The nation will pause again on Monday, September 11, to recall an event that is hard to forget. Five years ago, on that day, we saw a manifestation of evil that was shocking and sobering, as terrorists attacked New York and Washington, DC.
I was in New York City that day. As we had our Priests for Life staff briefing, we could see the smoke start arising from lower Manhattan before we knew what it was. And the morning turned into night. As we had Mass later that morning, I could see the smoke of the already collapsed towers in the same line of sight as the Body of Christ. “This is my body, given up for you.”
To this day, as I walk out the front door of our New York office, that morning comes to mind. And I’m glad it does. I don’t want to forget it. I want it to continue to urge me on in my daily work in defense of human life.
What, after all, was the evil of September 11? Was it that lives were lost and buildings destroyed? An earthquake or tidal wave could have caused the same damage, but in those cases we would not have called it terrorism. It just would not have been the same as the evil of September 11.
What was it that constituted the specific evil of September 11? It was that some human beings had no regard for the right to life of other human beings. That makes the events of that day more profoundly disturbing than “loss” or “tragedy”; that’s what makes them “evil.”
Yet is this evil any less if the victims are five inches tall instead of five feet tall, or if the instruments of killing are surgical forceps rather than airplanes? The evil we fight when we oppose terrorism is merely a reflection of the evil we do. Every day, from coast to coast, our nation’s abortion clinics carry out the same evil. Some human beings disregard the right to life of other human beings.
Another chilling parallel is that both terrorism and abortion are often rationalized with religious language. In both cases, it is a perversion of true religion. Muslim extremists distort their religion by killing the innocent in the name of God. And the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) distorts Christianity by calling abortion a “holy choice” and by having liturgies honoring that choice. In my capacity as President of the National Pro-life Religious Council, I oversaw a project by which we exposed the extremism of this group through a book called “Holy Abortion?” In RCRC’s publication “Prayerfully Pro-Choice: Resources for Worship,” we read, “The choice that (Name) and (Name) have made is also a sacred choice, a choice for coherence and responsibility in life” (p. 87).
And so September 11 comes again. I’ll walk out the front door of my office. I’ll think back five years. Then I’ll think of the nearest abortion clinic. And I’ll resolve to work all the harder.