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Bloodguilt

Culpa homicida

 

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life

March 25, 2002

   
   

Deuteronomy 21:1-9 describes a ritual that God's people had to carry out whenever anyone was found slain and it was not known who did the killing. Scripture reads, "[Y]our elders and your judges shall come forth, and they shall measure the distance to the cities which are around him that is slain" (v.2). Those from the nearest city then needed to sacrifice a heifer, and their elders were to pray these words: "Our hands did not shed this blood, neither did our eyes see it shed. Forgive, O Lord, thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and set not the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of thy people Israel; but let the guilt of blood be forgiven them" (v.8).


What is happening here? Obviously, when innocent blood is shed, something happens in the land; something happens to the people in the land in their relationship to God, even if they are not the ones who shed the blood. As the account of the first murder makes clear, the innocent, though slain, still speak. "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground" (Gen. 4:10).


The people of God are bound up in an inescapable mutuality, a responsibility for one another that transcends their own choosing. We see again, in Isaiah 1:10-20, that God tells His people "Your hands are full of blood" (v. 15). They were not doing the killing, but because the killing was occurring in their midst, they had a responsibility to intervene. Hence the passage continues with the instructions, "Seek justice, correct oppression" (v.17).


What of us? Our land is polluted with the innocent blood of tens of millions of aborted children. Is it enough in the sight of God that we ourselves have not done the killing? Scripture says this is not enough. We know where the killing is occurring, we know how, and we know who is doing it. Abortion is publicly advertised and advocated. Because it occurs in our midst, we are inescapably involved.


What, then, are we to do? We are to repent. We need to see abortion not just as somebody else's sin, but as our sin. Even if we have never participated in an abortion, we must ask forgiveness for it. It is easy to blame abortion on those who do it and support it. But we must also blame ourselves. This is a spiritual dynamic which has to undergird all of our other activities to end abortion. Usually, people think that the spiritual thing to do about abortion is to "pray." Truly, we must pray. But first and foremost we are called to repent, to take responsibility for the innocent blood that has been shed, and then to intervene to save the helpless.


Fortunately, the blood of another innocent victim also speaks. Jesus' blood "speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:24). Let us repent of abortion, wash ourselves in Jesus' blood, and get to work defending the innocent.

   
 
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