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In Praise of Baby Steps and Senator Santorum

By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

Along with millions of Americans and people of good will everywhere, I welcome Tuesday’s vote in the Senate this day to finally ban the gruesome procedure called “partial birth abortion”. Once again, there were noble and valiant efforts by many Senators, on both sides of the aisle, to end this horror.

However, no-one stood out more than Senator Rick Santorum.

I was present in the Senate balcony on that extraordinary day, years ago, when he led another valiant effort to outlaw this form of infanticide. I will never forget the passionate speech he gave on behalf of the ones whom Blessed Mother Teresa called the “poorest of the poor”. He has long been the champion of those who have no voice, including all those who through this gruesome act are pulled out of their first home, their mothers womb, against their will, by implements intended for healing, only to then have their skulls punctured and brains drained.

The Washington Post described what happened back then in these words:


"Republican Sen. Rick Santorum turned to face the opposition, and, in a high pleading voice cried out, 'Where do we draw the line? Some people have likened this procedure to an appendectomy. That's not an appendix,' he shouted, pointing to a drawing of a fetus. 'That is not a blob of tissue. It is a baby. It's a baby.'

"And then, impossibly, in an already hushed gallery, in one of those moments when the floor of the Senate looks like a stage set, with its small wooden desks somehow too small for the matters at hand, the cry of a baby pierced the room, echoing across the chamber from an outside hallway.

"No one mentioned the cry, but for a few seconds no one spoke at all."


I sat in the balcony of the Senate with many others involved in pro-life work. We had had been invited to the historic argument to witness history. It was a moment I have never forgotten. We walked out filled with hope, believing that the day had actually come when the gruesome procedure would finally end. Sadly, then President Clinton vetoed the legislation and the barbarism continued.

No, longer. President Bush has promised to sign the Bill.

I thank God for the heroism and perseverance, (against extraordinary obstacles), of faithful Christians in public life, like Senator Rick Santorum, who still hear those cries. They are the cries of the poor and the voiceless. After all, who is more helpless than one who cannot be heard because their cry is muffled by their own mothers’ womb?

Once the sanctuary, the first home of every human person, this procedure reaches in, partially delivers the child, and then takes her life. We have hidden its treachery under the counterfeit notion of freedom as a raw power over those weaker than ourselves. The champions of this horror sing the siren song of an unfettered “choice”. It is always the wrong choice to kill an innocent child.

Soon, this killing will be no more… at least in this gruesome way.

Social justice work is never easy. Make no mistake that is what this is all about. Another great hero of the Catholic Social Justice Tradition was Peter Maurin. Along with Dorothy Day he founded a movement called “the Catholic Worker Movement”. In his monumental “Easy Essays” he speaks of the task of building a new society, reminding the serious Catholic of the task to…”create a new society, within the shell of the old, with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks like new”.

Sage words today as well, in our unfinished work of building a new culture of life. We have made “baby steps”.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Bill Murray movies entitled “What About Bob.” In that funny film, a famous Psychologist (Richard Dreyfus) gives a patient (played by Bill Murray) some advice about moving forward and overcoming his obsessive/compulsive disorder. He tells him to “take baby steps.” Senator Santorum understands how apt the analogy truly is. Because of his persistence in these efforts over all these years, after what had to be many disappointments, many babies will now take their first steps, and, perhaps we as a nation are on a road toward recovery from our obsession with a culture of death wherein persons are treated as property and objects to be used.

In an age when too many Catholics (and other Christians in public life) have become unfaithful on the defining moral issue of our age, the unrepeatable beauty and inviolable dignity of every human person at every age and stage, Senator Santorum has remained resolute and faithful. He is a desperately needed example of a faithful Catholic Christian in public life, in an age when too ...

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