Friday, January 21, 2011

January 22 The other day that lives forever in infamy


(The Supreme Court Decision which led to the

slaughter of 64,000,000 human beings.)

ALMIGHTY God, who hast created man in thine own image, who hast loved us even before thou formed us in the womb, Grant us courage fearlessly to bear witness to the sacredness of all human life, especially the life of the weak, the enfeebled and the unborn, and to make no peace with the culture of death. Bless with wisdom and courage all physicians and nurses that they may regard every human creature with due reverence. Guide and direct those who make law and public policy, that the rights of all persons may be upheld, most especially the right to life itself. Save thy Church from cowardice and compromise. And finally, we beseech thee, cleanse our world from the evils of abortion, euthanasia and suicide. All this we ask in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, in whom is life and whose life is the light of men. Amen.

(The above prayer was sent by Fr. Wells)


The following are excerpts from a sermon Archbishop Mark Haverland wrote for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The remarks about abortion are relevant on January 22.

Now, having heard me explain how Herod might have justified his action, do you see how easy it is to become a mass murderer? Do you see how plausible, smooth, and sensible it is to slip into killing, so long as it goes on outside our immediate sight? We can claim the greater good, we can even claim that in a sense it is good for those who die, that for the sake of peace or prosperity or the whole country some should die. It is sad. It is regrettable. But so long as we do not have to watch, some may be allowed to die.

And let us not dare become smug in this matter. The most civilized nation on earth -- the nation of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, the nation of Leibniz and Kant, the nation of Dürer and Matthias Grünewald -- put people into cattle cars and gas ovens. Our own nation averts its eyes as a million unborn children every year are -- regrettably, reluctantly -- killed. And we tolerate judges and politicians who tell us that this -- of course regrettable -- situation is necessary and that it is the economy that matters. I cannot see how they are any better than Herod, except that Herod has a bad press in the gospels. You may be sure that St. Matthew could never get a job with the New York Times.

The point of course in Herod’s day and ours is a failure of love -- a failure to love and honor God and our neighbor. Herod is frightened by a threat to his power, so he fails to honor the lives of Bethlehem's children as given by God, the Lord and Giver of life. He values many things, many of which are genuinely good and valuable; but he neglects the one thing needful. He is looking so hard after his kingdom that the kingdom of God passes him by. He is a realistic, this-worldly politician, whose name becomes a byword for murder and wickedness. He realistically struggles to keep the Romans at bay, but thirty years later Pontius Pilate is governor in Jerusalem. He struggles to preserve peace, and in the next generation peace is repeatedly shattered by rebellions and wars. His worldly wisdom is made foolish by the wisdom of God, and he is left with nothing but a bad name and failed policies.

And so it always is. When we fail in love and do not love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves, then everything we achieve and gain in our selfishness will turn to ashes and bitterness. If Herod had had a generous heart, opened to the possibility that God sought to work something great in Bethlehem, what might have been? We will never know, of course. But if Herod had sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, I am sure that he would not have lost in this world either. I have known women who have had abortions because, they tell me, in genuine agony, they just could not manage. I cannot greatly blame them, given the pressures they are subjected to and the circumstances that often cloud what should be clear.

But I believe that if we put God and his kingdom first, even -- no, especially -- in the awful circumstances in which we sometimes find ourselves, then God will open a way, that we cannot see in advance. For I also know people who have not failed in love, even in the most difficult of times, and who have lived to bless God for their choice. We all of us at times are little Herods. Sometimes we all do better. But let us always remember how easy it is to slip into Herod’s position and to justify to ourselves the greatest acts of selfishness. Let us in this joyful season think on these sad things as well. Let us open our hearts indeed to the Christ Child, whose face is that of all men and women, and whose face is especially that of the weak and the helpless -- the sick, the elderly, the unborn, the poor, and the lonely and unloved. Let us strive to be Christians in deed and not to fail in love.


Her Mother's Glory

For the third time I am posting this article from Touchstone, which has been reprinted in various pro-life journals and other publications since it first appeared seven years ago. It was at the request of David Mills that I made the effort to compose the only article that was ever difficult for me to write. And, I required the agreement of both my wife and my daughter, for reasons you will see. This pro-life testimony from our real life experience seems fitting right now.

“Her Mother?s Glory” first appeared in the January/February, 2004 issue of Touchstone.

Robert Hart on the Hardest of Abortion Cases

I promised myself that I would not be the stereotypical father of the bride, like Spencer Tracy, who hates to give away his little girl. But as I walked her down the aisle, and approached the moment she would become a full-grown, married lady, I felt everything I had determined not to feel. Very far from my mind was the story of her strange origins. It is always far from my mind, unless something reminds me of it, like the recent news from Poland.

The infamous abortion ship from Holland was daring to stop off a port in Poland in order to make its “services” available to Polish women who do not have “reproductive rights”—as the anti-life crowd call them—in their own country. Polish law restricts abortions to cases in which the mother’s life is threatened, to cases of incest, and to cases of rape. Compared to the ease with which most women in the Western world can obtain legal abortion for any reason, in fact for no reason at all, and at just about any time during pregnancy, Poland is better. But pro-life? No, sadly, no.

His Daughter Alone

Of my four children, my daughter alone is the one I adopted. I never exactly forget the fact; it simply passes out of conscious thought since it does not matter, for she is, in every way that counts, my daughter, my first child. Over the years, I have always felt what a father ought to feel.

When she was eleven, she suffered a staph infection, and Diane and I feared we would lose her. This was the second time in her short life that she was in danger of dying. The first time she was in danger she did not face an impersonal disease, but determined persons: when her mother had to fight against intruding social workers, and the whole system, for the right to make the choice that her baby would be born. After all, when a woman has been made pregnant through rape, it is not only her right, but her duty, to do the “honorable thing.” At least, so it seemed from all the pressure put on her in those months. She was upsetting the expectations and demands that “liberated” women have no right to upset. She was refusing the “sacrament” of abortion.

What a terrible thing she did. For a woman to bear a child when abortion seemed so justified, so necessary, when the pregnancy was the result of rape—well, it was certainly anti-social behavior. She was coerced into seeing a psychiatrist who could help her overcome the obvious defect known to Christians as principle. He might even have cured her of maternal instinct and the malady called love.

But all those years ago I knew nothing of what had happened, only that she was suddenly gone, nowhere to be found. Why had this girl vanished from our hometown in Maryland without a trace? When I discovered her whereabouts, 3,000 miles away in California, I hastened to call her. I had expected, had hoped, to have seen her in those months. “I have a baby girl,” she told me.

“Are you married?”


“I see. Well, as a Christian I hope you have repented of . . .”

“Well, it was from rape, actually.”

I found that she would not put up her child for adoption. She was willing to live as a single mother because she could not be sure that a couple would raise her child to believe in Jesus Christ. She decided to keep the baby; and God rewarded her by giving her a wonderful, not to mention dashingly handsome, husband.

Convoluted Reasoning

I never think of my daughter’s origins and the strange circumstances of her early life unless something brings them to mind; for example, the disappointing remarks of a “conservative” radio talk-show host. This fellow talks a lot about his Catholic faith and Irish heritage, so it was with some astonishment that I heard him defending his view that abortion in cases of rape may be justified. “After all,” he pointed out, “it’s not the same as when it’s someone’s fault that she is pregnant. I just think it’s different.” He certainly did not get this idea from the Catholic Church.

I remembered back over twenty years ago hearing the same convoluted reasoning from Christians, some Catholic, some Evangelical. I recall a very Evangelical and Charismatic lady asking me, “But if it was rape, why didn’t she get an abortion?” I thought about the king of Judah, the one who would not execute the sons of his father’s assassins because of the Law of God, which says “the children shall not be put to death for the sins of the fathers, nor the fathers for the sins of the children” (2 Chronicles 25:4; Deuteronomy 24:16).

Where did the “conservative” radio talk-show host get the idea that pregnancy is a penalty? If it is a penalty, it might be unjust for the innocent to bear it. But what if it is not a penalty? What if it is the healing that God might give to a woman who has suffered a violent attack? What if the Author of Life takes the opportunity to do good from someone’s evil? The injustice done to Joseph resulted in the saving of his life, and that of millions of people, foreshadowing the good done for the whole world by the unjust crucifixion of a young rabbi from Nazareth. It is ever the way of God to make good come from the evil that men do.

Just who is it that these well-meaning people, such as the very Charismatic lady and the talk-show host, would sentence to death?

I remember the very wide eyes of a ten-month-old baby girl looking up at me, having just arrived by plane from California with her mother. I remember her first steps across my parents’ living-room floor. After her mother and I were married, I remember the first Christmas in our apartment, and her excitement at the wonder of a lit and decorated tree. She had names for us from Winnie the Pooh. I was Pooh, she was Piglet, and as she looked at her mom, now pregnant with the first of our three sons, she said, “And mom’s the kangaroo.”

Her very first day of school I remember watching her bravely walking into the classroom, as a lady laughed at the sight of my perplexity—a feeling of mingled loss and pride that was small compared to what I felt when I gave her in marriage to a fine young man. I remember her saying to him, “I will,” and pledging her life not only to him but also to any children they are blessed with, and to God who blesses them.

She is a young lady who spreads joy wherever she goes. She has a place in the lives of many, not only her new husband, her parents, and her brothers, but many who know her well, and many who have met her in passing—a unique place that no one else could fill. She is happy by nature at 23 (update 2011: this year she will be 30, and the mother of two sons so far), married, an avid reader, a good friend, a serious Christian. This is the person that these well-meaning people were willing to sentence to death. Oh, not now, not when they can see her; but when she was in danger the first time, in the womb and hidden from view.

Enough for Her

My wife is not living the life of a tragic victim. She is the happy mother of four children, and would not wish to part with any of them. My daughter learned of her origin after she was over twenty years of age and it became obvious that the truth could not be hidden without confusion. Someone had taken pictures of her as a three-year-old, at the wedding of her parents. I had been warned, “Never tell her, it would devastate her to know.”

Not so. Rather, the mystery was unsettling, and the truth was welcome. You see, it did not matter. She had always known that God is the Author of Life—all life. Every human being is made in his image, and that means everything when a child is raised to understand that the image of God became more than an abstract idea in Hebrew Scripture when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And it was enough for her that she has a mother and a father who love her.

For both Diane and me, the details of our daughter’s early life and strange origins are very much out of mind, far from conscious thought. That is, unless something brings them to mind, such as realizing that it is time to tell our story for the benefit of others who are caught in what seem like desperate circumstances, and who need the courage to make the decision to let the Author of Life do his healing and creative work, bringing light out of darkness and good out of evil: who need to make the decision of love.


Finally, for those who can endure it, we will provide a link to a video by Eduardo Verastegui. It is not suitable for young children, and may be too much for some of you, because it shows the terrible violent truth of abortion. We make it available, but be warned.

Eduardo Verastegui's pro-life video

O God, according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die. (Ps. 79:11)

Open thy mouth for the speechless in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. (Prov. 31:8)


Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart,

I have known two women who, having been the victims of rape, chose to bear the children that resulted from it. The first give up the child because she came from a poor Irish family and her rapist was black. The other effect of the attack kept her from marrying until it was too lake to have another child, but that marriage turned out to be a very happy one until her husband died of cancer. A few years later she also came down with cancer and by that time she had, she thought, no living relatives to help her through her last days. But then the daughter she had chosen to bear rather than to abort appeared and cared for the mother who had chosen not to kill her for something of which she was not guilty. Moreover she seemed wonderfully grateful for the opportunity to do so.

The other chose to bear and keep the child, a son, although it contributed to the dissolution of an already shaky marriage. But the family into which he was born, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins included took him into their hearts and lives as if there was no difference between he and his older sister. The result has been an extraordinary life which has brought especial joy to his mother.

We are told in the book of Jeremiah to "choose life," and these two stories with the addition of your own are more than enough to convince me of the eternal wisdom of such a choice.

Sandra Keeney said...

May I publish Fr. Wells prayer on Facebook.
Thank you.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am sure Fr. Wells would like as many people to be using that prayer, or one to the same effect, as possible.