A homily by Rev. Charles Samson, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Saint Ambrose Church
“Do not comport yourselves as the Gentiles do…but rather, be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
…or, if we had to update Paul’s language to contemporary English, he might say: “Do not think like the world does…but rather, be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
You might have taken note, online or elsewhere in the news, of the series of videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress, who has filmed various undercover ‘sting’ videos of Planned Parenthood doctors and executives both subtly and overtly admitting to their, by every indication so far, profiting from the sale of organs harvested from aborted fetuses—an illegal offense punishable in this country as a felony. Or, maybe you haven’t—many Catholics, even those passionate about the issue of abortion, simply haven’t taken the time to watch those videos or read commentary on them; others just don’t want to watch those videos; still others are perhaps too distracted—likely by the admittedly tragic plight of the (also admittedly) brutal killing of Cecil, the prized Zimbabwean lion, at the hands of an American dentist—to take any notice. No matter what category in which you find yourself, the message of today’s videos, taken within the context of today’s Mass, can serve as a good gut-check (or, rather, conscience-check) for us Catholics on a deeply troubling issue that has been placed, finally, in the forefront of a nation largely closed, since 1973, to any consideration of the rights of the over 60 million human beings killed since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in this country. Paul exhorts us today: do not think like the world does…but rather, be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Since we Catholics are big fans of litanies, I’ll structure my reflections along this line from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and in the form of a litany, stating first what the world—and, by this, I intend what St. John Paul II termed, early into his papacy, the “culture of death”—thinks, and then offering, for the formulation of your own opinion, a Catholic response to each. I use the word: “offering” and the phrase: “the formulation of your own opinion” deliberately—after all, the truth, the same John Paul II said, never imposes, but always rather proposes. I am not looking to force your hand or your conscience; I acknowledge and respect your moral freedom. But, as is part and parcel of the proclamation of truth (and of my duty as your spiritual father, entrusted with the welfare of your eternal souls), I will indeed seek to persuade your conscience—to inform it, so that you might be disposed and inclined to, if need be, reform it, according to the truth of the fundamental dignity of every human life, no matter its stage.
To start…1) The world says: a woman has the right to choose to do with her body whatever she wants to do. (As an aside, this reasoning, of course, seems to be the principle argument in favor of abortion)
-Science, on the other hand, says that the little ‘thing’ inside a pregnant woman is not a part of her own body; that little human being has a completely distinctive DNA complex which itself controls the growth of this new organism, which further doesn’t even receive its own blood from its mother. This apparent “woman’s right to do with her own body,” is an appeal which hence cannot, strictly speaking, apply to abortion, in which the life of a distinct human being, albeit dwelling within the woman, is suddenly taken away.
2) The world says: Roe v. Wade is a hallmark of justice.
-No, it’s not. If it’s a hallmark of anything, it is a hallmark of incoherence. An opinion piece from Saturday’s Washington Post astutely writes: “In 1973 the Supreme Court, simultaneously frivolous and arrogant, discovered constitutional significance in the fact that the number nine is divisible by three. It decreed that the status of pre-born human life changes with pregnancy’s trimesters. (What, though, would abortion law be if the number of months of gestation were a prime number — seven or 11?) The court followed this preposterous assertion with false humility, insisting it could not say when life begins. Then, swerving back to breathtaking vanity, it declared when ‘meaningful’ life begins: that is, ‘viability,’ when the fetus is ‘potentially able’ to survive outside the womb.” Dear Supreme Court of 1973, make up your arbitrary, waffling mind!
-Brothers and sisters, let’s be real: life begins at conception. And so, at conception, the new human being should be afforded all of the rights (even though it cannot yet carry out all of the obligations) of being human. Roe v. Wade absurdly stripped those rights from our smallest brothers and sisters, and so is absolutely unjust.
3) The world says: Planned Parenthood’s operations are a good thing, because they serve the purpose of advancing the field of research in seeking cures for diseases.
-No, they are not a good thing. A good end cannot justify an inherently wicked act, such as the act of aborting the life of an innocent human being. This applies especially in the case of partial birth abortion—which illegal (since 2007) procedure Planned Parenthood has been caught on video admitting to performing recently (and repeatedly). The partial birth abortion technique is that in which a near-term baby, while still inside his or her mother, is pulled by the legs out of the birth canal—but only up to the point in which the base of his skull is just exposed, so that the abortionist can “crush” (Dr. Nucatola’s words—video #1, while she chomps down at table on some lettuce and casually sips her red wine) it and remove its contents. Furthermore, and worse yet, in the words of the doctors in these videos, when it happens that a woman gives birth before they can get there to perform ‘the procedure’, they then (horrifically) carry it out anyway. You know what that means? That means that Planned Parenthood has been caught admitting to carrying out this “crunchy” (Dr. Mary Gatter—video #2) technique on a born baby lying in front of his or her own mother on the operating bench itself. That, brothers and sisters, is murder—unless you are one of the three Democratic senators who, during the 2007 debates on the legality of this procedure of partial birth abortion, were asked: “Suppose a baby’s head slips out of the birth canal—the baby is born—before the abortionist can kill it. Does the baby then have a right to live?” Two of the Democrats refused to answer; the third said the baby acquires a right to life when it leaves the hospital. Wow. Just, wow.
-Brothers and sisters, that is how the world thinks—that abortion in general, and even partial-birth abortion in particular, can not only be tolerated, but should also even be utilized for the sake of the good of seeking progress in the field of medicine, by means of the harvesting of the organs of aborted babies. That is not how a Christian, whose God—and whose sheer reason—commands “you shall not kill” an innocent man, should think; that is not how our Forefathers thought when they enshrined in the values of our nation that each person is endowed with three inalienable rights, the first of which being life. Such utilitarian thinking, on the part of Planned Parenthood, is the stuff of monsters.
4) The world says: well, you know what, abortion is legal and happens—so, what do we do with the remains of an aborted fetus? We might as well use their parts for science to seek cures for diseases.
-What do we do with the remains of an aborted child? Give them a proper burial, with the dignity and sanctity that each of us expects for our own future interment. That’s the humane thing to do.
5) Finally, the world says: we need Planned Parenthood.
-Frankly, no, we don’t. An article from the National Review registered, in 2010, numerous, country-wide alternatives to PP, including over 3,000 federally qualified health centers, over 2,000 health-department clinics, over 1,000 other low-income clinics, and over 600 hospitals—all of which offer far more services than Planned Parenthood ever has. We don’t need Planned Parenthood, at many of whose branches a woman cannot even receive a mammogram. And we taxpayers, especially Catholics, should not be forced to materially cooperate in Planned Parenthood’s evil—period.
In conclusion, though the world says that abortion is a women’s rights issue, or is about women’s healthcare, these appalling videos have opened our eyes, and should shock and disgust us enough to convince us that it’s not primarily (or, even, at all) an issue of the rights of a woman—rather, it’s an issue of the rights of an unborn child. Thanks to these videos, the conversation on abortion can never again be phrased exclusively, or even primarily, in terms of the woman-mother; the child at risk is now, finally, back in the forefront of the discussion—where he or she belongs.
To any those of you who, through (and despite, really) all of this, might still want to ‘stand with Planned Parenthood,’ I politely, respectfully, and urgently, invite you to reconsider—open your heart both to the truth of their largely wicked, and heinous, operations, and to the justice of the Catholic Church’s insistence on the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death. Inform (and perhaps awaken) your conscience, and like St. Paul exhorts us today: do not think like the world does, but rather be renewed in the spirit of your minds.
-Full transcripts (available in PDF)