First published in the Umatuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, November 7, 1999.
I was not going to take on this subject so early in my weekly-columnist career. In fact, with this article I may be inviting the end of my career, for this subject is probably the most unpopular subject in all of Catholicism. However, here goes. But before I begin I must beg the forgiveness of those who are the exception and to please bear in mind that this is only a "view from the pew", and really only one guy in one pew of one church. (Also, it is a given here that God opens and closes the womb as He wills.)
I applaud the Bishop and the other writers who advanced the pro-life position in last week's Pacific Voice. There can be no doubt that abortion is a great evil.. Not even science doubts now that life begins at conception. The question being debated is not whether this center of activity in the womb is a life, but whether or not it has a legal right to exit the womb alive. I, for now, will leave that debate to others.
As a Catholic community, we may or may not be able to overturn Roe vs. Wade in our lifetime. We may or may not even succeed in having abortion banned in our own island. We can however accomplish, in my view, something more significant and eternal. We can do something, as Catholic parents, teachers, and preachers, that all the pro-life marches and speeches and petitions can never do.
We can teach our children of God's sacred plan. We can teach them about what sex is for. We can teach them how our almighty and omnipotent Father, maker of heaven and earth, ruler of all creation, humbled Himself beyond all understanding by relegating to lowly man and woman, the power to create the one thing He wants more than all the stars and solar systems: immortal souls.
For though we do not create the immortal soul ourselves, God has mysteriously deigned that there be no other channel for creation of this soul than that of the human seed. Thus, we hold within our bodies the key to God's ultimate desire. For without our cooperation in creation there will be no future citizens of heaven. We need to teach our children that not only CAN we have babies, but that we MUST.
In fact, the very FIRST commandment ever given to man was, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth..." (Gen. 1:28) . Notice it does say "multiply" and notice that it also says "fill the earth". We have not yet fulfilled this command. Just for the record, and especially for the "standing-room only" anti-populationists, the current population of the world, which is figured near 6 billion could fit in its entirety in the state of Texas with approx. 1300 square feet per person. (You can do the math yourself.). We have a long way to go.
But I am not here to argue logistics. My real point is that we will never make any headway in the abortion battle so long as we simply battle abortion. For abortion is not the real evil here. It is only a symptom of the evil. The real evil is our denial of this very first commandment by our unquestioning embrace of the Enemy's ultimate weapon against God in denying Him souls, CONTRACEPTION! For what is abortion really other than the most extreme means of contraception.
I can hear the howls already, how it's not the same thing, that abortion kills and contraception prevents. I've heard it all. But the effect is the same. Whether we use the knife or the pill we have interfered with God's absolute right to the womb and new life- the only possible home for the immortal soul.
For it is here, in the deepest intimacy of two united beings, in the eternal dance of the sexes, cooperating in unison with God for that which He created them, man and woman, that the Lord of Hosts comes down from highest heaven and His word becomes flesh once more. The precise intersection of the human and divine. Oh, if we only knew what we were doing.
"Oh", but you say, "we are Catholics, we don't believe in artificial contraception." Really? Where are the once glorious witnesses of large Catholic families? Have Catholics suddenly become naturally infertile in the last 20 years? "Oh, but you must understand, economic times have changed", etc., ad nauseum, etc...(By the way, this isn't me talking to you, this is us talking to ourselves...called rationalization.). Odd, we now have more TV's than we have kids.And kids have more nintendo games than brothers and sisters. For want of cars and comforts we forsake children and the conjugal command.
"Oh, but we practice Natural Family Planning (NFP), it's been okayed by the Church." And of course you are right...partly. BUT! It is critical for us as Catholics to remember that the use of NFP is morally permissable only when there are serious reasons for spacing offspring.
When this natural form of birth-control first came to be known, Pius XII told us "that observing the non-fertile periods alone can be lawful only under a moral aspect", and that to avoid children always and deliberately without an exteremely serious reason would be "a sin against the very meaning of marriage." (Pius XII-"Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives" to warn against the selfish use of natural family planning, Oct 29, 1951)
Lest you think that I am some sort of self-righteous moralist, allow me to offer a bit of personal testimony and confession here. I am a product of the 70's, which should say enough about my doctrinal background-almost none. I, like many of you fell under the pseudo-doctrines of "if it feels good do it", and "whatever turns you on", etc. At 29 I was not only still not married, I had no intention of doing so, let alone any thought of children. I was living in the Virgin Islands at the time and my philosophy of life was " Two coconut trees, a hammock, a bottle of rum, reggae music, and Caribbean women...oh, and I also played my guitar at Saturday night Mass.
God of course always has the last say, and now at 43, a beautiful wife and 8 children (and counting) later, I can attest to His much referred to sense of humor. I don't have time or room here to recount the conversion story, but it really wasn't till after our 4th child that I totally let God in and gave Him control of "that" too.
Of course, parading around the town with 8 children draws attention and almost certain questions. My wife usually answers them all kindly with a smile. "Yes, they're all mine." "No, I don't run a day-care." "No, we're not done, we're leaving that up to God.", etc. But the question that always irks me is, "How are you going to put them all through college?" Oh, if only we were half as concerned about getting our children into heaven as we are about getting them into college!
We just happen to believe, by the grace of God and courageous teachers, that the best way to direct our spritual charges towards heaven is by living in loving response to that very first commandment. Indeed, it is only through the obedience to this command that there is even another soul to show heaven too.
And it here that we give thanks for the wonderful gift of the Catholic Church and those who have the courage to teach its truths. For we have a Church that is not only willing to condemn the evils of abortion, but is now practically the only mainline Church left standing still crying out in the wilderness that the use of contraception is a grave violation of the moral order, that "each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church).
It is only in the Catholic Church that we are taught that of the two inseparable aspects of conjugal sex, the unitive and the procreative, the unitive must remain subordiante to the procreative, wherein is hidden the key to the lasting mutual love we burn for.
And until we understand, embrace, and teach this, the babies will die.
November 7, 1999