The Guttmacher Institute reports that there is no longer any statistically significant difference between the abortion rate among professing Catholics and the abortion rate in the population at large. We can quibble over their definition of "Catholics" but intellectually honest clerics must also be disturbed by the fact that over half of "professing Catholics" voted for the pro-abortion candidate in the last presidential election. High levels of involvement in and support for abortion in the church mock Humane Vitae. What follows are practical suggestions to reduce the abortion rate among your parishioners, minister to parishioners wounded by abortion, and empower the church as a witness against abortion in the secular culture.
In 25th chapter of Matthew, Christ foretells His Second Coming and reveals that He will judge mankind on the basis of our individual willingness to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in strangers, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and visit those in prison. This list of obligations is representative rather than exhaustive and surely suggests a duty to care for children orphaned (Jeremiah 22:3) by parents who abandon them to abortion. If God hates the sacrifice of newborn children on the altar of Topheth (Jeremiah 7:24-31), will He be less angered by the sacrifice, on the altar of convenience, of a full-term fetus in the very process of being born? And if He cares about the fetus, can He be indifferent to the plight of the embryo? Which begs the question, are we taking child sacrifice as seriously as God takes it?
God said in Isaiah 59:15-16 that He " … looked and was displeased that there was no justice …. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene." Injustice displeases Him but ignored injustice leaves Him shocked and dismayed. Are we essentially ignoring this most appalling injustice? How are we to intervene?
Something as simple as placing a pro-life bumper-sticker on your car can save baby's lives. It not only changes the minds of some of the mothers who are contemplating abortion but it forces us to take a public stand. The cause of the unborn lacks credibility precisely because so few Catholics are willing to stand up and be counted as a witness against this terrible evil. The two primary reasons so many of us refuse to display bumper-stickers is that they make our cars ugly and they invite persecution. But shouldn't we care more about the life of a baby than the appearance of our cars? In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus said "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but in heaven …." And shouldn't we care more what people think of abortion than what they think of us? In Luke 6:26, Christ said "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you for their fathers did the same to the false prophets."
Another effective way to confront the culture of death is to ask your own doctor whether he performs abortions or refers patients for pregnancy termination. The advent of the RU-46 chemical abortion makes it even more essential that individual Catholics identify and boycott doctors involved in baby killing. For the convenience of patients who are forced to dump their doctors, the parish should maintain a directory of physicians who don't have blood on their hands. This "moment of truth" with your doctor can be awkward but Catholics who value etiquette above justice can not fairly call themselves pro-life. Now that we know a Chinese pharmaceutical firm is the mysterious manufacturer of the RU-484 abortion drug that will be used to kill babies in the US, a boycott of all products manufactured in China would send a powerful message to the Chinese government and every other pharmaceutical manufacturer that there will be a severe economic penalty imposed on any firm which enters the abortion fray.
Programs to ensure that prenatal development videos and graphic abortion videos are part of the CCD and parochial school curricula will help students better appreciate the humanity of the unborn child and the inhumanity of abortion. The written and spoken word are easily misunderstood and quickly forgotten but startling pictures are instantly comprehensible and linger forever in the human mind. We must stop merely stating conclusions to kids and start proving the facts which compel those conclusions. This is a highly visual generation and we must teach them that way. We ignore this fact to our and their enormous peril.
A recent CBS/New York Times poll suggests that public opinion on abortion is unlikely to change until people are convinced that the first trimester embryo and early fetus (when 90% of abortions are performed) are as fully entitled to rights of personhood as a late-term baby. (They are not "blobs of tissue.") They must also be convinced that a suction abortion is as indefensible an act of violence as a partial-birth abortion (It is not the "lesser of two evils.") Pictures are by far the most effective way of achieving these dual objectives. It is high irony that many Catholics work harder than Planned Parenthood to suppress the best evidence we have (horrifying pictures) that abortion is savagery. They then wonder why the culture isn't horrified by abortion. Parishioners won't be motivated to do much to stop abortion if they aren't horrified by it.
Ensuring emphasis on the church's teaching on sexual purity is another proactive way of addressing the fact that 4/5ths of all abortions are, according to the Centers For Disease Control, performed on single women. The obvious implication of this fact is that sex sin is the root cause of the vast majority of pregnancies terminated by induced abortion. (Priests who have been willing to show brief but graphic abortion videos -- e.g. Harder Truth -- during or immediately following Mass have probably changed more minds and saved more babies than all other pro-life acts combined. Children can be taken out of the Mass for the short time required to play the tape and sensitive viewers can be invited to avert their gaze. It is also useful to explain such clinically proven side-effects of abortion as its association with breast cancer, etc.).
Students should be urged to pray about vocations in full-time pro-life ministry. We are losing this struggle largely because most pro-abortion activists are full-time, paid staff, professionals. Most pro-life activists are part-time, amateur, volunteers. This means that we are unable to undertake the sophisticated, complex projects required to win this battle.
It is also important to help organize voter registration drives at the parish level. These should be followed by the distribution of voter education information. This means publishing and distributing pamphlets summarizing the positions of candidates on issues of interest to the church. A key follow-up aspect is working to get people to the polls after registering and educating them. This can best be accomplished by setting up phone banks to operate on election day.
Putting together a letter-writing committee can ensure that appropriate letters-to-the-editors of local newspapers are regularly submitted to reflect the pro-life prospective on current events. This same group can also express pro-life concerns to elected officials as needed. None of these activities will jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status if they are conducted in a non-partisan way.
The US Census Bureau reports that the current population of the country is about 276,000,000 people. At the time of the 1996 presidential election there were about 194,000,000 people of voting age. Only 65.9% of the voting age population (128,000,000 people) was registered to vote and only 54.2% of the voting age population (105,000,000 people) actually voted. It takes only half of this number or 53,000,000 people (plus one vote) to win a presidential election. About 40% of the voting age population is already at least nominally pro-life (Wirthlin research). Therefore, if we can change the minds of the additional 10% needed to reach that one half of the voting population, we can consistently elect pro-life candidates. That is an achievable goal.
For those who are reluctant to "politicize" the Gospel by associating the church with electoral activity, it should be borne in mind that throughout the Bible, God holds the governor accountable for the doing of justice. It was for this reason that He punished King Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:17-18), Pharaoh (Exodus 3:19, 14:28), King Jabin (Judges 4:3, 23-24), King Ahab (1 Kings 22:34, 37-38), King Herod (Luke 3:19-20 & Acts 12:21-23), etc. Because we are a self-governing nation, He will just as surely hold each of us just as accountable. If God's Word is a reliable guide, He cares greatly about justice as the first function of government.
Time volunteered at a pregnancy help center is also time well spent. These organizations need help with counseling, clerical support, fund-raising, medical services, etc. Professionals in the parish can also provide in-kind services to help with accounting, legal services and personal medical and dental care to underpaid center staff members.
Parishioners should also be encouraged to take pregnant, homeless teens into their own homes. Infertile couples might wish to consider the "adoption" and implantation of one of the large number of human embryos which are killed each year as "excess" and discarded. Disapproval of in vitro fertilization doesn't relieve us of our obligation to protect these tiniest of babies.
Gifts of financial support to pro-life organizations can also be funded by simply taking money which would have been spent on a Christmas present and donating it to pro-life work in the name of a friend or family member. There can be no better way of celebrating the birth of the Christ child than with a gift which saves the lives of children whose abortions would have denied them any birth at all. This gift-giving model de-commercializes Christmas by refocusing its observation on the most basic need of the most helpless children.
The same can be done with the remembrance of birthdays. Instead of trivializing the celebration of birth by offering a gift which the honoree may neither need nor even want, you can transform the event into a true celebration of life. The gift represents money you were going to spend anyway. But now the expenditure will be given real meaning.
Special emphasis needs to be placed on the healing power of Project Rachael as a means of restoring the huge and growing numbers of women and men who have been complicit in the death of a baby. But the concept of restitution should also be sensitively taught. In conclusion, here is what I mean.
During his college years, a friend of mine impregnated a coed whom he regarded to be little more than a casual acquaintance. Because she mistakenly imagined that he was taking their relationship as seriously as she, the young woman was devastated by his declaration that he would neither marry her, nor continue to see her, nor pay her a penny of child support. Adding insult to injury, he refused even to absorb the cost of the abortion to which he insisted she submit. He dismissively informed her that he would pay only half "her" abortion. She somehow managed to scrape together "her" share of the fee and much time passed before my friend’s guilt, born of an improbable conversion to Christianity, drove him to seek her out and beg her forgiveness.
In the intervening years, his new-found faith eventually led him even more improbably into pastoral ministry and as Providence would have it, an unwed member of his congregation soon conceived a pregnancy which she carried to term despite the desertion of the baby’s father. As my friend watched her struggle to raise the child alone, it suddenly occurred to him that his education, his income, his house, his car and every other material element of the comfortable life-style he now enjoyed was obtained, in some measure, at the expense of his baby's life. The abortion had relieved him of his obligation to pay child support -- a legal duty which could have spanned twenty-two years had his child grown up to go to college.
In addition to the time expenditure which child custody or visitation might have cost him, the size of the financial "bullet" my friend’s abortion had allowed him to dodge more nearly resembled an artillery round. According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the average child support obligation incurred over twenty-two years (assuming children’s continued dependency through college) totals $72,424. This figure may relate to more than one child but many men pay for more than one abortion. Is it any wonder that public opinion surveys identify young, single men as the most rabidly pro-abortion segment of the population?
My friend’s description of his sickening realization that he now had time and money he had killed to keep, reminded me of the desperate passage in Matthew 27:5. "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left." My friend had nowhere to hurl the blood money by which he was now tormented but he did try to make amends by persuading the single mother in his congregation to accept the support he could no longer contribute to his own aborted child. In this gesture of vicarious restitution, he began to find a measure of peace. And as he invested more of his late child’s time and money in a broader range of pro-life projects, this sense of release gradually deepened.
Black’s Law Dictionary, defines restitution as an equitable remedy pursuant to which:
A person who has been unjustly enriched at the expense of another is required . . . [to make good, indemnify or give equivalent for any loss, damage or injury he or she has caused another]. . . . The Federal Courts in many states have restitution programs under which the criminal offender is required to repay, as a condition of his sentence, the victim or society, in money or services [emphasis added].
Note that the obligation to pay "society" means that the death of one’s victim doesn’t relieve the perpetrator of his duty to pay a third party the money his victim can no longer accept. From a scriptural perspective, we are obviously not talking about the selling of indulgences but Ephesians 4:28 teaches that: "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful that he may have something to share with those in need."
According to Exodus 22:3, if he doesn’t have money, a thief must pay back time: "A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft."
Luke 19:1-10 goes beyond mere restitution in describing a tax collector named Zacchaeus who was so inspired by the presence of our Savior that he declared " . . . here and now I give half my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything I will pay back four times the amount." In first century Palestine, the title "tax collector" was virtually synonymous with the term "cheat." So the question for Zacchaeus was more likely to have been "how much" than "if" as regards his disgorging ill-gotten gain. Of special note was Christ’s response to the tax-collector’s promise to return quadruple the amount he owed in simple restitution. Jesus didn’t say "give back only that which you have wrongfully taken." With obvious approval of Zacchaeus’ extravagant generosity, our Lord said "Today salvation has come to this house . . . ."
The payment of interest on restitution finds its origins in Leviticus 6:1-5 where we read:
The Lord said to Moses: ‘If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do -- when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner...’
So powerful is restitution’s capacity to heal that Philemon 18 &19 even quotes the Apostle Paul offering to pay restitution for the wrong-doing of another: "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back..."
Many well-meaning Catholics leaders will be disturbed by a proposal that restitution be linked with abortion. They will think it insensitive or even cruel to preach any homily which heightens an abortion participant’s sense of guilt. But good intentions are perverting mercy. CDC reports that 45% of women who abort have already had one or more previous abortion. It is, therefore, post-abortive women who most need to feel appropriate guilt about abortion because they are at such high risk of aborting.
Abortion is sin. God forgives where we confess and repent. But obedience to His restitution commandment can speed healing. It dissipates the guilt that can linger even in the wake of forgiven sin. That’s what’s needed to heal the Body of Christ. That’s what’s needed to fund and staff a pro-life movement with the capacity to make short work of this hideous evil. The Bible says so. And though it will come as no surprise to people of genuine faith, my friend’s experience confirms that once again, the Bible prescription is correct.
Notwithstanding our noble rhetoric, abortion is happening with the permission of the church. God has given His people dominion over resources more than adequate to outlaw abortion in any 5 year period. That end is nowhere in sight because we are merely feeling pity for victims of abortion where we should also be showing pity.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebukes the religious leaders of His day as hypocrites for focusing on minor matters while ignoring what our Lord called the "weightier matters of the law." He went on to define those "weightier matters" as beginning with "justice and mercy." What could be less just than torturing unborn babies to death? What could be less merciful than the gap between Catholic rhetoric and Catholic behavior in defense of life?