I Would Bury Him

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  9/28/1998
 

A question that haunts many people about abortion is "What do they do with the bodies?" Stories continue to surface of people finding bodies of aborted babies in the trash, and many will recall the incident in the early 80's of the 16,500 bodies discovered in a large receptacle in Southern California. Meanwhile, it is well known that abortionist George Tiller has a crematorium in his facility in Wichita. Luhra Tivis, who once worked there, says in her testimony, "I could smell the babies burning."

In an abortion debate held in Italy some years ago, a pro-abortion leader challenged a Catholic opponent, "If you really believe these fetuses are persons, why doesn't the Church bury them?"

Glad you asked.

The fact is, we do. And there is a growing movement to make the proper and dignified burial of aborted children more widely known and practiced. I recently had a priest visit me in my office at the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome. He has an association in Italy which works to lawfully obtain fetuses that have been aborted or miscarried and give them ceremonial burial.

This practice is, of course, one of the corporal works of mercy, to bury the dead. The Book of Tobit contains the touching story of how Tobit would bury the dead at great sacrifice to himself. "If I saw one of my people who had died and been thrown outside the walls of Nineveh, I would bury him. I also buried anyone whom Sennacherib slew….In his rage he killed many Israelites, but I used to take their bodies by stealth and bury them"(Tob.1:18).

We understand the importance of treating the body with respect when we reflect that the human person is not merely a soul that "uses" a body, but is just as much a body as a soul. The body is not a thing I use. The body is personal, an aspect of "me." The body of the Christian, furthermore, becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.6:19) and, through union with the very flesh of Christ in the Eucharist, is destined for Resurrection (Jn.6:54; see also Rom. 8:11).

In the case of the 16,500 bodies found…the pro-abortion crowd fought hard for three years to prevent their proper burial. That would concede too much, they said. That would be too strong a sign that they are human.

If respect for the human body grows, tolerance of abortion will decrease. Let us pray for the success of movements of mercy like that in Italy which buries the babies that others rejected. Let us continue, in discussion and action, to raise the critical issue of what happens to the bodies. Let us continue, as the People of God, to proclaim that in every precious child's body, we have another manifestation of the glory of God Himself.