Every year, at about this time, many Americans make what are commonly known as New Year's resolutions. It is no surprise to any of us mere mortals that most of these resolutions may not last beyond the time it takes to enunciate them. But I think that there are a couple that all of us in the pro-life community could adopt with gusto and keep, regardless of the political atmosphere, cultural meltdown or increasing lack of belief in God.
The first is based on the profound words spoken last month by Dominican Father Augustine DiNoia, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Father DiNoia was lecturing at Rome’s Pontifical North American College, and it is reported that he said the following in his message:
No one in his or her right mind will be interested in a faith about which its exponents seem too embarrassed to communicate forthrightly… We have to be convinced that the fullness of the truth and beauty of the message about Jesus Christ is powerfully attractive when it is communicated without apologies or compromise…In our conversations with young people, we have to avoid the temptation to fudge – to adapt the Catholic faith so as to make it palatable to modern tastes and expectations.
In these words reside the fullness of what it means to be a Catholic without apology and also what it means to be a pro-life American, regardless of religious identity. For just as surely as the only resonant Catholic teaching is the tenet that is set forth plainly and succinctly, so too the fundamental principles of the pro-life movement are best understood when set forth clearly and without qualifications.
For example, pro-life Americans should never use the term "pro-choice." Why? Simple!
Pro-choice is meaningless because it actually reveals nothing about the true convictions of the person describing himself this way. What the term is designed to convey is that the person describing himself as pro-choice believes that an expectant mother should have the choice to kill or not to kill her child and that such a position is not pro-abortion, just pro-choice. That is ridiculous.
This is why we should always say “pro-abortion,” as that is exactly what pro-choice really means. Here is an example of the pro-choice position applied to another scenario:
Question: How do you feel about mothers who drown their two-year-old daughters?
Answer: I would never do that myself, but I would not impose my views on anyone else; each mother should be free to choose whether or not to drown their two-year-olds.
Sounds incredibly evil, doesn't it? But that answer is a pro-choice response. That is why we should never say pro-choice. There is literally no difference between a two-year-old child and an embryonic child, other than size and place of residence.
Pro-life Americans should never say that abortion is “legal,” for if one measures the gravity of the act of abortion against the natural law, one knows immediately that an act of abortion violates that law which is written on every man’s heart. As Archbishop Chaput put it,
Our national soul was expressed best in our founding document. In its structure, the Declaration of Independence has a clear religious resonance. It refers several times to a Creator or Supreme Being. But more importantly, natural law principles shape the whole text. These principles have their roots in Christian medieval thought, which itself drew on the Hebrew tradition, classical Greek thought and Roman jurists.
Natural law is not a "sectarian" idea. It is much larger and older than that. It exists in every society. Natural law teaches that all creation has a "nature," an inherent order and purpose. By using their reason, men and women can know what conforms to their human nature and is therefore good. This knowledge doesn't require a theology or law degree; we all instinctively sense it. Murder, lying, cheating, stealing, exploiting the poor, abusing the weak and elderly — these things are universally seen as evil whether a person is Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Taoist or agnostic, because they violate a natural moral law written into the human heart.
This is precisely why we should point out that while the Supreme Court may have decriminalized abortion, which is indeed an act of murder, it does not mean that the act is morally or ethically legal. Something as heinous as abortion could never be legal in the strict sense of the word.
The reality is quite simple, really. Father Richard John Neuhaus makes this clear:
The abortion battle is over abortion and whether the unborn child counts as a human person, but where one comes out on that question is, I believe, powerfully influenced by a host of other beliefs and attitudes aptly summarized in the pro-life language of a culture of death versus a culture of life. There are two cultures, one focused on rights and laws and the other on rights and wrongs; one focused on maximizing individual self-expression and the other on reinforcing community and responsibility.
And that brings me to the final New Year's resolution that each of us can adopt at once and adhere to with little or no effort at all: Let us never refer to the preborn child as an "it," and by the same token, let us never refer to an expectant mother as a "pregnant woman." The baby has a gender; the expectant mother is a mother from the instant her child's life begins, and we, the members of the growing culture of life, are the only ones who will make those seemingly little but nonetheless powerful distinctions.
At the end of his commentary, “The Pro-Life Movement as the Politics of the 1960s,” Father Neuhaus tells the reader, "All of us would do well to ponder the wisdom in the observation that there are no permanently lost causes because there are no permanently won causes." But there are causes that can grow and flourish in effectiveness, conversion and conviction, until finally illegitimate acts like abortion become so abhorrent that nobody would dare discuss it, let alone practice it.
Humanizing the preborn child, acknowledging his or her mother and taking great care never to buy into the culture of death’s deceptive rhetoric are vital first steps in converting the culture. Proper word usage will help average Americans visualize who the preborn child is and why abortion is not an “issue,” not morally or ethically legal and never the right choice!
P.S. Please remember Father Neuhaus in your prayers, as he is, as of this writing, quite ill.