Sometimes it seems that the world is going mad. One recent example that drives that point home is a tiny excerpt from a televised interview with British advice columnist Virginia Ironside. A quick visit to her web site will immediately alert you that she is an individual who is lacking in any semblance of proper decorum.
But that is not why I chose to write about her. I chose to write about her because of two appalling statements she made about abortion and child murder—under the guise that her actions would be compassionate. In reference to abortion, Ironside said, “If a baby’s going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother.” In yet another statement, she said, “If I were the mother of a suffering child—I mean a deeply suffering child—I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face. If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would.”
While the horror of this should make you gasp, the woman speaking those words was not only serious, but dedicated to the premise that she would be acting with the greatest level of love for the child if she took that child’s life. She is equating love for a child with imposing her will for death if that child were not completely healthy or wanted. To her, death is the greater good.
The host, Susanna Reid, who was listening as Ironside made the comment about murdering a sick and helpless child, appeared visibly shocked by Ironside’s comments—as well she should be. What we heard from the mouth of this woman, who is described as an “agony aunt”—a British colloquialism for advice columnist—is quite typical for those who deny that God exists, believing that man alone can and should make decisions about who should live and who should die.
Ironside’s forthrightness in the matter is really quite remarkable because most of those who might silently agree with her would not publicly use the verbal shockwave she uttered to bring home the point that there are people who cannot tolerate human suffering—whether it is their own or someone else’s.
Indeed, such folks will go to any extreme possible to eliminate it. This can mean suicide or imposed death/abortion if the suffering individual gets in the way of “normal” life or imposes a burden on those responsible for his care. Cold, hard-hearted and cruel are words that come to mind, but not among those who would consider themselves Ironside sympathizers. Such people would prefer to define Ironside’s attitude as compassionate.
This brings to mind a very insightful and timely Flannery O’Connor quote: “In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. And tenderness leads to the gas chamber.” Commentator John Mallon suggests that if O’Connor were alive today she would have chosen the word “compassion” rather than the word “tenderness.” I agree, but either way, we get the point.
As believing Christians we know that God is the author of life. But among those who reject faith in God as something akin to a fable—excusing folks from life by acts of abortion, pillow smothering, lethal injection or plug pulling, to name but a few of the choices they extol—there is little regard for the so-called inconvenient life. And that is where Ms. Ironside is coming from.
In an apostolic letter, Pope John Paul II reminded us “… The name ‘Good Samaritan’ fits every individual who is sensitive to the sufferings of others, who ‘is moved’ by the misfortune of another. If Christ, who knows the interior of man, emphasizes this compassion, this means that it is important for our whole attitude to others’ suffering. Therefore one must cultivate this sensitivity of heart, which bears witness to compassion towards a suffering person. Sometimes this compassion remains the only or principal expression of our love for and solidarity with the sufferer.”
Note that the Holy Father equated compassion with “sensitivity of heart,” not coldness of heart.
Without Christ in our lives during times of suffering, compassion turns deadly and mercy becomes a one way ticket to death. Preborn children become problematic; the ailing and the dying become burdensome and Ironside makes sense—because without Christ there is no love. There is only hate, only intolerance, only evil, and only imposed death.
That’s the lesson taught by Ms. Ironside. Let us not overlook it.