The New Frontier of Freedom


Deacon Keith Fournier

  "To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom..." Pope John Paul II ("The Gospel of Life," No. 20) Several years ago, a University of Chicago economist and a Stanford University law professor released the results of a study entitled "Legalized Abortion and Crime." It made the front page of a number of national newspapers. Its claim was that legal abortion had lowered the crime rate by eliminating many of the potential criminals. This allegedly "scientific" research with the attendant "statistics" it relied upon, was accompanied by a feigned "neutrality" claimed by its authors in reference to the most important human rights issue of our age, our continued abuse of children in their first home, their mother's womb. They purported to have no position regarding legalized abortion on demand, which is the current public policy of our nation. This kind of anti-human thinking has continually reared its ugly head throughout our common history on this planet. For example, Thomas Robert Malthus, a British intellectual, opined over two hundred years ago in his infamous "An Essay on the Principle of Population" that we would all be starving by now and that "population control" was the only "solution" to avoid some global cataclysm. This newer study from Chicago and Stanford, "esteemed" citadels of "learning" in the current academic culture, was heralded by new "Malthusians" and the various social engineers of our age as a "scientific" framework for social planning. The truth of the matter is that they are simply carrying on another form of anti-human utilitarianism in the name of "progress." The claim of Malthus has been proven to be absolutely wrong. In our day, entire nations and cultures actually face the opposite problem. They face potential extinction if their declining birth rates continue. We are actually living in a negative population phase of human history. Tragically, hunger still continues in our midst. However, it is not now, nor has it ever been, because there are too many of us. Rather, the very existence of hunger is one more horrible evidence of the reality of something we Christians call sin. It is the wrong choice, the wrong exercise of our human freedom. In fact, we have redefined freedom. We have detached freedom from its moral constitution and have become slaves to our own excess. Truth must always govern our exercise of freedom if it is to be authentic. The current global hunger problem is actually a distribution problem - not a people problem! With our extraordinary technological advances and advanced transportation capabilities, we actually have within our means the potential to alleviate much suffering! However, in our idolatry of self and our misunderstood notions of freedom, we have lost the bedrock civilizing principle of solidarity in our national and international relations. We have forgotten that we are "our brother’s keeper." This academic study was not the first time in the name of "science" (while using the language of verbal engineering) that intellectual elites have laid the groundwork for a eugenics movement. In pre-World War II Germany, Dr. Karl Binding, a law professor and one of Europe’s foremost authorities on criminal law, and Dr. Alfred Hoche, a distinguished psychiatrist and professor of medicine, laid out the results of their "study" in two companion essays entitled "Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life." Hoche proclaimed that ".....a new age will arrive --- operating with a higher morality and with great sacrifice --- which will give up the requirement of an exaggerated humanism and overvaluation of mere human existence." Most now agree that this team of intellectual elites laid the framework for the eugenics program of the National Socialist regime before the arrogant megalomania of a Fuhrer even arrived on the scene. It was this "scientific" study that coined the term "useless eaters" and ascribed some human beings to the status of property. Several years after reading of this study from Chicago and Stanford, as I again reflect on its audacity, I am struck by its profanely consistent logic. "Come now," some would say, "we have learned the lessons of history. After all, this is only a study and it was certainly not being proposed as a justification for eugenic abortion." Have we? The rationale of this study it is cut from the very same root as the "logic" of Hoche and Binding. It is only one more brick in the wall of defense built by those that have followed the siren song of the contemporary champions of unbridled "choice" as the "right" to do whatever we please. It presents a view of human freedom as a raw power over others, especially the weak and vulnerable. It is one more bad fruit from a poisoned tree. The purported "statistics", clothed in the claims of "science" simply provide numbers for one more chart to be used to support the "death on demand" policy that has resulted from the contemporary drama of atheistic materialism. It is simply one more byproduct of the idolatry of self and culture of use that has seduced so many of our age and produced an environment wherein human persons are treated as products and commodities. Eugenic abortion has already been secured by our national public policy and jurisprudence. It is sanctioned by law --- called a "right", even though it is wrong. This study acknowledged the disproportionate number of abortions in poor and minority communities. However, it then provided more fodder for the new eugenicists, such as the Guttmacher Institute, which heralded its findings and leads the way in promoting the very social ills they purport to remedy. Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood, a convinced eugenicist and racist, would have been proud. Her followers seem to be. Their strategy of using words such as "freedom" and "choice" to hide a new barbarism behind a veneer of civility has, at least for now, won the day. In his prophetic encyclical, "The Gospel of Life," John Paul II speaks truth to what he rightly called this "perverse idea of freedom" and reaffirms the "essential link" between freedom and truth. In "The Splendor of Truth," another prophetic encyclical, he encouraged all those who truly cherish authentic human freedom to effective action by reminding us that "freedom itself needs to be set free." In an age that trumpets an unfettered "freedom of choice" as the highest value, we must again proclaim the essential connection between freedom, truth and responsibility. We may be free to choose, but we are not free to make the objects of our choice right or wrong, good or evil. We must become the pioneers who pave the way to the new frontiers of freedom. The substitution of license for liberty is exactly what John Paul warned of when he wrote of "a notion of freedom, which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them." It has, as the prophet in the chair of Peter warned, resulted from the "eclipse of the sense of God and of man typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism." When a nation loses its conviction that the right to life is inalienable and that the dignity of every human person is the foundation of any notion of authentic human freedom, it loses freedom itself. It kills it --- in the womb --- or at the bedside of the suffering. Oh, it may continue to mouth the word, and even develop a certain veneer of compassion, and language of "tolerance" behind which it hides its own barbarism. Fortunately, the Lord, in the words of the Psalmist David, still "hears the cry of the poor." In the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the God of the whole universe took up residence in a womb and He died on an instrument of torture reserved only for the worst of criminals. From His wounded side, He birthed a new creation, which, clothed with the same power that raised His glorified Body from the tomb, now must open the path to the recovery of authentic freedom for contemporary humankind. This Body, His Church, has always had as a part of her saving mission to speak truth to unbridled power and, in so doing, to expose the lies of the "cultures of death" throughout the last two thousand years. She must do so now at the dawn of the Third Millennium. Sometimes, just when the darkness looks like it will surely sweep the truth away, the Church, through her members seems to lead the way to a rebirth of truth, life and authentic freedom. So may it be in our age. As we participate in this mission of the Church in the third Christian millennium, the task and work of restoring freedom has passed to us. In a particular way, it has fallen to Catholic Christians. We have been given the treasury of truth through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That treasury includes a treasure that for too long has been hidden in a field, the social teaching of that Church. The scriptural adage makes it so clear that "to those to whom much is given, much more will be required." This treasury has not been given so that we can retreat from this culture, but rather, so that we can transform it from within, elevate it as leaven raises the proverbial loaf, humanize it, civilize it and point it toward that which every human person longs for, authentic freedom. We Catholic Christians must never see ourselves as a beleaguered "victim" group and simply protect ourselves. We must live redemptively, carrying forward in time the ongoing work of the Redeemer whom we follow. We carry on the redemptive mission of the Author of life and the One who is Truth. He still hears the cry of the poor and He expects that we will be His hands to protect them, lift them up, and to provide freedom to the captives and a voice to those who have none. It is time to "set freedom free" and proclaim liberty to the captives, at every age and stage of the spectrum of life. It is time to help build a new and authentic public philosophy that reclaims the word "freedom" and once again positions it within the framework of truth, solidarity, charity and human dignity. It is time to push forward, building the new frontier of freedom.