Back when I was at the parish, one night I was locking up the church and a lady stopped me to say something.
"You're a good priest, Father, but you're not pro-life enough."
For better or for worse, the comment has stuck with me. From time to time I try to examine my conscience on it. When I do, what comes to me for the most part are thoughts of the sexual abuse crisis, and the desire I seem to have to do some kind of penance or reparation on behalf of everyone who was hurt and continues to be hurt. I guess that's partly the result of certain aspects of my own journey as a Catholic, but it's also because it seems to me that the disregard shown for the lives and future of so many young people by some of the Church's ministers continues to cast an obscuring shadow on her witness to the sanctity of life.
So, as I've written a couple of times before, I continue to pray that if it be his will, God would show me how to do penance and reparation on behalf of my brother priests who have done these things, and for the sake of those lives so disrespected, injured, and compromised.
Nevertheless, more and more abortion also comes into my prayer, and I become ever more convinced that it is and must be the first and primary issue of 'justice and peace' for us.
This is because, as it seems to me, in a society that permits or even supports and encourages--God help us--abortion, the whole civilization comes to be founded on an injustice: everyone you know and everyone with whom you interact is the recipient of an arbitrary privilege, namely the chance to be born. And having received this arbitrary privilege, the person is then given the imaginary right of deciding to whom this privilege will be permitted and to whom it will be denied in the next generation.
Therefore, if abortion is permitted, the very fact that someone should find herself alive and walking the earth is founded on an unfairness. Is it not unjust that we find ourselves alive, having been given the chance to be born, while the same thing is being denied to so many of our sisters and brothers, through no fault of their own?
The very fact that I can pick up a notebook and a pen and go to a meeting and talk about justice and peace hinges on the fact that I am alive, which, in a society that supports abortion, means that I was one of the lucky ones, one of the privileged ones. Therefore, to try to talk about justice and peace without reference to abortion is necessarily dishonest, for talking at all derives from having received something that one surely has a right to, namely one's life, but that the world has turned into a benefit to be awarded through the private decisions of individuals. In this sense, finding oneself alive in a 'pro-choice' world is itself a participation in a system of injustice.
And so it seems to me that I can't even begin to talk about justice and peace until I have renounced this arbitrary privilege I have received, namely my life itself, in witness to and in service of all my sisters and brothers whose created lives the world has also reduced to an arbitrary privilege.
Just what that means, I'm not sure, but to know is my prayer today.