you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col: 2,8) In another translation vain deceit is translated as specious arguments. A specious argument is one that appears reasonable but when one closely investigates it turns out to be contradictory and nothing. The pro-choice argument is a classic example14.
The Irish Bishops wrote a prayer for life that includes the words; “Help us to see in each child the marvellous work of our Creator. Open our hearts to welcome every child as a unique and wonderful gift,”15 and I know a priest who says it after every mass. However I have a strong feeling that, sadly, for most people, this is more a nice sentiment rather than something they actually really, really believe. I have pondered why this is so and think it might be that if one really believed that each child is a marvellous work of our Creator we might want to cry out to those contemplating abortion, as Mother Teresa did, don’t kill the children give them to me I will look after them. Or if we really believed that abortion is a terrible tragedy for both mother and baby, we might like Cardinal Winning, want to offer financial assistance to any woman aborting a child because she couldn’t afford it or found herself in difficult financial circumstances. Or if we had a heart to really welcome every child as a unique and wonderful gift of God, we might be moved to courageously pray outside centres where women are referred for abortions, in solidarity with the unborn, as a sign that they are not forgotten. Or if we really believed that life is sacred we might want to talk with the women going into said centres and try to persuade them keep their baby and offer them practical help. Or if we really believed that every child conceived is created in the image and likeness of God we might want to sponsor artists to make pro-life songs and pro-life films and documentaries. Or if we truly understood the terrible psychological and spiritual damage abortion causes to both mothers and fathers not to mention the cruel death of the baby we might feel the need to fast and pray so that this grievous wound afflicting our society would be healed or we might feel compelled to lobby unrelentingly our politicians or tell people on the street the uncompromising truth about abortion. Oh…. if only we believed…then we would act. If only we believed, then we might be drawn out of our comfort zones.
I saw a programme on the internet the other night about women from a group called Silent No More, who were talking about their experiences of abortion. A comment that one of the women made, really struck me as quite profound. She said “Abortion is always a failure of love.” And I might add, not just on the part of the parents.
“There is a way that seemeth just to a man: but the ends thereof lead to death.”
1: George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
2: Evangelium Vitae (EV) paragraph 58
4: Donum Vitae (22nd February 1987) Introducton paragraph 5. Quoted in EV 53
5: Henri De Lubac, Le mystère du Surnaturel (Théologie, 64), Aubier: Paris, 1965, p. 61. English Version: The Mystery of the Supernatural. With an Introduction by David L. Schindler, Crossroad/Herder: New York, 1998, p. 37.
Quoted in an article by Javier Martínez Archbishop of Granada onsecularism;http://www.secondspring.co.uk/articles/martinez.htm#14back
6: ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVII, ON HIS VISIT TO THE BUNDESTAG. (2011) The Listening Heart Reflections on the Foundations of Law:http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2011/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20110922_reichstag-berlin.html
7: Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Humani Generis, (12 August, 1950). Quoted in EV 43
8: Quoted in EV 44
9: EV 38
10: EV 34
11: cf. JOHN PAUL II, ENCYCLICAL LETTER, REDEMPTOR HOMINIS; paragraph 13
12: EV 59
14: Thanks to Johnnette Benkovic and her talk in Knock for this insight. Talk available from HLI.