I am opposed to the travelling photo-mural exhibit which compares abortion to historically recognized forms of genocide. Although it is a moot point as to whether or not we are dealing with genocide, and I think not, that is not the core reason for my opposition.
In the encyclical, the Gospel of Life, John Paul II began by quoting Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 27:
“... Whatever is opposed to life itself such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.”
There are certain unchanging principles of right action which form the bedrock of moral action, e.g. “Do good and avoid evil” and “You may not do wrong in order to achieve something good. ”
Where people do not accept principles of this sort, there is social anarchy, Without such a basic understanding, the moral life is impossible. Such principles arise from a consideration of the conditions of human growth and fulfilment. Evil should not be countered, nor compounded, by further evil actions.
Poisoning babies in the womb with a saline solution or cutting them up with surgical tools is a heinous act. The magnification and subsequent portrayal of the body parts on the side of moving trucks further violates the human dignity of aborted children, denies human remains the respect that inherently must be accorded them, and reduces them to things, albeit, for an arguably good reason. The end, however, does not justify the means.
The in-your-face approach and the usage of such pictures on the sides of trucks as billboards is irresponsible and does not take into account the harm that may be done by inducing post traumatic distress to women who have had abortions. Nor do such measures provide the support and counselling needed to women (and men) in such instances.
In no way may these pictures be construed as healing, nor can the project be described as “tough love.” This is not Gospel pedagogy. The personal testimonies of three women, taken from letters prompted by the billboard trucks, eloquently point out why.
Letter #1 - I had a problem coming out of the anesthesia; I probably didn’t want to wake up, because my heart died on the table with that baby, .... I chose my boyfriend over my baby...
What a bleak, dead, numb, empty feeling I had, I will never forget it, in fact just writing this memoir has brought the feelings back, the pain the suffering, the guilt, the sadness, it’s all back, just as it was that afternoon in the car, even the tears. You see, it never goes away; it just buries itself inside for a while, but it’s always there just below the surface, just sitting there, like an abyss ready to swallow me up.
What the signs say to me is; Look what you did! They are hostile not gentle .....
You can’t feel my pain, but you can cause me more, why do it? Why not try the compassion, the love, the kindness. I assure you it will work much better. Why not show babies in the womb, 3-D ultra sounds, why not pamphlets informing people that at ten days the baby’s heart starts to beat?
Ask yourself a few questions: Is this the way Jesus would go about it?
If you were about to have an abortion, would you walk up to someone standing near hostile, violent, exploitive pictures?
Why not just do your work with love, softness and compassion, the way Jesus would?
Letter # 2 - “This does not only effect the mother, but also grandparents, aunts and uncles, fathers, etc. With the great numbers of abortions performed each year, these pictures will hurt many, many people.
This kind of approach is judgmental, yes abortion is wrong, I know that first hand, but placing people in the groups of the good guys against the bad guys is not the way to go about it.
Letter # 3- “My children are not objects and their death is not something to be displayed.
Instead of displaying pictures of dismembered aborted fetuses’, display the laughter and smile of all children....
I would advocate that to picture a family with the loss of a child as a shaded child in the background with the words, “What is missing” would be as effective in delivery of the message of the impacts of abortion on individuals, families, our community and our society. Taking a playground full of children and then removing those that have been aborted also brings a strong message of what is truly lost. A picture of a playground with no children would also speak volumes of what the loss is. Combine this with the cries of a newborn child, the joy of watching a child take it’s first steps, a line of little people holding onto their partner and a rope as they journey to an excursion from their daycare, ...... The celebration of the images of life and living are all that is needed to render images of loss
A life is not shown in the image of death, life is lived in the images of living…day by day.”
Life is the most precious gift that is given to us on this earth, and it is our duty to love it, respect it and keep it from harm. The gospel of life enjoins us to respect life both in the thousand and one things we do each day and in important family, political and legal decisions.
September 4, 2007
✠ F. B. Henry
23 March 2011
Not the Gospel of Life
Bishop Fred B. Henry of Calgary, Alberta graciously gave me permission to post this article on my website as it doesn't appear to be anywhere else on the internet.