Sunday, 29 January 2012

When is a Baby not a Baby?

When it’s a “product of conception”...

Saturday was the Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas and our Assistant Priest, the marvellously erudite but incredibly youthful looking Fr Aaron Spinelli (I just have to ask him what face cream he uses), gave us a good homily on Thomas and his lifelong quest for Truth. Truth, Fr Aaron reminded us, does exist in an absolute and objective sense and therefore it gives rise to certain laws.  These laws do not shackle us and restrict our freedom but, by illustrating to us the truth of our human nature and of creation, liberate us from searching down dark side paths and dismal dead ends for what will make us happy.  In short, they enable us to be fully who we are.  Let off from the burden of deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong and essentially “so”, we are released to live life to the full.  Our dignity lies in freely applying the rules of ethics to certain situations, not in making them up in the first place.  We were never designed to do the latter and we fall apart under the strain.  (In fact we’ve been falling apart ever since Adam and Eve ate that apple and sought their autonomy from God.)

One doesn’t have to have a religious faith to instinctively realise the above.  “Natural law”, as the Church calls it, means that the laws of Truth are written into our very natures, into the way our minds are structured, into the way we see the world. As Pope Benedict put it, "Human freedom is always a freedom shared with others. It is clear that the harmony of freedom can be found only in what is common to all: the truth of the human being, the fundamental message of being itself, exactly the lex naturalis” (address to the International Congress on Natural Moral Law in 2007). One of the tragedies of our modern world is that we are increasingly overriding that instinctive knowledge of truth in favour of a personal autonomy of conscience, causing an inner tension both within individuals and within society which is tearing us apart.  In the case of abortion, it is literally tearing us apart.

The video above is a brilliant take-off of the way we manipulate language in order to avoid the truth about human nature and ethics in the area of abortion.  I remember pouring over pregnancy books when expecting my first child and lapping up information like “Your baby now has a rudimentary nervous system”.  OK, it’s a baby then, but a few weeks later when it is fully formed with a beating heart and tiny, perfect fingers and toes, it can be a “product of conception” for the purposes of “terminating the pregnancy”.  Arnold Schwarzenegger did a lot of “terminating” in the films bearing a similar name and it wasn’t pretty.  People died.

Women who have abortions often do so in the face of much anguish and emotional pressure and in very difficult circumstances.  But here as in so many other situations, we do not help them by attempting to obfuscate the truth about what they are planning to do.  They will have to live for the rest of their lives with a knowledge, deep down and denied perhaps, that they have flown in the face of human nature and of right and wrong in what they have done. We are not freeing these women from a burden, but shackling them for life to a bigger one. If we act against the truth about ourselves and others, the outcome is never liberation.

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