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The Original Lie Behind Abortion

Rev. Frank A. Pavone

To say that only Christ in and through His Church can ultimately conquer abortion is not merely a pious platitude, nor is it a fancy way of saying, "Jesus, help us fight abortion." Rather, it is to say something about the very nature of Christ and the Church, and about the reasons why abortions continue at the alarming rate of 4000 a day in the United States alone.

Christ Undoes Satan's Works

There are many ways to express the purpose of Christ's mission in the world. St. John in his first letter sums it up by saying, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8). What "works of the devil" does Christ destroy? Christ Himself tells us that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). In one and the same breath, Our Lord calls the devil a liar and a murderer. Lies and murder go together. The only way abortion can continue on such a horrible scale is for it to be covered in lies, sugarcoated with denials and distortions of truth. Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). He is the way to salvation precisely because He is the Truth, shattering the devil's lies, and because He is the Life, undoing the devil's work of death.

A Liar and Murderer From the Beginning

We see the devil act in in character with lies and murder from the first pages of the Bible. Adam and Eve had been told they could eat of any tree in the garden except "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." "In the day that you eat of it," God warned them, "you shall die" (Gen 2:17). What is wrong with knowing good from evil? Aren't we supposed to know the difference between good and evil? Isn't that part of our religious and moral education? Don't so many problems come about when people do not know good from evil? Why, then, is this the one tree of which our first parents were not to eat?

The answer lies in the fact that the "knowledge of good and evil" here does not simply mean "knowing." It means that Adam and Eve would think they could decide the difference between good and evil, that they would be the ones to determine what was right and wrong, that they would be the norm of morality. This is the original temptation. "What's right and wrong for me is up to me... What's right and wrong for you is up to you... Do not impose your morality on me. . . I will create my own values... I am accountable to nobody but myself." In other words, it's all up to my own personal choice. The original sin is to put choice above goodness and truth, to abuse freedom by trying to create what is right rather than submit to it. In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth, August 6, 1993), Pope John Paul II comments on Genesis 2:16-17. "With this image, revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone. The man is certainly free... But his freedom is not unlimited: It must halt before the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," for it is called to accept the moral law given by God" (VS #35).

By rebelling against the truth of the moral law, we die. God had warned Adam and Eve they would die if they disobeyed. The devil had to lie to them to introduce death into the world. So the original liar approached the original woman and offered the original lie: "You certainly will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4-5). Eve bought the lie, as did Adam, and they committed the original sin. Death then entered the world, on the heels of a lie.

Babel: The Lie Continues

The original lie continued at the tower of Babel, in Babylon. It is noteworthy that "bab-ili" means "gate of the gods." Here again, humans tried to exalt themselves to the status of God. "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves" (Gen. 11:4). "Let us make," they said, forgetting that God is the one who said, "Let us make man" (Gen. 1:26).

Seeing their forgetfulness and pride, God said, "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them" (Gen. 11:6). God was not saying here that He felt threatened. He was saying that people who have bought the lie that they themselves are the norm of truth and goodness will think they can do anything, and in trying to do so, will only destroy themselves. The original lie perpetuated will only perpetuate death. It is His infinite mercy and love that move Him to say, "Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (Gen. 11:17). Better for them to be scattered by God's intervention than dashed on the rocks of their own pride! God confused the language only after the people had confused it first by speaking the lie that they could make a name for themselves, rather than submitting to the name (the truth) of God.

Babel Revisited in 1992

This lie continues in our day and, in fact, has become the official policy of America, according to the Supreme Court. In this decision on abortion, in which the error of Roe v. Wade was upheld, the Court stated, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992, [505 U.S.833,851]) This line is incredible! We cannot even decide the weather, and yet we are expected to define existence itself! We live in a universe we did not create, and yet we are declared to be the creators of that universe's meaning! We did not call ourselves into life, yet we have the liberty to define the meaning of life! Not only is this absurd, but it is frightfully familiar: "You shall be like God, knowing good and evil." "Let us make a name for ourselves." "The gate of the gods." Perhaps the Court's decision should be re-named "Eden and Babel Revisited."

Abortion Cloaked in Lies

The original lie leads to the ongoing slaughter of babies by abortion. The mother is told, "It's your choice. It's your freedom. It's your body. Nobody can impose their morality on you." It is the lie that choice prevails over life itself.

Abortion continues thanks to many other lies as well. Women are lied to about the nature of the developing baby and about the effects of the abortion procedure. Carol Everett, herself a victim of abortion and once an abortion provider, wrote, "Like many others, I bought the big lie: 'It is only a glob of tissue not a baby.' I was a victim of all the other lies: Abortion is all right. After all, I do them all the time. It will be so simple. It's only a glob of tissue. There's really nothing to the procedure; it will only take a little while and then everything will be fine. You can have the abortion on Friday morning and be back to work on Monday." (The Scarlet Lady, p.101 ). The workers at the abortion center were trained to give as little information as possible, so that women would not know the truth.

The Elliot Institute in Springfield, Illinois, does research on the effects of abortion on women, and collects case studies in which women describe what led them to abortion and what consequences followed. Case after case shows how they were victimized by lies and half-truths. The efforts made to initiate wide-spread abortion in America were marked by lies, as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League, readily admits. Now a strong advocate for the right to life, he writes, "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal?... It was always "5,000 to 10,000 a year." I confess that I knew the figures were totally false" (Aborting America, p.193). A growing number of former abortion providers in our country are coming forward to tell how they lied to women before abortions and covered up the tracks of botched abortions by falsifying medical records.

The lies continue and murder continues.

The Splendor of Truth

The solution demands that we lift high the truth. Truth is on the side of life. Truth and life go together. Let us proclaim the truth that the preborn child is a human person from the moment of conception; that love for the woman demands love for her child; that there are concrete, life-giving alternatives to abortion; that there are negative physical, psychological, and spiritual consequences of abortion; that choice never takes priority over life itself; and that freedom is found by submitting to the moral truth that comes from God rather than by trying to be God ourselves. Our Holy Father has provided the Church and the world with the bedrock foundation of moral sanity and salvation in documents such as The Splendor of Truth and The Gospel of Life. Christ provides us the only way of salvation namely, Himself, for He is truth and life.

Ultimately we save the world from the bondage of abortion and every other sin by lifting Christ high. "If you continue in my Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32).

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