I’m publishing early this week:  tonight I’m flying to Atlantic City to meet my son Chris, with the purpose of helping him move to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  If the weather is cooperative (a big “if” with the monster storm that’s pounding a third of the nation) I’ll be flying back to Atlanta the following Monday evening .  At Fort Sill he’ll be in training for his branch (Air Defense) before taking his permanent posting in Germany.  Those of you who know Chris and I personally can see the potential for misadventures along the lines of those experienced by Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne , e.g. the encounter with the state trooper: “You fellas been doing a bit of boozing, have you? Suckin back on grandpa’s old cough medicine?”.  In any event, keep us in your prayers  in light of the storm; we may be taking a longer route through the South to avoid the ice and snow, although I’m hearing that way one may run into tornadoes…yikes!

Prompted by this eight-minute video http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-TV/Commentaries-New/Fr-Barron-comments-on-Abortion-Shocking-Numbers.aspx from Father Robert Barron of Word On Fire, I am writing these thoughts on abortion to people of faith who differ from the Catholic position on abortion (some of these call themselves Catholic, by the way).  Fr. Barron’s statistics – that in New York city 41% of all pregnancies end in abortions, and 60% for African-Americans – are not cited, but even if the truth is only half those numbers, it would still be staggering and disturbing.  Between the camps of those who see life as a precious gift from God and those who take a utilitarian view I see no common ground for dialogue.  A usual list of objections – children conceived in rape, in incest, the life of the mother in danger, back-alley abortions, etc.  – are ludicrous in light of how frequent abortion occurs.  Abortion is not rarely used in extraordinary circumstances, abortion is an industry.  All the jibber-jabber about sex education in terms of contraception and the government provision of contraceptive while pooh-poohing abstinence education is equally ludicrous in the face of those numbers.

It is written on our hearts that life begins at conception.  Many life science professionals back up this contention, but beyond that I offer the pandemic post-abortive guilt and brokenness experienced by women and men as strong evidence that we know in our heart of hearts it is wrong.  Ms. Roe of the “Roe vs. Wade” case is now devoted to enlightening men and women about the pain and heartbreak she suffered after her abortion.  To those that scoff I say “Well, finish the sentence .”  I am referring to the sentence that ends in “choose”, like “A woman should have the right to choose.”  Apologies to Joy Behar fans for picking on her, but I’ve heard Ms. Behar finish sentences more than once on “The View” with “choose”, and if she is fully convicted she should say “A woman should have the right to choose to kill her unborn baby.”  If that is too harsh for some sensibilities, maybe more scientific phraseology like “A woman should have the right to choose to terminate fetal development.”  Maybe even kinder and gentler is “A woman should have the right to end her pregnancy.”  But I think it is fair to take the focus off of the “right to choose” (Hey, the right to choose is American as apple pie!) and put it on the consequence of the choice.  I don’t think I’m going to get very far with the aforementioned state trooper if my response is “Officer, I’m exercising my right to choose!”  His most likely response will resemble “You don’t have the right to choose to drink and drive, you pumpkin pie hair-cutted freak!”

It’s really a very simple concept: either you believe that all life has equal value in the eyes of God, and we are given the gift of life with the ultimate aim of seeking and following His will, or you take the utilitarian view that the value of a life is measurable.  For example the monetary impact and general difficulty of raising a Down’s Syndrome child makes an abortion warranted, that the mother’s quality of life is worldly terms is more valuable than the child’s.  A woman who is experiencing a degree of risk to her life because of her pregnancy is more valuable than the fetus, so abort it.  Joy Behar in that particularly strident voice of hers would call a woman a fool for not aborting it and continuing with a dicey pregnancy.  There is a  great line from the movie “Gladiator”, where Maximus exhorts his men with “What we do in life echoes through eternity.”  And that captures perfectly what we believe as Christians and other people of faith (maybe Russell Crowe should have recalled that line before throwing a telephone at that hotel clerk).  We should have one foot in the now, and the other foot in eternity.  Allow me  – in paraphrasing Marcellus from “Pulp Fiction” – to go Biblical on you.

The Annunciation captures it perfectly.  Mary’s “Let it be done to me…” is an awe-inspiring statement if you reflect upon her place in the culture.  Her situation was slightly more intimidating than having to work at Walmart to pay for Pampers and daycare: Joseph had every right – and probably the cultural inclination – to make his outrage public.  Summarily her neighbors with the sanction of the elders would have dragged her to just outside the main gate and stoned this 14 year-old girl to death (with Mom and Dad having dibs on throwing the first stones), then repaired to the Nazareth club house for the reception.  An amazing profession of faith and trust in God, and are we called to aspire to anything less?  Of course it probably helps to have an angel built like an NFL linebacker, with the booming  basso of James Earl Jones, and wearing dazzling white bib overalls to help you discern God’s will, but I digress.

People who are smarter than me (most people) like Biblical scholars believe Jesus was only several days post-conception when Mary went to her cousin and the future St. John the Baptist “leapt for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb, recognizing the Savior as a the Person he was, “person” being the key and operative word here.  No further elucidation needed.

Culture of life, culture of death: I’m a simple man.  A society founded on love is a good and holy thing.  Utilitarianism is the antithesis of a society founded on love.  Stalin’s motives behind starving the kulaks were utilitarian: to move his country into the Industrial Age as quickly as possible he felt getting rid of most of the farmers was the right thing to do.  I’m sure Stalin would have shrugged his shoulders when asked about it and said “Hey, it’s not personal!”, finished his borscht, had the person shot who had the temerity to ask the question, and called it a day.  If Stalin had been a devout Catholic (or religious person of any stripe), he would have done something more along Franklin Roosevelt lines, like offering government programs to lure young kulaks to the cities. Sure there would have been big tent cities of vodka-swilling kulaks urinating in the gutters of Moscow and having potato-fights, and it would have taken longer to get those missiles and “I Luv Uncle Joe” t-shirts made, but love would have triumphed in the end over mere efficiency. The belief that life is precious from conception to natural death is grounded in love.  In that statement one can see in which all Catholic life issue beliefs spring, whether abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, or capital punishment.

Decisions are made in fear that the good life of this world will pass us by – which it will anyway in a cosmic blink of an eye – while Satan whispers insistently “How are you going to take care of another child?” and “You can’t sacrifice your career and your life by taking care of a child!” and on and on.  If you believe in the Resurrection, Maximus nails it: what we do in life echoes through eternity.

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