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Hope in the Pro-Life Cause
Human Life International Banquet
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, S.T.D.
I thought it would be most useful this evening if I would divide my talk into three basic parts. The first would be a discussion of the state of the question; the second, defining the terms of the argument, and third, possible and tried solutions to the problems proposed.
Let us begin with the story of the frozen human beings. Last March 16, the front page of the New York Times has an article which is headlined, "Surplus of Human Embryos." The article informs the readers that there are tens of thousands of embryos steadily accumulating in tanks of liquid nitrogen across the country. These embryos, of course, are not the embryos of sheep or goats or cows or horses. They are the embryos of human beings. They are preserved in tiny straws immersed in barrel-like tanks of liquid nitrogen. They are, as the New York Times article calls them, "An eerie consequence of the recent success of in vitro fertilization. They are not clones, and they are not genetically engineered." In a rare burst of candor, the New York Times calls them, "the future children of hundreds of couples."
The New York Times article is written by someone named Gina Kolata. With incredible casualness, the article discusses various "legal, emotional, and ethical questions which Gina Kolata says are brought into discussion by virtue of the frozen embryo problem. The article talks about a Dr. Robert Anderson, Director of the Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine in Newport Beach, who has more than two-thousand additional embryos that were placed in his nitrogen tanks when a nearby in vitro fertilization center was driven out of business.
Dr. Anderson's remarks are extremely useful for us to understand the immoral character of all that is involved here when he said, according to this article, "At a time when couples who have no viable eggs or sperm can create a sort of custom embryo by carefully picking egg and sperm donors, who, after all, would want a donated embryo."
I could go on to explore at greater depth the horrors of this ghastly story carried in the New York Times. However, for the purposes of what I want to say, enough of the story has already been related. I think this illustrates, in a traumatic way, how we have totally dehumanized the unborn child, and have made human beings into mere possessions, depriving them of their personhood more than people have been deprived any time in human history. Guided by the actions of perverted science, a dark night has already begun to descend upon our planet, and unless there is a reinvigoration and moral rebirth in the collective consciousness of humanity, this dark night will be unlit by even a star of hope. The case of the frozen human beings, that is, the frozen human embryos, illustrates in a very clear and dramatic way, the consequences of that vile separation of the procreative and unitive aspects of marriage which the Catholic Church has always upheld. It illustrates further how divorced from objective moral principles and moral absolutes, as well as from any decent ethical standards, the practices of modern gynecology and obstetrics can sometimes extend. Needless to say, the action which the Second Vatican Council calls "an abominable and heinous evil", which is to say, abortion, is inherent in the practices that the frozen embryo situation involve. This is because there is a decision as to destroy these human beings or keep them alive in this frozen state, a decision which is based not on any inherent personhood or moral worth of the human beings that are frozen, but, rather, based upon totally utilitarian considerations, such as the two-to-three hundred dollar a month cost of maintaining the embryos in nitrogen tanks or the various aspects of divorce settlements, and, in some instances, the desires of the heirs of people who have already died and who are at least partly the parents of these frozen human beings.
The dark night that is already descending on our planet also has many other dismal aspects.
One thinks, for
example of the fantastic encroachment upon the end of life which is taking place
under the powerful impact of the communications and entertainment media, largely
Godless and unethical, the strain of libertarianism, and of anecdotal
compassion, which appears to mark a large amount of public opinion manipulation
in our country are being set to work now to persuade the general public about
the value of suicide and euthanasia.
I am told that there are, in Holland, secret societies of ill and aged people with particular handshakes and winks and the like which are dedicated to assisting their members to avoid those doctors and hospitals that are intent upon killing them. Since the liberal euthanasia laws have been enacted in Holland, doctors have taken upon themselves to disregard provisions for second opinions or permission of the patient and/or family, and simply at their own discretion, kill those patients whose quality of life they feel deserves this particular kind of medical approach.
Not all, but certain types, of ecologically conscious people these days, are intent upon giving us extremely soft hearts in regard to alligators and some species of worms, and, at the same time, intent upon hardening our hearts in regard to our fellow human beings, whose numbers by any means, even immoral means, are to be significantly diminished.
It does not take any particular eloquence or research on my part to indicate to all of you what you already know, namely, the vast power of the culture of death and the pervasive way in which this culture has managed to infiltrate the thoughts and consciousness of the human race at this time in our history. As a cultural leader, the United States seems to be in the forefront of some of this culture of death. Recently, I attended a meeting in Dallas, Texas, which was also attended by a large number of Bishops from the Philippines, Central America, and the Caribbean. They were appropriately and extremely upset by the neo-imperialist activities of the United States government in promoting artificial birth prevention and abortion in their parts of the world as a part of an economic advancement package seducing and inducing governments to acquiesce in these kinds of evil activities by means of promises of various types of foreign aid.
International Planned Parenthood, I understand, lauds with great vigor the horrible slaughter of unborn babies which is going on in various parts of the world, specifically in China, where people are severely punished for having more than one pregnancy in their family, and where forced abortions appear to be a regular feature of many of the cities and provinces of that unhappy land.
At the conclusion of this century which has given us unspeakable and despicable horror in the person of Hitler and Stalin, Marxism and Nazism, and has given us the degeneracy represented by Margaret Sanger, it seems that humanity is intent upon surpassing itself in the practice of evil. Professor William May has said quite rightly that "In large measure, people become what they do." In other words, if a person tells lies, he becomes a liar. In circumstances of the present time, I think it is fair to say that those not only who commit abortion and euthanasia, but those who acquiesce in them, become murderers.
It is said that those who define the terms of the argument are always placing themselves in a position to win the argument. This is especially true in everything to do with life and the antecedents of life, which is to say, sexual morality. Too often in the present discussions that are taking place, have we lost in the effort to be civil and calm, the terms which have been unjustly appropriated by others? As Pope John Paul II said in his great encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae", the "Gospel of Life", the term freedom itself has been exceptionally misconstrued. This is the case in regard to freedom used in relationship to life and sexual moral issues. There is, for example, and exceptional lack of freedom in those who have enslaved themselves to the ethos and the morality of the present time. Those who are chained and fettered by fashion and by their own passions and base urges that obedience to God and His Commandments and the Church which speaks authoritatively in the Name of His Divine Son, is actually liberating and frees one from these unseen fetters, chains and slavery, is not too apparent to contemporary human beings.
By placing the entire discussion in the context of rights such as those proposed in the philosophy of John Locke, and framing all of the arguments in relationship to a misconstruction of freedom, gives those who are opposed to Catholic and Christian morality about sexual and life matters, a head start in winning, at least the arguments as they are presented in the popular forum.
I have also been
impressed by Professor Charles Rice's view of how we ourselves, though ardent
pro-lifers, have been dragged along by means of terminological bounds set by
others in our own discussion of the issues that press upon us. He speaks, for
example, of how we have degenerated from the question as to whether we would
kill little babies before they are born and then went downward to the question
of which little babies shall we kill before they are born? That is to say we
will keep some of them alive, perhaps, but maybe those who are the innocent
victims and result of rape and incest, for instance, are not worthy of life.
Then we have gone even beyond the question of whether and which ones to the
question of how it is done. Certainly, we are opposed with the utmost vigor at
our command to the monstrous practice of partial birth abortion, and yet, when
we step back and consider the entire situation, we can see how we have been
reduced to discussing not any longer whether some babies should be killed, or
which ones should be killed, but, rather, discussing the method by which it's
most appropriate to kill them. In reality, the words for instance, fetus, and
embryo, are simply indicative of a certain stage in the development of a human
being, just as the word adolescent or infant, or middle aged, or teenager, are
words indicative of a particular moment in a human being's life span. However,
we have allowed the opponents of Christian morality to appropriate the term
embryo and fetus and transform them into something less than human personhood,
allowing them to proceed to a denial of the humanity of those whom they are
intent upon killing, or whose killing at least, they permit, promote, and
Returning, just by way of parentheses to the New York Times article which I spoke about earlier, I see the writer speaks in terms of the embryo being merely a "ball of cells." The article goes on to say that "Couples have mixed feelings about these microscopic balls of cells.
When you ask couples, `How do you feel about its status?' they'll say, `It's not really a baby', but when you talk about discarding it, it becomes a fetus." It might be interesting also to note that the legal status of such embryos is uncertain, according to a professor of law at Chicago Kent College of Law, except in one State, Louisiana, which says that a "frozen embryo is a human person and cannot be discarded."
In this final part of my discourse and talk with you this evening, I would very much like to propose at least some possible approaches to the terrible night of blackness descending upon us. Obviously, the first one that I would propose is ardent consistent and untiring prayer. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," Shakespeare said, and this, I think, is illustrated in our own time. Few people would have supposed that we would be able to witness within our lifetime the fall of the Berlin wall, and the changeover in the Soviet Union from a communist to a non-communist form of government. God writes straight with crooked lines, and can bring even out of the horrors in which the human race has enmeshed itself in this melancholy state of its history, some good things, strengthening, for example, our own absolute resolution to oppose with all our strength the enveloping darkness, and to bring the light of Christ to shine upon this world that needs that light so desperately.
A second point, I think, is that there has to be, in the hearts of all of us who are dedicated to the cause of life and to the cause of sexual morality, a strong sense of compassion, uncompromising hatred for sin, flint-like, hard as steel, at the same time a heart filled with warmth, love, and compassion for those who are sinners, extending as much help as humanly possible to the forlorn people who have, by their own self-destructive actions, placed themselves in serious harm's way, not only in this world, but in regard to the world to come, compassion for unwed mothers, compassion for the sick and the dying, especially the terminally ill and their families. Our own credibility is sometimes called into question on the basis of a lack of adequate compassion. I think such accusations are largely unfounded and are simply a method of rationalization and self-justification for those who do evil. At the same time, I don't think we should provide any ammunition for the enemies of Christian morality by being any less compassionate than Christ calls us to be.
My own experience has been that pro-life people, and those who are dedicated to upholding the morality as taught by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, "Humanae Vitae" are among the most compassionate human beings one can encounter and in large measure pour out their substance to assist those who would be in danger falling into the grave and horrible evils of abortion, artificial birth prevention, and similar wickedness.
The third point I would make is the importance of lay people in this struggle. I think that lay people themselves have a special kind of vocation. The Second Vatican Council points out that it is the laity who are to sanctify the temporal order and to bring into the marketplace, into the field of politics, social and economic life, family life, and all the enterprises of the secular world the values of Christ, the grace of Christ, and the love of Christ. Tomorrow is World Vocation Day when, in a special way, we are all asked by our Holy Father to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life throughout the Church, and for holiness and perseverance for those so called by God. It is also an appropriate day for us to look to the total picture of vocations, and remember that the specific work of the lay vocation is in those areas where life, morality, and sexual morality can be assisted by appropriate familial and civil arrangements.
Certainly, in a hierarchical Church, those who are called by the Holy Spirit to rule and guard God's people have a particular role in animation, formation, and education, but, at the same time, it is the lay people who must really carry the water in this battle, and in a very special way, to battle against those within our ranks who use, and, I might say, abuse the name "Catholic" while they betray, and even undermine Catholic morality by shameless Pontius Pilate type of hand-washing in the political and social arena. It is important that lay people themselves be well-informed and learn how to operate in a team like way, making compromises, sometimes in tactics, while being utterly and totally inflexible in those principles which will ultimately, in God's good time, prevail.
Genuine hope for the future, in my view, lies in the education of young people. Authenticity is often sought by a younger generation, and they should not be denied the authentic doctrine of Christ and of His Church the authentic interpretation of the natural law which is written on every human heart.
Youth are the future, and so pro-life people, and those who are dedicated to the truth of Catholic and Christian morality in sexual matters, must expend every effort possible to reach young people, to reach them in such a way that they are not only intellectually convinced of divine revelation and the natural law that it expounds, but, also, that they are warmed in their hearts with an affectionate and emotional attachment to the doctrine so they, themselves in turn, will become zealous proponents of moral truth.
It is particularly important for lay apostles, and those who have dedicated themselves to the pro-life cause, to be upbeat, hopeful, and optimistic, never being frivolous in this regard, but nonetheless, accepting of the fact that the Christ Who rose from the dead will not allow His followers to do anything less than to share His glory and His victory in this world and in the world to come. There is, of course, the duty of perseverance, particularly in the face of discouraging and sometimes depressing reverses. As Winston Churchill, however, once remarked, "You cannot have a war without some casualties," and once the cost is calculated, and the determination is made to do what God's Providence compels us to do, there can be no surrender, we must once again, in the words of Churchill, "Conquer we shall, as conquer we must."
In a concluding thought, let me recount a narration which I've always found very moving:
"A wise man once said that when we appear before the judgement seat of Jesus Christ, He will look at us very carefully and ask, `Where are your scars?' If we respond we have no scars, He will then reproach us and say, `Was there nothing worth fighting for?'"
I believe, my dear friends, there is something worth fighting for. The cause of life is worth fighting for, the cause of Christ is worth fighting for. Let us see to our duties and with resolution, determination, and defiance, go forward so that at the end, we can show to Christ our scars.