Dear Friends in Christ:
This week, Monday, January 22, marks the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the United States. With these very words, some who were reading this letter stopped. They or maybe even you are thinking “Oh! Not that again!” Yes, THAT again. Please hear me out. Without a doubt, abortion has been one of the most divisive issues in American history and remains so today. Much will be said and many will celebrate while others lament that there has been a small shift in public opinion showing that more Americans are becoming pro-life. While that is good news to many, the bad news is that the nation remains divided on the issue and that most young people, including many Catholics, remain sadly in favor of legalized abortion. We have had 45 years of heated debate and rhetoric on the topic. Not all of the argumentation has been productive or helpful. Yet, we need to remember that one of the reasons for the intensity of the debate has been because the stakes are so high!
All of us at one time or another have participated in a discussion or argument that basically devolved into a position of “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up!” This is where one side basically declares that facts and reality are irrelevant and do not matter. What does matter, these folks assert, is something else that cannot be addressed with factual objective reality. More often than not, objective facts are dispensed with and are replaced by subjective feelings or opinions. This is where we are on the issue of abortion. The objective, demonstrable and undeniable fact is that every abortion ends a human life. In every abortion a human being is killed. In every abortion an expectant mother loses a child. This is not debatable. It doesn’t matter how you vote or what church you go to or don’t go to, how much money you make or where you went to school, or if you are a man or woman, young or old. Abortions end human life. Period.
So, if this is a fact, what are we debating about?
That is the question and what separates and divides people in regards to abortion. What happens essentially is that for those who are “pro-choice” there is another value they believe is greater and/or more important than human life. The most common value that is promoted and embraced by those who are “pro-choice” is that of personal autonomy and freedom. For many who are “pro-choice” this is seen as supreme. Reason and logic can demonstrably show that this value, which is a good, is actually a lesser good when compared to the dignity and value of human life. But again for most people who are “pro-choice” it is not about reason, logic or facts. It is about subjective values. In other words, it is about the self and not about the other. If it were simply a matter of facts or reason, then everyone would be “pro-life”. If it were simply a matter of faith, then no believing Catholic would ever have an abortion, support abortion or ever be “pro-choice”. So what can be done to change those who are “pro-choice” to become “pro-life”? This is the critical question. For us as Americans and as faithful Catholics to protect unborn children, end abortion and create a culture where all human life is respected and treated with dignity, we must work to change hearts. In a perfect world, we should not have to have laws prohibiting murder, but this is not a perfect world. We will do far more by changing hearts to see, love and value the other over ourselves. While ultimately Roe v. Wade must be overturned because it is an unjust law, the way we get there is not going to be merely by slugging it out in the courts, legislatures and voting booths. Changing the law without changing the culture and our values keeps us divided and diminishes us as a nation and as individuals.
Ultimately, it is not just about changing those who are “pro-choice” to “pro-life”. It is about everyone “loving others as you love yourself.”(Mk 12:31)
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately