Talkin’ ’bout my generation

For many years I was ambivalent about abortion in the United States. As a teenager, and even through college, I didn’t give it much thought becuase a) I’m a guy, and would never have to directly make that decision, and b) I never planned on getting a woman into the situation where I would need to help someone else make that decision.

I knew the Church’s teachings on the matter and accepted them halfheartedly — like the vow of perpetual celibacy, I knew it wasn’t going to impact my life.

Then, while I was in graduate school, I saw a statistic that jolted me out of my complacency: My generation is 25% smaller than it should be because of abortion.

That seemed incredible to me. In fact, I didn’t think is was accurate. Surely abortion wasn’t that prevalent! So I ran the numbers:

I was born in 1978 — one of 3,333,279 live births in this country that year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1978 also saw 1,157,776 abortions.

4,491,055 pregnancies. 1,157,776 abortions. 25.6%.

That shocked me. I thought about the kids I should have known in school, the kids I should have swam with on the swim team, the kids that should have lived down the street from me.

And I thanked God that my mom chose life.

I still don’t consider myself a “crusader” for the pro-life cause. But I do consider myself proudly pro-life. Not just becuase “the Church says so,” but because I came to realize what abortion has done to my generation.

Lethal Logic

“The lethal logic of Roe v. Wade is that nobody has rights that we are bound to respect if they cannot effectively assert those rights. They are at the mercy and the discretion of those who can effectively assert their rights. We’re not talking simply about the unborn, we’re talking about the aged, the radically handicapped, the deformed.”

– Father Richard John Neuhaus, We Shall Not Weary, We Shall Not Rest

Who’s Missing?

I had given up, after wrestling for a better part of the day, articulating my own thoughts about the juncture between today’s inauguration and Thursday’s March for Life. Then Matthew Warner summed it up better than I ever could:

In Barack Obama’s lifetime our nation has struggled in accepting African-Americans and treating them as equals.   Finally, we’ve had a breakthrough.   A black president.

Unfortunately, in that same struggle to the top for one class of people – in that same lifetime – we’ve trampled the rights of yet another entire class of people.   Indeed, many of us no longer believe these people are actually human.   Sound familiar?

Of course, I am speaking of the 50 millions abortions that have occurred in the US alone during the last lifetime.   50 million voiceless human beings that were denied and are still being denied their human rights.   That are treated as garbage.   That are not given a seat at the table or a spot on the bus.   That don’t get the chance to drink from any water fountain or attend any school.   They will never get the opportunity to march on Washington.   They are not even given the dignity of being treated as 3/5 of a person.

March for Life Prayer for Pilgrims

This morning, across the nation, many people will be setting out for Washington, D.C., to participate in Thursday’s March for Life. Please keep these pilgrims in your prayers:

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
we turn to you who are the protectress of unborn children
and ask that you intercede for us,
so that we may more firmly resolve to join you in protecting all human life.

Let our prayers be united to your perpetual motherly intercession
on behalf of those whose lives are threatened,
be they in the womb of their mother, on the bed of infirmity, or in the latter years of their life.

May our prayers also be coupled with peaceful action
which witnesses to the goodness and dignity of all human life,
so that our firmness of purpose may give courage to those who are fearful
and bring light to those who are blinded by sin.

Encourage those who will be involved in the March for Life;
help them to walk closely with God and to give voice to the cry of the oppressed,
in order to remind out nation of its commitment
to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

O Virgin Mother of God, present our petitions to your Son and ask Him to bless us with abundant life.


Abortion and the Art of Making Distinctions

One of my “dirty little secrets” is that, when I lived in St. Louis, I enjoyed listening to the Lutheran (LCMS) radio station in town — particularly the show Issues, Etc. (which has since moved to another station in town for reasons that have been well-chronicled elsewhere). While I didn’t always agree with the show I appreciated their clarity of thought and courage in addressing current events from a Christian perspective.

I also came to appreciate the Lutheran definition of theology as “the art of making distinctions.” This is an art that is, sadly, lacking in much of what passes for discourse today. This is especially true in conversations around pro-life issues. Others more eloquent than I have bemoaned the distillation of various policy positions into the tidy packages of “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” implying that Americans fall into one camp or the other without nuance.

Two recent surveys make some important distinctions that rarely filter through the pervasive “pro-life”/”pro-choice” dichotomy. The first, conducted last fall for the Knights of Columbus by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, shows that only 8% of Americans favor totally unrestricted access to abortion. In fact, while 50% of Americans label themselves as “pro-choice,” 84% of all Americans believe that abortion should be restricted (either within the first three months; in case of rape, incest or for the mother’s health; or never permitted).

A new USCCB poll came to similar conclusions, finding that “four out of five U.S. adults (82 percent) think abortion should either be illegal under all circumstances (11 percent) or would limit its legality.” It also found that 95% believe that abortions should only be performed by licensed physicians and 88% favor parental notification laws.

In a couple weeks I will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to take part in the activities surrounding the March for Life. This will be my first such pilgrimage and I am hoping to use the opportunity to a) engage and educate myself more closley with life issues, b) encourage the young people of my diocese to do the same and c) try to find out more about the gap between the political discourse surrounding abortion in this country and the actual held beliefs of Americans.

Please pray for me and all of us making this pilgrimage.

Father’s Trust

I was beaming with the pride that only a new father can feel. After a week of worrying, during which my wife, Bethany, had been hospitalized with pregnancy-induced hypertension, our son was finally here, a month early, kicking and screaming and flailing his tiny body around.

An aide asked for his name. Isaac, I grinned.

After an hour together the nurses whisked him off for the usual prodding and poking and to give Bethany some well-deserved rest. I was just settling into a chair and nodding off when someone knocked on the door. Ignoring the part of my brain telling me to feign sleep I walked over and got the news: while in the nursery Isaac had experienced a breathing episode and was now in the Newborn ICU. Bethany, confined to bed for another 24 hours, couldn’t go back to see him. I had to go, alone, a father for only a short time, down the long hallway to see my son.

He was hooked up to a number of tubes and monitors checking his heart rate, blood oxygen and other vital signs. Everything was fine, I was assured: he had only stopped breathing for 15 seconds and had been brought here for observation for a day or two. I was incredulous; how could they say he was OK, this tiny thing weighing barely more than a sack of flour? He looked so frail I was afraid to touch him, sure I’d break him somehow. I was supposed to protect him, but what could I do now?

Do you want to hold him? /p>

Time stood still and my stomach dropped. Still terrified I closed my eyes, said a prayer, and held out my arms.

This story was originally published in the October 3, 2008, edition of the Catholic Times.