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The Pro-Life Movement and the Catholic Church
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
In this, the most homicidal century in human history, the world needs cosmic repentance. Our thanks to Eternal Life, of Bardstown, Ky. for sharing with us this message of hope by our contributing editor, Father Hardon.
The future of the pro-life movement throughout the world depends on the Roman Catholic Church. To know this is to begin to understand the real issues underlying the wanton murder of over 50 million unborn children every year. To believe this is also to see some hope of stemming the tide that has made the 1900s the most homicidal century in human history.
We begin by reminding ourselves that, except for Christianity, we would not have a true understanding of the sanctity of human life. Until Christianity came into the world, there was only a rampant paganism in the Roman Empire. As early as the year 80 A.D., the Christian document, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, told the faithful, “You shall not procure an abortion; you shall not destroy unborn human life.” Before the year 130 A.D., the letter of Barnabas was equally clear. It identified abortion as a crime committed by those who walked the way of darkness. Christians were told, “There are two ways of instruction, there are two powers: that of Light and that of Darkness, and there is a great difference between these two ways. The one is controlled by the devil, who is the ruler of the present age of lawlessness. Christ is the ruler of those who profess to believe in eternal life.” In the last two millennia, the Catholic Church has remained faithful to these revealed convictions. And it is the Catholic Church who remains today as the Mother and Teacher of the nations, teaching them that human life is not only a precious possession of man but is sacred because it belongs to God.
On these terms, abortion is not only injustice against an unborn human being; it is the desecration of something holy. Those in the pro-life movement who are Christians believe they are defending not only the equity of a human person. They are defending the sanctity of human life and the majesty of the living God.
The Meaning of Sacred
“Sanctity” and “sacred” are simply the noun and adjective which somehow pertain to God. So we should speak of the sanctity of human life because it is God-like. Thus we may distinguish two kinds of reality, one that we call “profane” and the other we call “sacred.” How do they differ?
How is Human Life Sacred?
Human life is sacred on all the premises of revealed Christianity. The sanctity of human life is the foundation of the Christian religion.
It is sacred because when God made the universe, He first made the inanimate world of sun, moon and stars, and then the non-rational world of plants and animals. Finally, He made man, as we are told, in His own likeness.
This means that He made man to share in His own divine powers of perceiving with an intellect patterned after the intellect of God; of choosing with a freedom of God; and of loving others in a human society similar to the eternal love of the divine community of the Holy Trinity.
But this was only the beginning of how human life is sacred. Ever since the origin of the parents of the human race, every time a human being is conceived, God directly and immediately creates a human soul. The parents provide the body; but only God can create — make out of nothing — the soul which is to animate the body and make it a human person.
Human life is sacred because each human being is personally willed by God in order to know, love and serve Him, and thereby reach its heavenly home in the Beatific Vision of the Holy Trinity.
Human life is sacred because, unlike the rest of the visible world, we are free to choose to love and serve God. Indeed, the rest of the world was made to help us glorify God by our faith in Him, our hope in Him, and our Love for Him.
Human Life is sacred because God became man in order to redeem us from sin and teach us by word and example how we are to become more and more like Him, who is our Savior and Lord.
Human life is sacred because at Baptism we receive a share in God’s own life. In us dwells the Holy Trinity, and by His grace we are able to do what God in His goodness gives us the power of performing:
Human life is sacred because, by the grace of God, we can understand by faith that there are no problems in life. What we call problems are all acts of Divine Providence. Either we do not know what God wants, and so we are tempted to call it a problem. But we believe that, if we pray, He will show us what He wants us to do; or we do know what is God’s will, but we are afraid or feel helpless to do it.
Again we believe that, if we pray for the strength, He enables us to conform to His loving but very demanding divine will.
The Rights of God
We correctly speak of the rights of the unborn children to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Even the American Supreme Court Justices who legalized abortion all admitted that if the unborn fetus were a human person, then its right to life would be guaranteed and protected by the civil law. It was only by incredibly denying person-hood to the unborn child that the Supreme Court dared to legalize the murder of pre-born human beings.
Most of the defense of unborn human life is therefore, and understandably, a defense of the rights of the innocent children in their mothers' wombs.
But our stress here is on abortion as a criminal violation of the rights of God.
All that we have seen about the sanctity of human life is the foundation of what we are saying here.
Because human life is sacred from the moment of conception, it belongs to God. Any violation of this sacred human life is consequently a violation of the rights of God. Once this is realized, many conclusions follow.
Abortion thus becomes not only an offense against human dignity, but a crime against the Divinity.
Abortion thus comes to be seen as rooted not so much in a selfish insistence on a woman’s right to take human life. It is a denial of the claims of the God who made that woman and her child.
In one country after another, the abortionists are now speaking of choice. The only choice that a woman has is to do what God wants her to do; that is why she has a free will.
The root cause of abortion is the same as the cause of what took place on Good Friday. God has become man, and for 30 years He lived in obscurity. Then He began to preach the doctrine that no prophet of the Old Law had ever proclaimed. He told His contemporaries, “the Father and I are one.” He taught that those who believe in Him are to love one another as He, who is God, has loved them. Those who did not believe that Jesus was telling the truth, killed Him. Remember what Peter told the people after he had cured the paralytic at the gate of the temple? He told them, “you have killed the Author of life.” The crucifixion was attempted deicide.
In its own way abortion is a form of deicide. It is an attack on God by trying to destroy what belongs to God.
In order to cope with the crime of abortion, it is not only that political means are inadequate. But all merely natural methods of resolving the abortion crisis are basically secondary.
Since the root cause of abortion is attempted deicide, the death of God philosophy put into practice, supernatural means must be used to even control, not to say cure, this deadly virus that now plagues the human race.
God permits no evil in the world without a proportionate reason. Given the magnitude of this practical atheism in the modern world, we should be confident that God will mysteriously draw immense good from the evil of abortion.
The practical implications of this truth are numerous. They can be summarized in two terms, “grace” and “free will.”
Sources of Grace
There are three main sources of grace available to us from the mercy of God. They are prayer, the sacraments and the practice of virtue. If we use these means, the graces will be given and sanity can be restored in a world that is giving to Caesar what belongs to God.
The Power of Prayer. If there is one theme that runs through the teaching of Christ, it is the power of prayer.
Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.
For every one who asks, receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that asks, it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).
All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive (Matthew 21:22).
Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, that I will do; that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you shall ask me anything in my name, that I will do (John 14:13-14).
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7).
The efficacy of our prayer, however, depends on our faith. Christ promised to work miracles if we ask Him, provided we believe He is almighty God.
As we reread the Gospels, it is both inspiring and sobering to see what wonders Christ performed in favor of those who earnestly begged Him and had faith in His power to do the humanly impossible.
To stem this tide of abortion will require a series of moral miracles. By definition a moral miracle is a visible effect produced by God which exceeds the native powers of the human will. We may be sure that Christ wants to work this miracle. When He rebuked the disciples, and told them to “let the little children come unto me,” He was speaking to all of us. He wants the children conceived to be born, to reach maturity, and glorify Him by their loving service. But Christ demands that we pray in faith and trust in His divine power to change hearts of stone into hearts of selfless love for the unborn.
The Efficacy of the Sacraments. There are two sacraments that especially provide the grace necessary to conquer abortion. They are the Eucharist and Confession. And they should be seen together.
We correctly associate the Eucharist with the Mass and the Holy Communion. What we may not realize is that the early Christians attended Mass and received the Eucharist every day. They were taught by the Holy Spirit that the legalized abortion and infanticide of pagan Rome could be overcome by their daily participation in the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary and daily reception of the Eucharistic Christ.
But we know that the Eucharist is not limited to Mass and Communion. Jesus Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, whether reserved in our churches and chapels or exposed on the altar for veneration and intercession by the faithful. It is the same Jesus, now glorified, who stilled the storm at sea and raised the dead Lazarus back to life. It is the same Jesus who performed wonders during His visible stay in Palestine. He wants to do the same in our day, again provided we have the faith. To convert selfish wills to stop murdering children may be a greater miracle than calling Lazarus from the tomb. But Christ can do it, if only we ask Him, now on earth in the Eucharist, to perform this sign of His omnipotence.
The Sacrament of Penance as the Sacrament of Confession, should be received at least twice a month. The Church tells us as much when she prescribes confession and Holy Communion within eight days in order to gain a plenary indulgence. Of course, there need be no grave sins to confess. That is the whole purpose of what are “confessions of devotion.” They are potent channels of grace for the massive conversion of sinners if ever the mania of abortion is to cease.
The Practice of Virtue. We merit grace by cooperating with the graces we receive. This practice of virtue benefits not only the person who performs a good work, but also obtains grace for others.
Who would doubt that abortionists and their clients need divine grace to see the horror of their crimes and to have the courage to desist? Where can they obtain this grace? From God, of course. But in His ordinary providence, God uses persons who are in His friendship to merit for sinners — here the agents of abortion — the spiritual light and strength to return to the God from whom they have strayed.
The measure of the graces needed for this cosmic repentance tells us something about the degree of virtue that the friends of God are expected to practice. Nothing less than heroic patience in suffering, united with the Passion of Christ; nothing less than heroic faith in believing, united with Mary as she stood on Calvary; nothing less than heroic chastity in resisting the allurements of a world intoxicated with sexual immorality; nothing less than heroic charity in loving those who ignore us or oppose us or deride our loyalty to Christ as psychosis — can obtain the ocean of divine mercy that alone can restore the rights of God over the human life which begins at conception and is destined to continue into eternity.
Cooperation with Grace of God
Human beings have a free will. They can either cooperate with the graces that God gives them, or they resist these graces and commit sin.
All that we have said so far is simply fundamental Catholic doctrine. When Christ at the Last Supper said “without me you can do nothing,” He meant that without His grace we cannot reach heaven. And the proponents and practitioners of abortion will not reach heaven unless they are converted from their evil ways. To be converted, they must receive an abundance of divine grace that we can obtain for them by our prayers, receiving the sacraments, and the practice, if need be, of heroic virtue.
But the graces received must be responded to. God does not coerce anyone to do His will.
In the light of the foregoing, what does cooperation with the grace of God mean? It means submitting one’s own desires — here for sex pleasure — to the wise providence of God. His plan for the human race reaches beyond this earth to heaven. When He creates a human soul at a child’s conception, He does not want the unborn child to be killed and thus be deprived of the joy of serving its Creator here in time as a prelude to possessing Him in a glorious eternity.
Our task, as believers, is to gain all the graces we can for those engaged in the abortion trade and for their tragic victims. Our hope is that they will respond to the graces they are receiving.
Copyright © 1992 by Inter Mirifica
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