Should Abortion or Other Social Concerns have Priority?

ALICE VON HILDEBRAND

 

The Wanderer

May 21, 2009

The moral gravity of abortion is not perceived by many "Catholics" and is so serious an issue that it tragically divides the sons and daughters of the Church. I am not referring to those who pride themselves on being "pro-choice" (that is, pro-murder of the innocents) and still call themselves Catholics even though they clearly reject some fundamental teachings of the Church. My concern is about those who while perceiving the intrinsic evil of abortion feel very

strongly that, as Catholics, we should not limit our horizon to one grave moral evil: our decisions should be based on an evaluation of the whole scale of moral problems such as social injustice, immigration, universal medical coverage, etc. These are very important matters and should also be put in the balance when going to the polls, according to this viewpoint. They should not be ignored: one's exclusive "preoccupation" with abortion necessarily makes one "narrow-minded." We should "calculate" whether the evil of abortion is of such weight that it allows us to put in brackets these other grave concerns. Plain mathematics tells us that four is more than one, say these Catholics. Is a faithful Catholic therefore not justified in following his conscience that tells him to give priority to several important issues instead of limiting his outlook to a single one?

 

This reasoning, convincing as it sounds, has one grave flaw: to overlook "quality." Granted that four is more than one, which one of us would not prefer one piece of gold to four silver coins? The same is true in the "negative": one vicious and irreparable moral evil by far outweighs very many smaller evils which cannot possibly be "solved" by voting for them. One premeditated murder is much worse than one hundred petty thefts.

 

The question of "sin" (that is, an offense against God) does not register in the accommodating conscience of some Catholics who still believe themselves to be sons and daughters of the Church. Yet it should be our key moral compass. For sin is directed against God. The gravity of our offenses against our neighbors is in direct proportion to the gravity of offenses that led to Golgotha.

 

In order to win the election Barack Obama knew that he needed a certain percentage of Catholic votes: 65 million is an impressive number. The polls seemed to favor him until John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. This remarkable woman, who not only had charisma but was notably "pro-life," seemed to turn the tide. She was standing for some basic truths that were certainly totally neglected by Obama and his cronies. 

 

Then came the financial collapse. The Devil is the king of this world. It is therefore certain that he controls the golden calf: money. That this disaster—affecting most Americans—should happen in September precisely when the tide seemed to be turning in favor of pro-lifers, allows us to raise the question: was this not a superbly planned strategy? Was it not triggered by the king of finances, Lucifer? Most Americans, terrified at the thought that the "American dream" might turn out to be a nightmare, lost their footing, and gave their confidence to someone who boldly promised to "save the country."

 

Unlikely as it may sound to some ears, one can at least raise the question: was not the Devil (of course, by using human tools) the mastermind that within hours guaranteed Obama's victory? The timing was perfect. Economics won over conscience. 

 

People panicked when their wealth started to dwindle and instinctively made the last administration responsible for this financial disaster. The tactic of Obama was very simple: everything that had been done in the course of the last eight years was irresponsible. The new program would put the country back on course and nullify all the decisions that had been made: whether political, financial, or educational. "Change" was imperatively called for. Obama's victory was now inevitable. Within days, he began to "fulfill" his promises by canceling Bush's laudable prohibition to fund abortions in foreign countries. This happened at the time when the United States is short of money, and deeply in debt.

 

One hundred years from now, when we are all "on the other side," many "secret" documents will be available and will give us a better chance (when it no longer matters) to know what truly happened in September 2008. We are purposely misled by the news media whose prejudiced approach is best revealed by the fact that neither the big channels nor The New York Times reported the impressive March for Life on January 22. Some one hundred thousand people marched, and were not even mentioned as a footnote. This shameful silence disqualifies those who call themselves "journalists." 

 

I do not have the competence to pass a fair judgment on Bush's years in the White House. But, one thing is certain: he left behaving like a Christian gentleman, with dignity and nobility.

 

There are innumerable evils threatening our society. A sick organism has to struggle against more than one disease. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, however, did not hesitate to proclaim that the most morally poisonous and deadliest of all of them is the cold-blooded murder of the most helpless of all human beings: the unborn. “Thou shalt not kill,” is a divine command written in the heart of every single human being who deserves to be called such.

 

There is bitter irony in the fact that when Obama was interviewed last summer by Pastor Rick Warren in California, and was asked what was, according to him, the worst "sin" that American politicians have committed through the years, he did not hesitate to quote the words of Christ: "What you have done to the little ones, you have done to me"—implying that the United States has sinned by not respecting these divine words. The response of the public was bound to be: "How noble! How Christian!''

 

Two things are worth mentioning: the majority of Americans are a religious people and consider themselves to be Christians. Most of them believe in God—however varied their conception of God might be. By publicly declaring himself a believing Christian, Obama was playing his hand "wisely." At this time in history, a declared atheist has no chance to win the White House. That "moment" has not yet come. But the irony of the case is that in the very same interview, he boldly declared himself to be pro-abortion. Who are the littlest ones among us? The unborn. Comments are unnecessary. How many of his listeners noticed this shocking discrepancy? 

 

Obama "cleverly" defended his position by asserting that one does not know (or cannot know) when the "fetus becomes a human being." When asked when human life begins, he answered: "This is above my pay grade." But if this is the case, how can he justify his position? When one is ignorant, one should abstain from taking a definitive position on an uncertain issue, and act according to this position. If a hunter cannot ascertain whether "something" moving in a bush is a deer or another human being, he is morally prohibited from shooting. Yet, while acknowledging his “ignorance" on a crucial issue—human life—he does not hesitate, with a stroke of his pen, to pass a death warrant on millions of unborn babies.

 

A professed Christian should know the ABCs of Genesis.

 

In other words, horses reproduce horses; doves reproduce doves; elephants reproduce elephants; lilies produce lilies. The obvious conclusion is that human beings produce other human beings. Does Obama believe that when his wife conceived his daughters, for weeks—and possibly months—he did not know, or could not know, whether she was carrying a human being or a mere animal in her womb who, by some sort of magic (that is the proper word) suddenly became a human person? This defies all logic and proves that even this luminous science can be manipulated when it is politically convenient. Let Obama try to convince a peasant that it is impossible for him to know whether a pregnant bitch will give birth to a puppy or to a skunk. We would all love to see his facial expression.

 

Among moral obligations, there is a clear hierarchy: desirable as it is to fulfill them all in case of conflict, we should give precedence to the one that has more weight, and ask ourselves whether or not an action is irreparable or not. Death is an endpoint. An abortionist cannot bring back to life a dismembered little baby deprived of the very possibility to ask for mercy.

 

Many are those, alas, who would not agree with the judgment of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, namely that abortion is a crime of such dimension that it is today the evil par excellence—the cancer portending the demise of our society and threatening the very existence of humanity. All those who endorse this brutal and cruel murder of the innocents sign a death warrant on their home country. 

 

History teaches us that the most powerful empires were destroyed, not because of economic problems, but because of their moral decadence which, inevitably, triggered a whole gamut of "evils." Barbarians defeated the gigantic Roman empire armed with only pikes and clubs. The Romans had become so morally corrupt that the state was rotten to its very core. Every sin brings about its own punishment. May we learn from history. 

 

Officially the bishops of the Catholic Church are "pro-life." But we have reasons to fear that some of them voted for Obama—the most "pro-choice" candidate that has ever appeared on the American political scene.

 

This is profoundly saddening. How is it to be explained? The answer is simple: the Democratic party presents itself as the party of the poor, the disinherited, and the immigrants. It aims at "redistributing wealth," and promises to bridge the chasm separating the “haves” from the “have-nots.” There is something called "disgusting riches." If someone can spend $7,000 for a single night at the French Riviera—a sum of money that could save thousands of children in poor countries from starvation—one is nauseated, and is inclined to vote for a party that promises to correct these inequities. "Fetuses" are so tiny that they will probably either not suffer or suffer very little, some imagine. People fully developed who are sick or starving or both cry for immediate help. This is the big trump that "justified" abortion.

 

Interestingly enough, as reported by Fox News, statistics tell us that "conservatives" give a much greater amount of their revenues to charities than do "liberals." Our big-shot liberals are very tight-fisted when it comes to helping private charities. The word "tithe" is not in their vocabulary. It is such a comfortable feeling to know that “the state is taking care of everything.” But the true “social” spirit is revealed by those who give up "luxuries" (a cruise, a safari, a mink coat) to help those in need. 

 

Leaving aside the crucial question about whether the "new" agenda offered by our political messiah will succeed in saving the world from starvation (promises are easy to make, but hard to keep), we should keep in mind that the power given to an impersonal state will inevitably lead us straight to totalitarianism. We should now address the following ethical question: what is man's primary moral obligation? For centuries, the Ten Commandments were not only universally recognized, but moreover were politically endorsed in the public square. They were given to the Chosen People, but their message, being true, was meant for all people. Truth is never the property of an individual person or of a nation. In its very essence, truth is "catholic."

 

Today, clever "intellectuals" have succeeded in convincing people that the endorsement of the laws given to Moses on Mt. Sinai are sins against the "sacred" separation of Church and state (interpreted in their own fashion). Moreover, these Commandments are mostly "negative" in tone. Modern man wants a more "positive" approach to morality: a fight for social justice. Most commandments are "prohibitive" and negative: "Thou shalt not...” Is it not more uplifting to adopt a positive tone: "help your neighbor;" "feed the starving;" "educate the ignorant;" and "correct social injustices." "Modern man" is allergic to the word "don't." He has come of age. He should no longer be constantly told what he should do. He should follow his own conscience.

 

This rejection of what is "negative" rests on a pure equivocation. The modern allergy to the word "negative" explains the popularity of the slogan: "let us take a positive attitude." "Let us be constructive." This is something that will awaken people to the needs of others, instead of depressing them with endless prohibitions that clip the wings of the human soul.

 

In his book, The Devastated Vineyard, Dietrich von Hildebrand dedicated a whole chapter to this question. Following the lead of Cardinal Newman, he showed conclusively that to condemn an error is to simultaneously affirm a truth and vice-versa. What is willfully forgotten today is to live up to the profound words of St. Augustine: man's first obligation is to not commit moral evil, followed by the moral duty to cater as much as possible to morally relevant goods (City of God XIX, 14). 

 

The conclusion is clear: the United States, the most powerful country in the world as of today, is at a dangerous crossroads: truth versus relativism, the moral law as opposed to the "right to choose." If we do not "regress," one need not be a prophet to read the following words on the wall, “Mane Thecel Phares.” We all know the end of the story.

 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum (Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God).

©2019 by the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project.