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 many unfaithful Catholics (and other Christians) hide their perfidy behind sophistry. Senator Santorum keeps alive the legacy of the Patron of all politicians, Thomas More.
He understands that most long journeys are made through taking baby steps. Building a new culture of life and civilization of love will take a long time, a lot of prayer andmuch more hard work.
How fitting that this historic vote occurred on the same day that another Catholic Public Servant, Governor Jeb Bush, intervened to save the life of a disabled woman named Terri Schiavo. Perhaps we are actually seeing the beginning of the walk toward that new culture of life and civilization of love prophetically proclaimed by the giant in the Chair of Peter, Pope John Paul II, whose 25th anniversary we just celebrated. Perhaps we are also witnessing the continuing influence and legacy of the little woman of Calcutta who taught us all the about our obligations to one another, especially to the "poorest of the poor".
Frankly, it renews my hope. These may be baby steps, but we are on our way. History will record that on Tuesday, October 21, 2003, the dignity of life was defended, the common good was advanced and the inevitable day was hastened when we will no longer, as a nation, turn a deaf ear to the "silent scream" of our youngest Americans or fail to give a cup of water to the disabled.
We should all give thanks for the heroism of Senator Rick Santorum and pray that this legislation, though a baby step itself, will be the beginning of the inevitable triumph of truth over sophistry and good over evil concerning the fundamental human and civil rights issue of our age, the inviolable right to life and the dignity of every human person at every age and stage.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church always speaks with such clarity and simplicity:
"The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation... ."The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin.
Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."
"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."
I raise my voice in praise of baby steps and Senator Rick Santorum.
Deacon Keith Fournier is a constitutional lawyer, a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is one of the founders of the Your Catholic Voice Movement and the President of the Your Catholic Voice Foundation. He is also the founder of Common Good, an ecumenical movement for cultural conversion.
Your Catholic Voice is a international movement of lay Catholics building a new Catholic Action and promoting faithful citizenship through four pillars of participation; Life, Family, Freedom and Solidarity. For information go to Your Catholic Voice www.yourcatholicvoice.org
Your Catholic Voice Foundation
http://www.ycvf.org VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President, 757 546-9580
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