Just as the New Year was getting under way, I heard a sermon by a priest named Father John on a subject that invited further reflection. The topic was the existence in some people of the “juridical heart.” That is a heart bound up in man’s law to the point that the individual is incapable of moving beyond the law to see injustice in that law. In other words, the law becomes more important than affirming the human person who deserves our respect, our dedication and our love.
In this case, Father John was discussing the situation of an illegal immigrant who expressed his dismay that the Dream Act
had failed to pass the Senate
by five votes. Father explained that it was his opinion this occurred because there were too many juridical hearts in the Senate.
In an interesting juxtaposition, Father John compared the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt with the flight into America of men, women and children who fear for themselves and their future. Father’s point was that, in embracing the human person out of love for the fact that each person is created in the image of God, one should see beyond the law to what is right and just for that individual or, in this case, an entire class of human beings.
The point he made was poignant, and it immediately occurred to me that the very same type of attitude existed among those who argue that “abortion is legal.” I have always thought this particular argument was a cop-out, but never really thought of it in terms of love versus the “juridical heart.”
After all, the history of law, regardless of where one begins, instructs us in a valuable lesson. Not every manmade law is a just law, and in the case of the abortion laws, they are cruel and inhumane. Laws that protect abortion are literally protecting the murder of the innocent. Naturally, proponents of abortion do not see it that way, but this is partially due to the old sop that what is legal is right. Not so.
It strikes me that this is part of the problem pro-life Americans confront as we enter a new decade. There are many who fail to move beyond the law to see that the preborn child is himself an image of God worthy of our love. There are others who use the existing law as a point of reference when pursuing so-called pro-life legislation, arguing that we must remain within the parameters of what the Supreme Court has said.
In either case, the child is not perceived as worthy of more than merely what the law says or allows. Progressing beyond what the law says to identifying the human person as worthy of our love, our sacrifice and our loyalty is a challenge that each of us faces, no matter what it is we are attempting to accomplish. But now that we are advancing into fresh territory, a new year, a new Congress and a new attitude, perhaps we should focus on inviting juridical hearts to put on a new attitude as well. These words written by St. Paul to the Thessalonians, 3:11-13, are a very good place to start: “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.”
We do love our fellow human beings—including those with whom we disagree. Obviously to touch the juridical heart is to inspire that heart to conversion. When that happens, hearts will open to the reality of human personhood—embracing preborn children as fellow human beings—and abortion will end.
Let us embrace as our goal for this new decade the challenge of helping lovers of the law see that unconditional love for human persons will expose injustice, right wrongs and will ultimately rewrite bad law.