‘Be not afraid’ to protect unborn life
In my last column, I announced this year’s Respect Life Program theme: Be Not Afraid. The Respect Life Program’s purpose is to "help Catholics understand, value and become engaged with supporting the God-given dignity of every person – which naturally leads to protecting the gift of every person’s life." Because of the program’s importance, my October columns are dedicated to the Be Not Afraid theme. This column will discuss the theme in relationship to our duty to protect unborn human life.
While there are numerous ways to fearlessly defend unborn human life, I want to focus on three specific ways: attentiveness to language, attentiveness to the mother and attentiveness to the healing process.
Before discussing these points, it would be good to define the virtue of fortitude (or courage) at the heart of Christ’s command to "be not afraid." The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it as the moral virtue that "ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good." Fortitude "enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause" (no. 1808).
Attentiveness in each of the following areas requires courage. We are called to overcome the difficulties presented and exercise courageous freedom for the just cause of defending unborn life.
ATTENTIVENESS TO LANGUAGE
It is said that verbal engineering precedes social engineering. In other words, when special interest groups want to distort a social good, they first distort language related to that social good. They bend language, so to speak, to conform with their social agenda. Verbal engineering is constant in the abortion debate.
Consider the term "conception." While the traditional view states that conception occurs at fertilization of the ovum by the sperm (whereby a new, unique human being exists), modern innovations have attempted to blur this reality. In 1965, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists redefined conception as the moment of implantation of the embryo into the uterine wall (which typically occurs 7-10 days after fertilization has occurred).
When we (charitably) debate abortion, we should be prepared to ask questions about the meaning of critical terms that go to the heart of protecting unborn human life. Organizations such as Abortion Dialogue Academy and Justice for All can greatly assist in this task.
ATTENTIVENESS TO THE MOTHER
The Vitae Foundation, through their right-brain research, has found that abortion-minded women often find themselves choosing between three perceived evils: abortion, continued pregnancy or adoption. They often view abortion as the least evil option, even though they often know it is the killing of an unborn human life. Continuing the pregnancy and adoption are viewed as a death of the personal self. Choosing abortion becomes a form of instinctual self-preservation.
This research demonstrates that the mother’s physical, mental and spiritual health must first be met. While focusing on the unborn child is certainly noble and necessary under many circumstances, focusing on the needs of the mother is a necessary precondition if we truly desire to end abortion. The heart of the mother must be nurtured and consoled, if she is to have a heart with the capacity to sacrificially love herself and her child.
ATTENTIVENESS TO THE HEALING PROCESS
A wounded person cannot heal their own wounds, nor can a wounded culture heal the wounds of society. If we are to courageously protect the unborn child, our nation must be healed of the abortion wound.
Project Rachel, a post-abortive healing ministry, connects post-abortive women and men to professional counselors, psychologists and priests to receive psychological, emotional and spiritual healing. If you or somebody you know is in need of healing, call 888-456-HOPE (4673). Other ministries, such as Rachel’s Vineyard, offer similar healing assistance.
As a church and nation, we must continue making reparations (prayer, fasting and other acts of sacrifice) for healing from abortion, so that we are spiritually fit to make abortion unthinkable in our nation.
The work ahead is not for the faint of heart and, for this reason, our Lord calls us to "be not afraid." Take courage, for Jesus is with us until the end of time!
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.