Being Hard On Joe
By Fr. Frank A. Pavone
How many people in our congregation today are named Joe? What if you heard that a new
law were passed that said that anyone named Joe could be legally put to death? What would
you say or do? Certainly, you would protest the "law" and say it was wrong. What
about those who are not "Joes?" Wouldn't you also protest? Wouldn't we all come
together at once to restore legal protection to all Joes? We could certainly say that this
new law was against the Constitution, which claims to protect the rights of every person.
But suppose that even the Constitution were changed to say that it's OK to kill Joe. Would
we then say it was really OK? No, it would still be wrong.
In other words, there is a right and a wrong NO MATTER WHAT the laws or even the
Constitution says! Every law must obey a Higher Law that is written not on paper but on
our hearts, not by people but by God. That Higher Law says that every human person no
matter what his/her background or condition, has the right to life. We may never kill an
innocent person. Our very civilization rests on this truth. It is the difference between
civilization and the jungle, between society and chaos. It is what assures us that we can
walk by the next person and expect to survive the experience. It is not a question of
"our" morality or "their" morality, of "old" morality or
"new" morality, but rather of morality itself! Killing the innocent is wrong,
and no law or Constitution can ever make it right.
The imaginary story about the "Joes" is not as imaginary as we think. Just
change the word "Joe" to "Jew," and we have what happened in Nazi
Germany. The power of the State under Hitler declared that these human beings were not
persons and therefore could be killed. Those who were involved in these atrocities were
eventually tried before an international court at Nuremberg and convicted of crimes
against humanity. Laws must obey the Higher Law.
Then again, change the word "Joe" to "slave," and you will see the
same mistake occurring in America in the last century. The Supreme court in 1857 said that
these people were not really full "persons," and could therefore be treated like
property. It took a Civil War and an amendment to the Constitution to correct that
Brothers and sisters, we are making the same mistake again today. We are again falling
into the error of saying that some human beings are not persons. Just change the word
"Joe" to "pre-born baby" and look at what the Supreme Court said on
January 22, 1973: Boys and girls in their mother' wombs are not considered persons under
the law, and therefore may be destroyed by abortion. The numbers of babies lost by this
mistake are far greater than those lost under Hitler. Some 1.6 million a year are
destroyed by abortion.
A woman who was beyond childbearing years recently said to a priest who had spoken
about abortion, "Oh, we don't have to be concerned about that." Evidently, she
felt that only pregnant women have to be concerned about the abortion issue.
Does she perhaps consider that the baby has to be concerned about it, too? And what
about the other members of society? Are we to say "It is no concern of mine"
just because we are neither an unborn baby nor his/her mother? That is like a free man
saying, "Slaves are no concern of mine," or a German saying, "Jews are no
concern of mine." If we are decent, caring members of a civilized society, then
anyone who suffers in that society is our concern! The more defenseless the victim is, the
stronger is our obligation toward him/her. The pre-born baby is certainly the most
defenseless of all victims.
We need to realize that whenever one innocent person is deliberately killed, all of
human society is attacked. When the child is a victim of abortion, we are all victims,
because our life is protected by the same principle that should protect the child's life.
That principle is that life is a gift of God. It is given by God and can be taken only by
God. If we start taking the lives of one another, then nobody is safe. If society
tolerates the killing of one group of human beings, what is to keep it from moving on to
another group? Once killing gets in the door, it ravages the entire house. If you can kill
an innocent, unwanted child, then why can't you kill an innocent, unwanted grandparent, or
an innocent, unwanted neighbor?... And what is to keep the neighbor from killing innocent,
Either the right to life belongs to all, or it belongs to none. No government has the
right to limit it and say it belongs only to some. Our rights do not come from
governments; they come from God. Even our Declaration of Independence states that
"All men are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights. . . Among
these are life. . . " The Creator gives the right to life. It is
"inalienable;" that is, it cannot be taken away. Governments exist to protect
The current laws on abortion, therefore, are seriously wrong. EVERY human being is a
person. You cannot exclude slaves, or Jews, or pre-born babies. The babies destroyed by
abortion are our brothers and sisters, and we have a duty to speak up for them! Abortion
is our concern, because we care for the weak and defenseless. Abortion is our concern
because we care for the mother and want to offer her the support and help she needs to
bear that child and, after birth, to either raise him/her or place him/her for adoption.
To say that women "need" abortion is to insult them, and abandon them. It is
also to repeat again an old error of history. It is to say to countless children,
"You don't matter. I am not responsible for you."
Today, let us renew our love for life. Let us renew our sense of responsibility for all
human beings and our determination to protect their rights. Let us work so that the laws
of our nation may obey the Higher Law of God! God is the Giver of Life, and He will give
us strength to protect and defend it!