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Honor Dr. King by Protecting the Human Rights of Children in the Womb
By Deacon Keith Fournier
January 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Dr. King was unjustly imprisoned at the time of the writing of his Letter from a Birmingham Jail for defending fundamental human rights. It was his Christian faith, as a follower of Jesus Christ whom St Paul called the "New Man", that Dr. King wrote this letter. It was because of his faith in Jesus Christ that he had the courage to live his heroic life and suffer his martyr's death. He made his impassioned defense of fundamental human rights from the basis of a Natural law argument. We must do the same.WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - On April 16, 1963, one of our greatest Americans, a Christian man who understood the fundamental truth that all men and women are endowed by God the Creator with inalienable rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, wrote what is one of my favorite of his writings.
Entitled after the fact a "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" it was addressed to "My Fellow Clergymen." It reads as a manifesto for every Christian, and especially Clergy, who understand the obligation we have to stand for authentic Social Justice. As a Clergyman, a Deacon of the Catholic Church, I prayerfully read it every year during this important American holiday.
Even the salutation speaks volumes. He wrote to "My Fellow Clergymen". He engaged in this work because he was called by God. Reverend Dr. King was unjustly imprisoned at the time of the writing of this letter for defending the fundamental human rights of every single human person. I say HUMAN rights because these rights have their source in our identity as human persons created in the Image of God. The Government did not grant them and cannot take them away.
Without any fear of being seen as too "religious" he defended his position with a vibrant Christian witness. Because we are all human persons, we have human rights. The source of those rights is God the Creator, in whose Image we have been fashioned. Civil Rights, as important as they may be, are the domain of the State. And, as is obvious from Dr. King's imprisonment, are not always justly enforced or protected. It is Human Rights which were the subject of his heroism. They are ours because we have received them from God.The first among them is the right to life itself.
He wrote this jailhouse letter when he was the President of a CHRISTIAN group: "I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights."
It was his Christian faith, as a follower of Jesus Christ whom St Paul called the "New Man", that Dr. King wrote this letter. It was because of his faith in Jesus Christ that he had the courage to live his heroic life and suffer his martyr's death. He made his impassioned defense of fundamental human rights from the basis of a Natural law argument. We must now do the same as it concerns another class of human persons who are being denied the Right to life, children in the womb.
He explained to some within the Christian community of his day who had objected to his methods: "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."
He articulated one of the best expressions of Christian solidarity which I have heard in my lifetime: "I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Standing on the shoulders of the Old Testament Prophets and under the Shadow of the Cross where the final Prophetic voice, the Word made Flesh, hung in selfless love for all men and women, Dr. King addressed another thorny subject, the fact of unjust civil or "positive" laws: "How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust."
Dr. King confronted those who in his day accused him of being "extreme" because he called some positive laws unjust and not law at all. For those who argued that opponents of unjust civil laws must not be too public in that opposition he had these words: "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law".
"Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience."
"We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws."
On this day when we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we must continue his real work and not the counterfeits which seek to leech upon his memory. There is no doubt that any positive or civil law which protects the killing of our youngest neighbor, the child in the womb, is an unjust law. It must be opposed and resisted.
The evil at its root is the same as the evil at the root of slavery and its sad successor, racism. It denies the God given dignity of every human life. Every law which denies equal opportunity to any person based upon their race, gender, age, religion or ethnicity, is a fundamental violation of the Natural Law which is a participation in the Divine Law. It is always and everywhere wrong to allow any person, or any group of people, to determine who can live or who can die, who can be the recipient of human rights, and who cannot.Dr. King knew this.
Some "choices" such as treating human persons as property to be used rather then human persons to be received as gifts and honored are always and everywhere wrong. To deny human rights to anyone, and, as in legal abortion, protect those who then choose to kill them, violates the Natural Law and is always immoral.It should also be illegal under the positive or civil law.
Perhaps the greatest living heir to Dr. King's true legacy is his niece, Dr. Alveda King. According to her own witness "She is the daughter of the late slain civil rights activist Rev. A. D. King and his wife Naomi Barber King. Alveda is the grateful mother of eight children and she is a doting grandmother." She is a wonderful mother, grandmother and Christian.
She has kept the foundationally Christian vision of the late Dr. Martin Luther King alive. She knows what this letter from the Birmingham Jail clearly reveals; it was Dr. King's Christian faith which actually inspired him to his heroic life and sacrificial death. It must now become the heart of our authentic Christian activism in this hour.
Those who seek to take Dr. King's profoundly Christian vision, message and life witness and use it to advance the current "Cultural Revolution" by substituting homosexual sodomy as some kind of 'human right" are thieves of the truth and dishonor his memory.
Some who read this statement will accuse me of being discriminatory. Nonsense! No-one, including homosexuals, should be treated with disrespect or denied basic human rights. That is because they are human persons with human dignity. However, the sexual acts they engage in were never intended by Dr. King to be considered as the equivalent of race, gender, religious faith or ethnic origin. Nor can they ever constitute the ground for authentic marriage or the foundation for a family.
On this day when we honor the memory, heroic life and death of a great Christian man, let us follow his example by sacrificially engaging all of the great human rights issues of our age. Paramount among them is the freeing of the new slave class, children in the first home of the whole human race, who have no voice but our own. They are being treated as property to be disposed of at will rather than the human persons with dignity which they truly are.
Let us all honor the memory and sacrificial life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by defending the first and fundamental human right, the Right to Life.
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