October 28, 2010

Pro-Life: An Examination of Conscience

When I was leaving the parish to return to studies, I received a lot of kind and encouraging words from parishioners. A few in particular have stuck in my mind. One of them went like this: "You're a very good priest, Father, but there's one thing wrong with you. You're not pro-life enough."

I was reminded of this over the past few days by an ad on the subway. It had a picture of a mother and child and proclaimed, "I chose life." The caption said something like, 'unexpected pregnancy, unexpected joy.' I'm not sure I remember it rightly, but it was something like that.

The first time I saw this ad, I thought to myself how good it was to see a pro-life message on one of the subway lines that is always full of students and young people. As I have been shocked and scandalized to notice, even at the 'catholic' school I attend, the false idea of a 'right' to abortion seems to be common. On one campus poster I saw, the so-called 'pro-choice' position was listed among activities of 'social justice.' I thought of taking a picture of the notice and publishing it, but then I decided it was none of my business. (Or was that a rationalization by a Catholic who isn't pro-life enough? After all, it is revealing--and even unmasking!--that abortion is sometimes absent from our catholic discourse on 'social justice.')

But back to the subway. A couple of days later I saw the same, "I chose life" ad. This time someone had taken a marker to it and written "Pro-Choice!" over it. (Perhaps accidentally, but not incidentally, one of the words cut through the baby's face.) At first it made me sad. The so-called 'pro-choice' position is so incomprehensible to me and speaks to me of the terrible confusion of our society. But as I reflected, I thought that perhaps the defacer of the ad wasn't mocking the pro-life position, but making an accusation against the ad. In the end the ad was pro-choice. It held up someone who made the right choice, who had chosen the good over the murderous and dehumanizing violence of our culture, but it still celebrated that there was a choice to be made.

At that moment I realized that I had been tricked. My original appreciation of the ad was partly misplaced. Yes, the ad celebrated the goodness and blessing of life, but embedded in it was the acceptance that life could be a matter of our choice. I didn't even think about that until I saw the ad written upon in the way I described.

Perhaps my friend was right, and that I'm not pro-life enough.


Anonymous said...

There was a time when I proclaimed myself "personally opposed but won't impose.” I was of the belief that the whole abortion/right to life controversary is a moral argument and not a legal one. In a perfect moral world, abortion could remain perfectly legal and yet no-one would choose it. It’s a convincing argument for those of us who believe in minimalist government. And then one day I too had an abortion; I who was “personally opposed.” It was then that the blinders came off and I realized just how corrupt the whole ob/gyn field is. There was no choice. I was slowly led down the path to destruction against my better judgement by the medical field with a vested interest in my decision. What a sad world we live in when the medical profession established to promote life actually serves to profit from the destruction of life. If you feel you're not pro-life enough, then that tells me you really haven't been exposed to the reality of abortion. Behind every abortion statistic there is a story. There are a ton of walking wounded out there too afraid to speak out. Get involved in some post-abortion healing programs and there you will hear real stories of pain and exploitation. How large a dust mound will we allow to accummulate under that carpet before someone decides it's time to sweep? It time to bring the abortion controversy out of "intellectual" circles and into the mainstream where it's happening on a daily basis.

Sara said...

I 'chose life' as a teenager and up until recently I was the woman in this ad... I had made a choice, but it was simply MY choice, not a pro-life message.

I strongly resisted and resented the efforts of pro-life people who assumed that I was on their side, and wanted to celebrate with me simply because I'd had a baby.

At some point, before I became a Christian, I started to feel uncomfortable calling myself "pro-choice" and I tried to talk it out with some close friends I respected.

I like to say that none of my pro-life friends could ever have talked me into a pro-life position- my pro-choice friends talked me into a pro-life position. Anyway.

What is pro-life enough? I had three kids before I was 'pro-life.' As a college student and a young mother, I found that some female students went out of their way to talk to me, ask about my husband and kids... almost every one of them, after a few conversations, would confess that she'd had an abortion. I am so grateful that I was able to be there for those women and listen to them, be part of their healing. Would they have been so open if I'd been 'pro life enough?'

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

Quite frankly, unless that parishoner had some evidence to back up his/her accusation...I think an examen is fine, but unless s/he's got more evidence I wouldn't put too much stock in what was said.

Brother Charles said...


Thanks for the comment. You raise a delicate and important point. Priests are often accused of failing to preach pro-life as much as, or in the way that some people would want. What folks have to realize is that you have to presume there are people in the pews who may have had abortions and may be suffering their own griefs, hurts, and confusions. As one of my teachers liked to say, "The first rule of preaching is nobody gets hurt."

Mary Brigid said...

Father, I really enjoy your blog, and this is the first subject in which I have disagreed with you. Preaching on abortion, the truth in a compassionate way, does not hurt those in the pews who are suffering from abortions. The truth is the only road for these second victims to be set free/begin the healing process. Easy for me to say, I am not a preacher, nor have I suffered an abortion, but it is consistently what I hear from all involved with post-abortion healing.

Julia said...

While I see your concern about the ad reinforcing a "pro-choice" mentality, the most immediate concern is not to make young pregnant women pro-life but to make them choose life. The conversion to a complete pro-life position will hopefully come with time, but in order to save babies today, it's important to reach these women where they are.... which is at a crossroads, with a choice to make.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I agree with you. I was the post-abortive woman who would hide behind the second pillar off the side of the church convinced that I didn't belong there. I felt like an imposter. But nevertheless I came, because I was haunted by recurring nightmares convinced that the devil was out to get me. I would have melted at an invitation from the pulpit toward reconciliation. Reconciliation did come, but not from the parish, but from the internet where I stumbled across post-abortive grief literature. Eventually I got involved with Rachel's Vineyard and I was finally on my way.

Barb, sfo said...

You make a good point. It shouldn't be a matter of even considering making a choice--for life, or for not-life. It's not our choice to make!