God, abortion and gobbledygook

Commentary by Judie Brown

In our current age of enlightenment it doesn't take much for a person to identify himself as an expert. For example, a person who has experience in cleaning bathroom fixtures can say that he is an expert in dealing with difficult situations that confront the homemaker.

So too a man who has experience in reading the Bible and attending a seminary can say that he is an expert in understanding the mind of God.

Continuing this line of reasoning with one more example, I offer the thought that people who defend the preborn child are expert in understanding the difference between falsehood and truth.

While some would immediately argue that words like truth and falsehood are subjective terms, the fact is they are not. Truth does not change regardless of who is wearing a Roman collar or who is claiming to be a man of God. And a lie is a lie ? period!

Thus it should come as no surprise that the recent editorial opinions of Tom Ehrich, an Episcopal pastor from North Carolina, and his collaborators at USA Today jumped off the page and slapped me silly.

Their recent discussion about God and abortion exemplifies precisely why so many people are sorely out of touch with both truth and reason.

USA Today published Ehrich's commentary under the headline, "Where does God stand on abortion?" The average reader would expect that a minister of the gospel would know precisely where God stands and proceed to tell us why the act of aborting a child is a crime against God and why God is so distressed with America. Right? 

Wrong. Very wrong!

USA Today's guest commentary and the accompanying sidebar prepared by a Catholic dissident distort sound doctrine to a point where only the totally uniformed could remain seated during a reading of the ensuing drivel. Ehrich begins by saying the religious debate over whether abortion should remain legal is "best captured in shades of gray rather than how it's usually depicted by both 'pro' sides ? in black and white."

I find it very much black-and-white that the destruction of an innocent preborn child is murder; so does the Catholic Church (more on that later). Yet Ehrich seems to think what constitutes murder is only a matter of opinion, or that it is murder in some cases but not in others. I'm reminded of a colleague who sometimes asks, "What's that guy been smoking?" He has a point. For only in that sort of altered state of mind could one possibly view the act of direct killing of an innocent person as something that cannot be judged as morally reprehensible.

This man of the cloth then tells us that a decision to abort a child "ultimately comes down to individual religions and, ultimately, individuals." Clearly this preacher is ultimately misguided when it comes to the meaning of the commandment God gave Moses: "Thou shalt not kill." Or maybe Ehrich skipped that book in the Bible; who knows!

The subsequent comment, "the issue of abortion has been in a lull as gay marriage became this year's political lightening rod," reveals the depths to which some have sunk in their total lack of basic understanding regarding human dignity and the integrity of the person. It is clear that Ehrich has no grasp of the fact that a preborn human being is a person no different from Ehrich himself.

Abortion does something to someone; it is not an "issue." While many would love to see agreement on the sop that abortion is a "political issue," it is no more a political matter than murdering your sister in the privacy of your home. In both cases, an innocent person is dead; that is murder, not a liberal versus conservative debate topic.

Lest I overlook the second half of the deluded duo on the USA Today opinion page, I must say a word about the writer the editors assigned to tell us what "religions say." The wisdom of none other than dissident Catholic moral theologian Daniel C. Maguire was published. Maguire spent his words on Catholic teaching maneuvering around the truth with examples that are pure fiction.

It appears that Maguire, like Ehrich, had an agenda in mind prior to putting the first word into print. Please don't think these men proceed from a point of ignorance; the obvious conclusion is that neither man seems to give a fig for actual scientific fact, nor is either capable of reading a word of Church history accurately. Maguire, for example, tells the reader that St. Antoninus approved early abortions when needed to save the life of the mother, which Maguire says was "a huge category in his day."

There is certainly no proof of that in the Church history books I have read; one historian even praised Antoninus for struggling against those who were promoting abortion during his day. Antoninus lived in the 15th century and did not have the benefit of fetal development models or 4-D ultrasound. Unlike Ehrich and Maguire, Antoninus simply knew that killing a baby in the womb was wrong and so he fought valiantly against it.

Maguire writes that the Catholic Church permits abortion for a variety of reasons but fails to name one. No wonder! The fact is that from the earliest point in Christian history the Church fathers were unanimous in their condemnation of abortion. They never placated the pagans of their day; so why are some pseudo-Catholics doing so now in the pages of USA Today?

I suppose that Maguire would agree with Ehrich that "as happens when a political or cultural issue becomes a religious cause couched in absolutist language and claims of divine sanction, compromise seems unthinkable." Yet common sense would instruct each of them that one cannot compromise when a human being's life is at stake, whether one is a religious person or simply a person with compassion and in possession of a rational thought process.

Reviewing the comments of both Ehrich and Maguire, I am reminded of those profoundly wise words of Pope John Paul II, taken from his encyclical, The Splendor of Truth: "In the case of the correct conscience, it is a question of the objective truth received by man; in the case of the erroneous conscience, it is a question of what man, mistakenly, subjectively considers to be true. It is never acceptable to confuse a 'subjective' error about moral good with the 'objective' truth…"

But in the final analysis, what is ultimately the most troublesome problem with commentaries by the likes of Ehrich and Maguire is that those who are already confused by today's conundrum of personal freedom versus personal responsibility before God will be misled even further upon reading their gobbledygook. Such misguided rationalizations may placate a reader's desire to believe what he knows in his heart is wrong. But in the final analysis, I can't help but fear that such writings are providing, for only God knows how many, a helping hand on the path to hell.

Shame on USA Today!

Release issued: 16 Aug 06