Beyond Roe: Building a Civilization of Love
Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
In the past I had the honor of serving as a Deacon at St. Benedicts' Catholic Church in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. This parish is becoming a center for authentic Catholic renewal. Under the faithful leadership of Father James Kauffman, it is undergoing a time of true growth on every front; in the beauty of the liturgy, the faith of the members and the influence of their example. The parish feeds my growing hope that what many commentators on Catholic faith and life are calling the "reform of the reform", under Pope Benedict XVI, is truly underway in my own Diocese, as well as in the rest of the world.
After serving at the altar during the glorious Sunday Liturgy (one that was impeccably and refreshingly faithful to the rubrics), proclaiming the Gospel and preaching to a community of the faithful who were hungry for holiness, I was elated. Father Jim and several members of the parish took my wife, youngest son and I to lunch after Mass. During the course of the meal, the conversation turned to a subject that comes up whenever I visit with anyone. This is probably because of my decades of involvement as a human rights lawyer and pro-life policy activist. The subject was the future of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.
The parish will be having a pro-life week and these members asked if I would agree to come and speak. The conversation then moved to the broader subject, the current make up of the United States Supreme Court and my thoughts on the possible replacements occasioned by the impending retirement of the Chief Justice.
I told my hosts that I thought Roe was on its way out because it was imploding from within. I noted that it was not founded upon law, but relied upon junk science, bizarre ramblings and errant history - and that it was on a collision course with itself in light of subsequent opinions. I told them that I believed it was going to be reversed as soon as the next inevitable appointment(s) are made to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, I then added the "clincher", saying "The end of Roe is not the end of the culture of death. In fact, when the reversal comes, our task really begins. There will probably be legal struggles in every State; akin to the past horror of the horrid phenomenon of 'slave Sates' and 'free States'."
I certainly had their attention at this point, so I went on: "We are the ones who are now called to build the new culture of life and civilization of love. Anytime persons are treated as property to be used rather than gifts to be received, the culture of death has taken root. It is about more than abortion. We must dig out the roots of this evil and plant the seeds of the civilization of love to replace the culture of death. Remember, in the observation of Pope John Paul the Great, abortion is only the 'cutting edge' of the culture of death. We have much more to do than simply reversing Roe!"
What followed was a long conversation wherein I shared my thoughts on the movement to which I have devoted my entire adult life. I now share those thoughts with my readers.
It has been thirty two (32) years since that infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. With the stroke of a judicial pen, unelected Justices consigned an entire class of persons, children in the first home of the whole human race (their mothers womb), to the status of property. I will never forget the date, January 22, 1973.
Like millions, I have prayed, marched and worked tirelessly to overturn this horrid decision and end the killing. As a human rights lawyer I have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend pro-life protestors. I still join the thousands annually who travel to Washington, D.C. to pray and stand in solidarity with children in the womb and the second victims, their mothers. The right to life is the fundamental human rights issue of our age because without it there are no other rights. It is also the great freedom movement of our day because without the freedom to be born, there are no other freedoms.
After three decades of pro-life activity I am still labeled by those who seek to protect the so called "right" to kill children in the womb as "religious right." I tried to stop caring about labels. After all, the old children's jingo "sticks and stones..." does have some merit. Names should not hurt me. However, they still do. I have never liked being called a "conservative." However, I am decidedly NOT a "liberal" because of what that term has come to mean. Finally, I deplore the theft of the term "progressive" by those who want to call a return to paganism or libertinism "progress". I am a Catholic. I believe that what the Catholic Church teaches about life is true. I try to inform all of my life, including my social, economic and political participation, by the teaching of the Catholic Church. Based on that effort I speak of myself now as pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom, pro-poor and pro-peace.
I am simply being a Catholic Christian when I insist upon an end to legalized abortion. I am ashamed of fellow Catholics, and other Christians, especially those in public life, who have failed to stay faithful to the truth about life, and in some instances, have become collaborators with the Culture of death. We are called by our baptismal vocation, as are Christians in every age, to serve the common good. Legal Abortion certainly does not serve the common good. As a part of our mission to building a truly just society where the polestar of all public policy is the recognition of the inherent dignity of every human person, at every age and stage, we must end legal abortion in America and throughout the world.
Those who know and insist upon the truth concerning the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death have not let up in our efforts to see Roe v. Wade vacated, overturned, or in any other feasible way eradicated from our jurisprudence. We have rightly insisted that the decision is a heinous example of how bad science, worse history and nefarious judicial engineering disguised as "legal reasoning" can be used to unleash a horror on an entire class of persons. I believe that, as a result of these efforts, we will soon see its reversal. Now, we must to begin planning beyond that reversal. Our work has always been about more than Roe; it is about building a culture of life and a civilization of love.
This new society we must build, in addition to protecting children, the elderly and the infirm against those who would kill them, will also promote and protect authentic marriage and the stable and healthy families that are built upon it. It will reach out in compassion to embrace all who have been wounded by the weakened state of the institution of marriage. It will proclaim the truth concerning human freedom and openly reject the relativist and libertine counterfeits that have sought to redefine the word and lead men and women into new forms of slavery. It will hear the cry of the poor and insist upon our social obligations of solidarity. It will work for authentic peace, rejecting militarism as a solution to international conflict. It will work to expand the promise of economic participation by expanding the circle of opportunity, promoting true economic justice, and insisting that the market serves the person, the family and the common good.
These kinds of goals - and the initiatives that they should give birth to - are neither nether "right" nor "left", they are human and they are just.
I see the momentum shifting against those who have defended the evil of protected procured abortion under the lie of a "right" to choose and presented themselves as somehow concerned about women. Women have been the second victims of this lie for far too long. In increasing numbers, women who have had abortions are joining the growing majority of those who oppose it. The rhetoric of the so called "Choice" movement is tired, its lies have been revealed and the wind is out of its sails. Some choices are simply always and everywhere wrong, such as the taking of innocent human life. It can never be a "right", even if a Court tries to make it one by judicial fiat.
The tide is turning toward the recognition of the truth concerning the humanity of the child in the womb, the dignity of the elderly and the infirm, and the inalienable right to life. The judicial recognition of this right to life is now within sight... at least at the U.S. Supreme Court level. However, when Roe does fall, we have a new culture to build, one where justice and peace include all men and women. This goal is not "idealistic", it is realistic. It is time to recognize the changes that have occurred in our struggle.
The New Landscape
The pro-life position is not "conservative" or "liberal", or even simply "religious" - at least in the sense of a position confined to religious people. It is a defensible human rights position that can be - and increasingly is - held by many types of diverse people. A growing majority of Americans are coming to recognize that without the right to life and the freedom to be born there simply are no other rights. In fact, the very foundation of all rights is placed at risk when those without a voice become subject to death on demand under some promethean notion of freedom as the power of the strong over the weak.
Truth has an amazing power within it to bring about personal and societal change. I believe that it is doing just that on the issue of the humanity of the child in the womb. This truth is winning the hearts and minds of more and more Americans. That is because this truth is written on every human heart by the natural law that obligates us all to do justice and then binds us all together in its pursuit. In fact, one does not have to have any religious faith to recognize the truth concerning the dignity of every human life. As a Christian, I believe and proclaim that this truth is also confirmed by Revelation. However, it is a complete fallacy for the opponents of the right to life to characterize the pro-life position as "religious" in order to try to undermine it.
Science is now, clearly, a pro-life ally as well. It always has been. But recent advances have unmasked the lies of the opponents of the right to life and their efforts to say otherwise. Sonograms are now showing us a film of our first neighbors in their first home, within their mother. With the introduction of "baby's first picture" we can all watch these children smile, play, feel pain and grow. These images are becoming more and more prevalent and are even showing up on television commercials. A sure sign, in a consumerist culture, that this technology is having an effect. Only a deceived person can see that child in the womb as anything other than just that, a child.
Increasingly, medical science is providing ways of operating "in utero" to help these children at this stage of life. Psychologists are speaking of communication between parents and their child in the womb- and encouraging it. Music is being played to children in the womb. All of these advances have "humanized" the child in the womb to an increasing number of people who once bought the lie of those who promoted abortion as "choice". The efforts to paint the child as a "cluster of cells" or to use other dehumanizing phrases to hide the perfidy of abortion are now failing. Both science and technology confirm what our conscience told us all along, the child in the first home of the whole human race is our neighbor.
Recent headlines also confirm a turning of the tide of public opinion. We were all relieved last year when the child, brutally removed from the womb of Bobby Jo Stinnet of Missouri by her murderer, was found in good health. It was as though that baby was our own child- because it was. In a news account the following morning, the former owner of a grocery store in Skidmore, Missouri, the slain mothers' home, expressed all of our sentiments when she affirmed: "The community will help raise this baby."
We witnessed the horror of the killing of Laci and Connor Peterson and called it what it was, a double homicide. The glaring inconsistency between this truth and the current practice of legal abortion on demand became obvious to many. Even the proponents of the "death on demand" approach to abortion have begun to speak of rethinking their "strategy", calling for a "new language" and feigning a new concern for the "fetus".
In a growing effort to protect the "manufacture" of human embryonic life in order to kill the Human embryo and take its parts, there is a dangerous effort underway that truly pro-life people must be alerted to. It demonstrates a dangerous turn in the rhetorical battle we are in. Our opponents are starting to call themselves "pro-life" and casting those who oppose embryonic stem cell "extraction" (a process that ALWAYS kills the human embryo) as not pro-life. This verbal engineering is an area where we MUST remain vigilant. We should also make clear that we who are truly pro-life support good science that serves the common good; such as the use of adult stem cells, adipose tissue and fetal chord blood research. We must insist that it is always and everywhere wrong to take innocent human life. To do so is never pro-life.
We recently saw the bizarre results of using good legislation, intended to protect children in the womb from criminal acts. On June 6, 2005, in Lufkin, Texas, Gerardo Flores, a nineteen year old, was convicted of two counts of murder under the Texas "Fetus Protection Law". Yet, the mother, who participated in the same heinous act, was not even charged. This, even after she acknowledged that she had asked Flores for help in the intentional killing, that she regretted not getting an abortion, that she had started to aggressively jog and punch herself repeatedly in the abdomen, all in an effort to induce a miscarriage and cause the death of the children in her womb. Because she could have gone to a "Doctor" and had the same result occur by paying for an abortion, she was not prosecuted.
Whether a child is "wanted" has become the sole criterion for whether he or she has a right to life. Such an approach is heinous. Decent people are beginning to recognize this. The growing majority of Americans are beginning to understand that the past approach of abortion on demand is not only wrong but exceedingly dangerous for the elderly, the infirmed, the poor and the marginalized.
This all supports my belief that we will see the end of federally protected abortion within the next few years; at least the protection that has been afforded by the Supreme Court through its horrid ruling in Roe and its progeny.
End of Roe NOT the end of the struggle
We must prepare ourselves for the real work of building a culture of life and civilization of love. The end of Roe is not the end of the struggle. We need to come together to develop a language and lifestyle that will help in this mission. This will not be easy. The roots of the culture of death run deep in a society that has followed the siren song of selfish materialism, neo-paganism and nihilism.
However, we have another challenge as well; we need to re-educate even some within the pro-life community. Too many pro-life people have become so used to "opposing" abortion that they do not know how to propose the culture of life. The truth about the dignity of life is a positive position. We are on the side of the truth. Yet, too much of the rhetoric of some pro-life people is often framed in terms of opposition. Sometimes this flows from a persecuted minority or "victim" approach that has become too prevalent.
Lasting movements for societal change are rarely built around negative language. Oh, of course they oppose what is wrong, but they also propose another way. Our task as a people committed to life is not simply about opposition but also about conversion. We need to present a new way, the way of life, to replace the culture of death. Additionally, as important as changing the make up of the Supreme Court is, we will not succeed in our long term mission simply through using political efforts. People's hearts and minds need to be changed. This mission is both a spiritual and a rhetorical task. We need to pray - and we need to be in the public square, persuading people of the truth concerning the dignity of every life by using all of what has been discussed in this article.
We need to engage and not outrage. Let me explain what I mean. Every morning I receive charged pro-life mailings from someone who sends them out to anyone who will receive them. I know how "bad" things are. I have already read most of what he sends me. Frankly, I have grown so tired of these mailings that this morning I almost added him to my blocked senders list. Now think about that. I am pro-life. It makes me wonder what kind of effect my sincere friend is having beyond the choir that he is singing to!
Truth is on our side. As the bumper sticker says, God really is pro-life. We need to engage this age with a confidence borne of truth and not be afraid of the culture of death. Only a faith filled approach, endued with the hope of the Gospel, will enable us to bring about the conversion that is needed.
To build a culture of life and a civilization of love we need to develop a new language. For example, I have taken to regularly speaking of children in the womb as our first neighbors. After all, they reside in the first home of the whole human race, their mothers womb. As I use this expression "first neighbors" in my pro-life work in the public square, people inevitably ask me the questions that always open the door to explaining the truth. Truth is very convincing. When proclaimed, it defends itself.
Additionally, I speak of our work as working for human rights. The right to life is a basic human right. It is not simply a "civil" right, in the sense that it depends upon the civil government to confer it. Rather, it is an unalienable right in the words of the American founders. It cannot be taken away by any government. As Christians we need to remember that the American founders did not invent this concept of unalienable rights. It was derived from the treasury of classical western Christian thought. The right to life was given to all men and women by the One who is the source of all life. Every government should be judged as just or unjust based upon how it respects human rights and treats the poor.
Our position as pro-life is not a "single issue" but rather a framework, a lens through which every other issue must be viewed in our mission and in our economic, political, cultural and social participation.. We should support and advance every legitimate effort to ensure that the dignity of every human person, at every age and stage, becomes the polestar of all public policy. This kind of whole Life/ Pro-Life position affirms our obligation in solidarity to our first neighbor in the first home of the entire human race, the child in the womb, as well as our commitment to the poor in all their manifestations, the marginalized, the infirmed, the elderly, all those who have no voice.
Yet, abortion truly is, in the words of JPII, the "cutting edge" of the culture of death. We need a massive show of solidarity with those whom Mother Theresa of Calcutta rightly called the "poorest of the poor", children in the womb. We must give them our voice because they are not being heard in an age that has lost its way, following instead a counterfeit notion of freedom. We must stand in solidarity with our "First Neighbor" until they are given their rightful place in our National family.
The right to life and the dignity of every human life at every age and stage is NOT simply a "religious" position; it is a human rights position. Without the right to life and the freedom to be born, as well as the further right to live a full life and die a natural death, unimpeded by euthanasia, passive or active, there simply are no other rights or human freedoms. Our entire system of rights is at risk in a contemporary "culture of death", where human persons are regarded as property to be used rather than gifts to be received.
We are freedom fighters. When "freedom" becomes reduced to a notion of doing whatever one "chooses", including the intentional killing of children in the womb, the elderly, and disdain for the "dependent"... it is gutted from its true meaning and reduced to a raw power over others. This counterfeit definition of "choice" as a right to do what is wrong never promotes true freedom. It inevitably leads to profane forms of slavery and will bring about the demise of the entire system of rights which is the basis of a free society.
We must make it clear that we are not against scientific advances. To the contrary, our position is that good science should always place itself at the service of the person, the family and the common good. Good science has confirmed what our conscience has long known; the child in the womb is out neighbor. Because it is always and everywhere intrinsically evil to take innocent human life, it is also intrinsically evil to "manufacture" human embryonic life in order to then kill that life for spare parts. This is precisely what occurs when embryonic stem cells are "extracted". It is bad science as well, making claims that simply are not factual. Good Science must serve the common good. The use of adult Stem Cells, fetal Chord blood and adipose tissue for the extracting of stem cells holds profoundly promising potential.
These are the thoughts that I shared with my friends in Richmond concerning our need to move beyond Roe and build a civilization of love.
I now pass them on to you.
Deacon Fournier is a Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia serving at St. Benedict's Catholic Church, a dynamically orthodox Roman Catholic Parish, dedicated to fidelity to the Magisterium and faithfulness to the Church's mission of sanctification, evangelization and transformation. He holds degrees from Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and is currently a PHD student at the Catholic University of America. His latest book is entitled, "The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Life".
Third Millennium, LLC
http://www.catholic.org VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Deacon, 757 546-9580
Beyond Roe v Wade
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