Summary: There was a time in the seventies of the last century when Catholics seemed to stand alone among the Christian churches in their condemnation of abortion. Now they often stand with us outside the abortion mills and pro-choice lectures, praying.
Feast of the Holy Innocents 2017
I don’t think it is possible to read or hear the account of the flight into Egypt and the intentional murder of an unknown number of children by Herod dispassionately. St. Matthew, writing at least forty years after these events, is probably using a source from Joseph’s family in the area of Bethlehem, a place that even two generations later is still mourning the death of little boys who would in the Apostolic age be in their prime. If only they were still alive. Instead, they were the earliest martyrs–witnesses–to the kingship of Our Lord. The liturgy sees them playing in heaven in the presence of God.
It’s also impossible for us to read this story as Catholics and not consider the murder of infants going on today in our country–indeed all over the world. The irony, of course, is that even as we see juries everywhere shunning the justifiable execution of criminals who have committed the most heinous crimes, our society still encourages the execution of children who are innocent of every act other than being an inconvenience. And, because that type of murder is legal, it has become acceptable. Some political entities even pay for the murders, using the excuse of calling access to the horror equal protection under the law.
We must always heed the words of St. John in this first letter: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” All of us are sinners, redeemed by the paschal mystery of Our Lord. We can, therefore, judge the sin of abortion, but we cannot judge those who participate in that act. God judges, and we must so live that we can face that judgement knowing we have repented of our sins and have been absolved of them.
The Protestant revolution was led by men who, by and large, followed the Church’s apostolic teaching that preventing the birth of children is wrong. John Calvin’s words: “the unborn, though enclosed in the womb of his mother, is already a human being, and it is an almost monstrous crime to rob it of life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his most secure place of refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy the unborn in the womb before it has come to light.” Luther taught “Surely at such a time [conception], the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed.” But the doctrine of sola scriptura gets in the way, because there is no unequivocal condemnation of abortion in either Testament, only an affirmation of the infinite value of human life.
So once the camel’s nose of contraception pushed its way under the Protestant tent, in the 1930s and beyond, almost all the mainline Protestant churches accepted the action as moral, at least in certain circumstances. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was complicit, because he accepted the Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood, and taught that “family planning” is important for the African-American community. This is ironic, because Sanger was a racist and eugenicist of the first water, and encouraged her people to do what they could to limit the population of blacks and Catholics throughout her career.
There was a time in the seventies of the last century when Catholics seemed to stand alone among the Christian churches in their condemnation of abortion, but in more recent years our Protestant brothers and sisters have understood what is going on in our culture. They often stand with us outside the abortion mills and pro-choice lectures, praying and witnessing against modern-day Herods. The fight is not over, but God is definitely on the side of life. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.