Tag Archives: abortion

Hearts wounded by love: The Sacred Heart, fathers, and abortion

In June, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Christ extends to us His flaming heart that has been lanced and pierced with thorns. It is a suffering heart. Christ loves us by saving our lives in exchange for His life. We, as the body of Christ, are called to do the same.

Fr. Frank Pavone

One way this love is embodied is in pro-life work. It is a work of self-giving love for children in the womb who don’t even know we are loving them. It is a lifesaving work that comes with a cost. The crown of thorns on the heart and the piercing with the lance symbolize the suffering that all those who defend the unborn will undergo; defend the unborn and you will be treated like them. Despite suffering, Christ’s heart keeps on beating inside His body. Similarly, we persevere within the Body of Christ.

And we worship the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His heart is part of His body, the body of God. Devotion to the Sacred Heart brings to the forefront the reality of the Incarnation. And so does pro-life work. Just as the heart is a physical organ, prolife work is a physical concern, not just a spiritual one. We must pray for the children in the womb, but we must also encounter them physically and defend them physically. We pray at the places where they are being killed, we counsel the moms in whose wombs they are nourished, we bury the bodies of those we could not save. We act, in the body, because we are moved by His love, which He shows us in His Body.

Jesus said He is meek and humble of heart, and this brings us to the heart of the pro-life movement. The attitude of humility is the opposite of prochoice, which asserts itself. Humility humbles itself and accepts the choices of God. It accepts that God’s will and plans are better than our own, even if they come unexpectedly.

Moreover, the passion of love in the Sacred Heart is also the passion of love by which we defend the baby in the womb; His heart of mercy is the mercy we extend to all who have been involved in abortion. Pro-lifers are often stereotyped as caring about the baby but not about the mother. This claim couldn’t be further from the truth. Our ministry at Priests for Life ministers to the baby’s mom, dad, and entire family. Under our umbrella, the world’s largest ministries for healing after abortion operate. Rachel’s Vineyard offers healing retreats for families broken by abortion. Silent No More gives them an opportunity to share their testimony of pain and healing, and thereby to inspire in others the hope that they too can be forgiven.

Close to the annual celebration of the Sacred Heart, of course, comes Father’s Day, and we are seeing more and more men come to our healing programs to grieve the children they have lost to abortion. Many repent of having consented to the abortion. But likewise, so many men didn’t even know about it. I have never seen a man more angry than a friend of mine who told me many years ago that his girlfriend had their baby killed without his knowledge. Men are hardwired to be protectors and providers. To be unable to save one’s own child, and to even be shut out of the possibility of doing so, is an insult to one’s manhood. This is why the men of our Silent No More campaign hold signs saying, “I Regret Lost Fatherhood.”

Father’s Day gives us an opportunity to renew our awareness of the pain of these fathers, and our efforts to reach them with the love and mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart which, like theirs, is wounded precisely because of Its love. For more information, visit www.FatherhoodForever.org.

FR. FRANK PAVONE is national director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com

Shockwaves – abortion’s rattling impact

The trauma of abortion spreads beyond the baby, to the couple, siblings, family, and other relationships – even to workplaces and broader societal circles. Yet, only the healing power of Christ soothes its distress for good.

Abortion is never an isolated incident. There are relationships affected in addition to the baby who was denied a chance to live and the mother who lives with regrets, whether buried or on the surface. The shockwave-effect from each abortion is one of the reasons so many Legates are passionately involved in pro-life causes. The other reason is that God is pro-life. Thus, it leaves faithful Catholics with no other moral choice.

For Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and the co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and member of the Orlando, Florida Legatus chapter, her life is dedicated to the pro-life cause. Since 1989, she has held various local and national leadership roles in the movement and has assisted Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, since his ordination in 1988. In 2009, Legatus International awarded Morana the Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-life Hall of Fame Award.

Her latest book, Shockwaves: Abortion’s Wider Circle of Victims, shares personal accounts of the wounds left by abortion. “Since the early days, I’ve focused on the damage abortion does to women,” Morana explained. “In October of 1990, I prayed outside an abortion clinic for the first time and saw women with visible baby bumps going in to destroy their babies.” She was shocked to see women so far along in the pregnancy aborting their babies.

“Father Frank and I had the idea to make signs saying: ‘Abortion hurts women,” Morana said. “It’s always been on my heart from the beginning to help women who would tell us how they’ve been hurt.”

On November 11, 2002, Morana founded the Silent No More Awareness Campaign as a joint venture with Priests for Life and the Anglicans for Life. It offers post-abortive support and a platform for testimonies. The “I Regret My Abortion” signs first began appearing at their events.

Currently, there are 18,240 people registered with the Campaign, representing 77 countries. A survey among members shows that more than half of them waited over 20 years before seeking healing, although that time varied from one month to 36 years.

“In 2004, we had the first man give his testimony at the March for Life in D.C.,” Morana said. “And we’ve started having more people come forward like grandparents and siblings.”


Shockwaves is the outgrowth of these testimonies, giving a glimpse into the wound our nation has suffered after 45 years and over 59 million have been lost to legalized abortion.

“Abortion hurts people psychologically, physically, and emotionally,” Morana said. “And sometimes later in life, the women are unable to have more children.” She said that she wrote the book to reveal the extent that abortion’s shockwaves have affected society while also offering healing through support and resources.

Before we can heal, Morana explained that we need to understand what ails us. “Denial begins with the professionals,” she said. “The American Psychological Institute doesn’t even acknowledge abortion trauma.”

Her book contains a myriad of stories that demonstrate the shockwaves. For instance, in the chapter “Fatherhood Forever,” men reveal the painful aftermath of losing a child whether it was what he thought he wanted at the time or not.

John changed his mind about his girlfriend getting an abortion while sitting outside the facility in his car. He ran in, hoping to stop the abortion but was too late. “How could they do this to my child… Why was this child sacrificed because of our stupidity?” he cried. “I stopped seeing Janet. I was too filled with rage, anger, and grief to even look at her.”

When Paul Marshall’s girlfriend became pregnant in high school, their families insisted on abortion. Another pregnancy followed but Paul and his girlfriend turned to Planned Parenthood for parenting classes, hoping for a better outcome. “When we asked about taking classes, a clinic staffer told us that was the most foolish thing we could do and that we should have an abortion,” he said. The couple was told the baby was not even human yet.

Later when Paul came to realize he had destroyed his children, he turned to alcohol, burying his feelings until he heard there were other men hurting from abortion and attended an abortion-recovery program for men. “I am now the president and executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central New York, and we are committed to educating individuals with the truth about fetal development,” he explained. “I was lied to at Planned Parenthood and we know they are still lying about the humanity of the child in the womb.”

Stephen shared his testimony: “Clearly, I let her know it was her responsibility, not mine. Years later I realized she had the abortion for me.” More than 25 years after the abortion, Stephen was in the seminary, deep into prolife work. He contacted his old girlfriend to apologize for not being stronger and learned only then that he had not lost one child, but two—twins.

Stories include grandparents wanting to “fix” the problem and pressuring their children, friends thinking they are being supportive, former clinic workers and even former abortionists themselves. The extent of the shockwaves reveals just how very wounded a country that legalizes abortion becomes.

Healing Needed

Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, the director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia, addresses the effect that previous abortions can have on marriages in his forthcoming book with Ignatius Press on strengthening Catholic marriages. According to him, mistrust, feelings of betrayal and anger can emerge from the trauma of a previous abortion, requiring the work of forgiveness. Sometimes, however, the painful memory causing the conflict is buried so the couple does not even realize it is the source of much of their trouble.

“Spouses report being greatly helped by taking the post-abortion pain to the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Dr. Fitzgibbons said. “Also, participation in a post-abortion healing programs, such as Project Rachel, has helped many spouses find healing.”

A priest once related to him that he often discovers there is a past abortion for couples with excessive anger. Dr. Fitzgibbons began discovering the same situation when he started asking about it.

“The most severe post-abortion psychological consequence that I have seen is the total loss of trust in a spouse which can progress to the development of paranoid thinking which requires antipsychotic medication,” he said. “I have also treated single males involved with a number of abortions who later developed bipolar disorder with grandiose delusions that were an unconscious attempt to escape from their guilt.”

“The awareness of the shockwaves from abortion is essential to breaking this silence and transforming the ministries of the Church and the health care profession,” Morana explained. Her book also offers a list of resources and explains the healing initiative game plan at AbortionShockwaves.com.

“We are making a difference,” Morana said. “I see people healing and going to Christ to stop the abusive behavior and be made new in Him. There are now three to four more pregnancy centers than there are abortion facilities. We are gaining.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG, who wrote the newly published book, Legatus @ 30, is an award-winning author and Catholic journalist, TV and radio commentator, and mother of 10.

Hidden wound in marriage can heal

Next to the protection of life itself, the protection of marriage, as made by God, is one of the key concerns of Christians today. The attacks on marriage are manifest, and intensifying. But not all the factors that threaten and weaken marriage are immediately evident.

Fr. Frank Pavone

Among such threats is the impact that a past abortion has on a couple’s relationship. If either the man or the woman has been involved in an abortion in the past — either with one another or with others — the wounds of that act impact their relationship. And that impact can be mitigated to the extent that they discuss it openly with one another during marriage preparation and seek the help that is available.

Abortion creates a relational and spiritual wound. As our Priests for Life pastoral associates Dr. Theresa and Kevin Burke (cofounders of Rachel’s Vineyard) write,

“A healthy marital relationship is marked by a deep bonding between husband and wife with a foundational trust that leads to vibrant and satisfying emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy. Abortion is a traumatic death experience that is closely associated to relational/sexual intimacy creating a profound fracture of trust striking at the heart of the marital foundation (this holds true whether the event preceded a marriage, or was experienced by only one spouse). Partners experience unresolved, unspoken grief and shame as they struggle with depression, anxiety, and other painnumbing symptoms of trauma that can negatively impact marriage and family life. Extramarital affairs are not uncommon for persons with abortion in their history.”

Women who have had abortions frequently settle for relationships that do not meet their needs for love and nurturing, and in varying degrees are abusive and violent. In our healing programs, women report staying in abusive relationships as a form of self-punishment. They feel on some level, “this is what I deserve for what I did to my baby.”

Couples having marital problems may not understand that those problems are rooted in a previous abortion as they struggle with intimacy, trust, communication, sexuality and parenting issues. One who has participated in an abortion can struggle to feel worthy of the love of another person. Without healing, couples can experience serious dysfunction, and even divorce. The past abortion is like a ticking time bomb in the marriage relationship.

These wounds, furthermore, affect the living children they have. Dysfunctional marriages can lead children to seek love and attention outside the home. They may seek this attention and consolation in ways that are self-destructive.

The good news is that healing is possible. It requires, first of all, breaking the silence. There is no such thing as a “private abortion.” This is made clear in a new book by Legatus member Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More. Called Shockwaves: Abortion’s Wider Circle of Victims, this book traces the multifaceted relational wounds of abortion on a person’s family and beyond (see www.ShockwavesTheBook.com).

Marriage preparation programs need to open the door to talking about past abortions, and resources like Rachel’s Vineyard (a ministry of Priests for Life) are ready to lead couples through the healing needed to strengthen their marriage. In short, a key to strengthening marriage is promoting awareness of the wounds of abortion and the healing that can follow.

FR. FRANK PAVONE is National Director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com.

Moral magnanimity is legendary

Because of their affection for St. Aphonsus Liguori, a certain Pennsylvania couple, devout in their Catholic faith, named their son after him. And the young Alphonsus Liguori Casey (1893-1956) learned about hardship and poverty at an early age. He was orphaned when he was 11. To support his brothers and sisters, he worked as a mule boy in the anthracite coal mines of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He labored during the day and studied at night. Alphonsus never forgot the lessons he learned in his youth. He graduated from high school and in his 30s earned a law degree and set up a law practice representing miners in their claims against the company.

Dr. Donald DeMarco

His son Robert achieved enough distinction in his life to justify writing an autobiography (Fighting for Life) in which he recalls his earliest memories of the scarred hands of his father. He revered the legacy that Alphonsus brought to him from the mines of Scranton that included a visceral identification with the weak and the endangered. Abortion, he would say, is not a question of when life begins. It is a question of when love begins. “No insignificant person was ever born,” he stated, “and no insignificant person ever dies.” He asserted that his Democratic Party’s position on abortion “is inconsistent with our national character,” and that it can “never prosper if it does not protect the powerless—before and after birth.”

After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1953, he received a law degree from George Washington University three years later. He became governor of the state of Pennsylvania in 1986. Four years later, he was re-elected, defeating a pro-choice Republican by more than a million votes while carrying 66 of 67 counties. It the largest margin of victory in Pennsylvania gubernatorial history. While governor, he did as much as he could to protect the unborn given the tight restrictions of Roe v. Wade. “In this country, the greatest country in the world,” he stated, “every child deserves to be born.” Planned Parenthood sued over his state’s Abortion Control Act and the case was heard by the United States Supreme Court (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). The 1992 decision, which Casey called “a victory for the unborn child,” affirmed the legality of a 24-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion, informed consent about health risks for women seeking abortion, parental consent for minors seeking abortion, and detailed record keeping on the abortion industry.

Casey was shunned by his own Democratic Party. At the 1992 Democratic convention in New York, he was kept from the podium by the Clinton-Gore ticket. After being rejected as a speaker at the 1986 Chicago convention, Casey demanded that “those who believe in the right to life be accorded the right to speak.” The ill treatment given to him by his own party embarrasses and contradicts its alleged commitment to fairness, democracy and social justice issues.

Casey aspired to run for the presidency in 1996, but his health was waning. He had bypass surgery in 1989. Four years later he underwent a rare heart-liver transplant. In the aftermath of a remarkable recovery, which extended his life and his trials by seven years, The New York Times dubbed him a “folk hero” for his courage and determination. His autobiography won the 1997 Christopher Award.

On May 30, 2000 Robert Casey passed from this world. Princeton University’s Robert George lamented the loss, stating that “the pro-life movement has lost a champion, the Democratic Party its conscience, and American politics a model of principled statesmanship.” He was survived by his wife, four sons, four daughters, and 20 grandchildren.

It takes a man of humility to be a man of magnanimity. This is the central irony of the moral law. The man of pride can neither see straight nor love right. There is a moral line that flows from a St. Alphonsus Liguori to a young Scranton coal miner and his numerous descendants that offers us the hope that humility will one day save the world.

DR. DONALD DEMARCO is a senior fellow of Human Life International, professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University (Waterloo, Ontario) adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College (Cromwell, CT), and regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His books, including How to Remain Sane in a World That Is Going Mad, are available through Amazon.com.


New law to protect preborn from abortive pain

During the Presidential Campaign of 2016, candidate Donald Trump wrote to me and several other national prolife leaders asking us to be part of a “Pro-life Advisory Coalition” that the campaign was forming to assist Mr. Trump and his team to formulate policy priorities for the Pro-life cause.

Fr. Frank Pavone

That coalition now advises the president and his team.

His letter outlines several very specific commitments which represent key priorities for the pro-life movement. He has been following through on every one of them, such as putting a pro-life Justice on the Supreme Court.

Among those commitments was also to sign a piece of legislation that represents the next significant step in ending abortion. It is a measure which has already been enacted in various states and indeed already introduced in Congress. Crafted by our friends at National Right to Life, it is called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and it would protect the lives of children in the womb from 20 weeks of development and beyond, because of their ability to feel pain.

A few important points to keep in mind about this legislation:

First, this is a measure that enjoys the support of a majority of Americans and their legislators. According to a January 2017 Marist poll, six in ten Americans support banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This includes even most people who call themselves “pro-choice!”

Second, the fact that the legislation does not protect every child in the womb does not mean we approve of earlier abortions, and neither does it absolve us of our responsibility to protect those whom our legislators are not willing to protect now. Every abortion is equally wrong and we are committed to protect every child. And when it comes to lateterm abortion, our legislators at the state and federal level are in fact willing to do so now – and so must we be.

Third, educationally, we always proceed from the more obvious to the less obvious. The name of this bill starts with the word “pain,” which everyone understands from experience. The pain of others evokes our compassion, and helps us identify with their humanity. This bill focuses on what abortion does to the unborn baby, and rather than simply regulating or de-funding abortion, it actually protects the babies from it.

The time is now for a measure like this to receive our full, enthusiastic support. As influential members of our local communities, we need to encourage our state and federal lawmakers to pass this particular measure. Remind them that our current abortion policy in America – allowing the killing of children throughout pregnancy — is among the most extreme in the world, and has never had majority support. As influential members of your parishes, urge your priests and lay leaders to educate the congregation about the pain children feel in abortion and the opportunity we have now to protect them.

And if the legislators who represent you embrace a pro-abortion position, challenge them publicly with a simple question: “Do you believe that healthy children carried by healthy mothers should be protected, in the latest stages of pregnancy, from painful dismemberment?” If a public official cannot answer that question with a clear “yes,” he or she does not belong in public office, and we need to say so.

Priests for Life is ready to assist you and your local chapters in pursuing this next crucial step in the protection of the unborn. To keep up on the latest developments and action alerts, and to help us make this a major campaign issue in the 2018 elections, sign up at www. StopAbortionNow.org.

FR. FRANK PAVONE, one of the most prominent prolife leaders in the world, has led the Priests for Life movement and its family of ministries since 1993. See PriestsForLife.org for more information.

The stunning illogic of Roe v. Wade

In its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the laws against abortion in all 50 states. This decision is still the guiding precedent for the Supreme Court on abortion cases. Because of it, our nation continues to deny unborn human beings any rights whatsoever and allows (even encourages) their deliberate killing. As slavery was the central issue in the 19th century, so abortion is central in our time.

Dr. Patrick Lee

Writing for the majority in Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun claimed to find in the 14th Amendment an implicit right to abortion, when it said the state must not deprive a person of liberty without due process of law. That argument has been soundly refuted many times. But Blackmun’s most egregious errors occurred when he addressed the fetus’ personhood and humanity.

Texas (the defendant in this case) argued that the human fetus is a person and so deserves equal protection of the law, provided by laws banning abortion. Significantly, Blackmun admitted, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, then the case against striking down the abortion laws collapses.” However, he then argued that the word “person” is neither defined, nor used to refer to fetuses as persons in the Constitution, and so human fetuses are (he concluded) not persons in the Constitutional sense.

But this argument does not hold up. Nowhere in the Constitution are toddlers referred to as persons either, but one cannot deny they are persons in the Constitutional sense. Clearly, the word “person” is used in the Constitution as a descriptive term. That is, it refers to whatever can truly be called a person, whether the authors of that phrase had them explicitly in mind or not. Now, since human fetuses (unborn humans) are identical with beings who later quite clearly show they are persons — by reasoning, making deliberate choices, and so on — it follows that they are persons when in the womb, and so the 14th Amendment applies to them, and they deserve equal protection of the law.

Texas also rightly argued that, apart from the question of whether fetuses are persons according to the Constitution, they certainly are human beings, and the state has a compelling interest to protect every human being. Blackmun’s reply was stunning: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

But as a matter of fact science — embryology — does settle that issue: What is killed in abortion is without doubt a distinct, living human individual. (There are different positions on whether this is a “person” — but it’s a matter of science that from conception on, what is growing within the womb is a distinct human being.)

Moreover, the question at issue is a practical one, not just theoretical. If it were a question only of theory — for example, what is matter? what is time? — we could suspend judgment. But this is a practical question about how we will treat a certain class of individuals. The question is: Should we treat unborn human individuals as the same kind of beings as ourselves or not? The United States must settle this issue: It will either treat the unborn as human beings, deserving of equal protection of the law or not. So Blackmun saying the Court would not settle the issue was simply false. By striking down abortion laws, the Court determined that unborn human life would from then on be treated as mere sub-personal objects.

What should Blackmun have concluded? First, even if he stuck to his erroneous view that there was no consensus on the question whether the fetus is a human being, the Court should have left the issue to legislators, recognizing the limits of the judiciary’s role (its role is only to interpret the Constitution and the law, not make it).

But even at that time there was — and still is — a consensus in science. Blackmun should have therefore concluded that since what is killed in abortion is in fact a human being — as determined by the science of embryology — to deny unborn human beings the equal protection of the law is unconstitutional.

May the Lord help us! A civilization cannot long survive — or deserve to —that relegates a whole class of human beings (in this case unborn human beings) to the status of mere objects that can be shredded and then thrown into the trash can.

PATRICK LEE, PH.D.,is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Abortion leaves an awful hole

In the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, a suicidal George Bailey is given a vision of what life would have been like for his family, his friends and his community if he had never been born.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser

George sees his beloved wife Mary as a lonely spinster, and his town of Bedford Falls as a seedy “Pottersville,” named after George’s avaricious rival. He learns that his war hero brother Harry died because George wasn’t there to rescue him when he fell into a frozen pond as a child; the soldiers Harry saved during the war perished, too. Clarence Oddbody, the angel sent to bring George this vision, remarks, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

I often wish that parents who learn through prenatal diagnosis that their child has autism, Down syndrome or another disability could be granted a vision, too — a glimpse into the future to see what a wonderful life awaits them because their child is in the world. But far too often, whether out of fear, convenience, or lack of information on modern advancements — and support for people with Downs and their families — some parents choose to create an “awful hole” in their futures. They end the life of their unborn child through abortion. One-third of individuals with Down syndrome are aborted. New blood tests to accurately and non-invasively diagnose anomalies at an earlier stage of pregnancy will push that number even higher.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis acknowledges this reality and affirms the infinite value of every child. “Scientific advances today allow us to know beforehand what color a child’s hair will be or what illnesses they may one day suffer…. It matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations. For children are a gift” (#170).

The idea that every child is a gift has been under vicious assault in the United States in the four decades since Roe v. Wade. Far too often the unborn child is viewed as disposable, or even worse, a commodity whose body parts are bought and sold. Couples turn to genetic technologies to design babies to their specifications and rent wombs in which these babies can grow. A review by the Charlotte Lozier Institute shows that sex-selection via preimplantation genetic diagnosis and abortion is a persistent problem here and around the world. Babies diagnosed in utero with disabilities are destroyed at an alarming rate.

Despite these horrors, there is hope. Majorities in both houses of Congress support legislation to ban abortion nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which an unborn child can feel pain. A bill to defund Planned Parenthood passed last year; only President Obama’s veto kept it from becoming law.

Indiana and North Dakota have enacted laws stopping abortions for reasons related to the baby’s sex, race or disability. Similar measures have been introduced in Missouri and Ohio. Among the most ardent supporters of these initiatives have been parents of disabled children. Their experience confirms research published in 2011 in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, which found that the vast majority of families are enriched by having a child with Downs. Nearly 80% of parents said their outlook on life was more positive as a result; 97% of siblings aged 12 and above said they felt proud of their brother or sister with Down syndrome, and 88% were convinced they were better people because of their sibling. A study of adults with Downs found that 99% said they were happy with their lives. What a contrast to the prevailing attitudes of adults who don’t have Down syndrome!

In my own family, we too can testify to the joy of life with a special needs child. Our oldest daughter Hannah recently reflected as a young adult on what it means to have a sister with disabilities: “My life, my decisions, my relationships, and my communities are a thousand times stronger for having her.”

Dr. Jerome Lejeune is often called the “Father of Modern Genetics” for his discovery of the genetic cause of Down syndrome and other disabilities. He was also a devout Catholic who said, “The enemies of life know that to destroy Christian civilization, they must first destroy the family at its weakest point — the child. And among the weakest, they must choose the least protected of all — the child who has never been seen.”

But the enemies of life can only win if we leave the battlefield, and the pro-life movement shows no signs of giving up. Indeed, it’s energized as never before to fight for the wonderful life of every baby, no matter its circumstances. Like George Bailey’s angel Clarence, we know that the loss of even one life leaves an “awful hole” that diminishes the family, the community and the world.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Ireland: Catholicism under siege

Scandal and secular influence have eroded the Emerald Isle’s Catholic culture

On paper, Ireland is still a staunchly Catholic nation.


More than 20,000 people gather on Jan. 19, 2013, for a “Unite For Life” vigil in Merrion Square, near government buildings in Dublin (John McElroy photo)

The Irish constitution begins like a prayer,  containing the phrase, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority.”

The preamble also refers to the Irish nation’s “obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial.”

But in reality, the forces of secularization have eroded the Emerald Isle’s Catholic culture. Less than 20% of adult Catholics attend weekly Mass. The numbers of declared atheists and Irish citizens not identifying with any religious group are exploding.

Intense backlash

In May, Irish citizens voted overwhelmingly to amend their nation’s constitution to allow same-sex “marriage,” making Ireland the first country in the world to adopt that change through a popular vote.

A similar campaign is now underway to repeal a pro-life amendment in the constitution — and recent polling indicates that a large majority of Irish citizens are in favor of “significantly widening” access to abortion in Ireland. A nascent effort is also underway to legalize euthanasia.

“The people who run the country — the politicians, senior civil servants, many of those in academia and law — have almost a uniform view that the Catholic Church in Ireland has had undue influence that needs to be repudiated,” said David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, a Dublin-based advocacy organization that promotes the value of marriage and religion in society.


David Quinn

Quinn, a member Legatus’ Dublin Chapter, also explained that the Catholic Church in Ireland has been weakened through a horrific clergy sex abuse scandal and the experience that several generations had of the Church as a heavy-handed, totalitarian institution in the decades after Irish independence.

“There was a backlash against the Church,” Quinn said. “The backlash came, and it has been extremely intense.”

Against that backdrop of increased hostility, Amnesty International recently produced a video entitled “Chains” advocating the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, passed in 1983 to safeguard an unborn child’s right to life.

Irish actor Liam Neeson narrates the short video, which Amnesty International launched in Belfast on Oct. 19. The video begins in black and white and shows the faint outline of a church as Neeson says that Ireland is haunted by “a cruel ghost of the last century” that “blindly brings suffering, even death, to the women whose lives it touches.”

ireland-1The 90-second video goes on to identity the ghost as one of “paper and ink,” referring to the amendment. The camera pans over the ruins of a church and graveyard with haunting music as Neeson says that Ireland “doesn’t have to be chained to its past.”

Quinn said the video encapsulates the prevailing view that many influential people in Ireland have of the Church.

“It really captures, to a T, the liberal, secular view of the way we were — and that everything associated with the Catholic Church must go,” Quinn said. “We were living in a truly dark period.”

Propaganda campaigns


Niamh Uí Bhriain

Niamh Uí Bhriain, an Irish pro-life activist and founder of the Dublin-based Life Institute, described the “Chains” video as anti-Catholic propaganda that makes “farcical, untrue” claims that people’s lives are in danger because of the Eighth Amendment.

“It wasn’t about protecting women or repealing something they believe is an unjust law,” Bhriain said. “The whole thing smacked of intolerance, anti-Catholic sentiment, and a disregard to protect unborn babies.”

Bhriain said Ireland has become a “focal point” for the international abortion lobby, with organizations like Amnesty International spending millions of dollars in ads to sway public opinion in favor of liberalizing the country’s abortion laws. Despite the public relations campaign, Bhriain said Ireland’s pro-life culture is still intact and she believes there is not much public support for abortion on demand.

“The polls show only 28 to 35% of Irish people actually want to see abortion legalized as a matter of choice,” she said. “There is still a gap between public sentiment and the public messaging for abortion, despite all the media work and the slick campaigns.”

The strategy of those trying to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Quinn said, is to focus on extreme “hard cases,” such as rape, incest or a mother who receives a poor prenatal diagnosis that her baby will die soon after birth. Irish law currently allows for abortions only when the mother’s life is at risk.

Quinn said polling shows there is public support in Ireland for allowing abortions in certain situations, but that most voters do not support permitting abortion in all circumstances.

“If we can persuade the public that repealing the Eighth Amendment will in short order lead to what amounts to abortion on demand, that gives us our best hope,” Quinn said.

Several Irish Catholic bishops issued pastoral letters and spoke out against the same-sex “marriage” referendum, but for the most part the nation’s Catholic priests and leaders in recent years have been hesitant to speak out from the pulpit.

A major reason for the silence is because the Church in Ireland is still recovering from sex abuse scandals. A 2009 government report found that Irish clergy had sexually and physically abused thousands of children and teenagers in previous decades.

“The scandals were revolting beyond belief, and they understandably caused public distrust,” Quinn explained. “There was already this trend in terms of secularization, but the scandals obviously offered tremendous fuel to the fire.”

Turning the corner

Carmelite nuns cast their ballots in Ireland’s marriage referendum at a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, on May 22 (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Carmelite nuns cast their ballots in Ireland’s marriage referendum at a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, on May 22 (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)

Quinn said the Church in Ireland today “finally has a handle” on the problem and has instituted policies to prevent abuse. He is also hopeful that a new generation of Irish bishops will be able to devote more time to evangelization.

“Ireland has gone from a country where people picked up their Catholic faith almost by osmosis,” Quinn said. “The culture did the work of evangelization. Now, it’s quite the opposite.”

Father Shenan James Boquet, president of Human Life International, said the Church in Ireland is at a crossroads.

Fr. Shenan James Boquet

Fr. Shenan James Boquet

“It has been wounded, but it is not beaten. Its people and culture have a rich Catholic soul, which is still beating,” said Fr. Boquet, who traveled to Ireland in September for a 10-day tour with other HLI officials to encourage and strengthen the faithful — and to expose the false and illusory language used by secularizing forces.

During the “Be Not Afraid, Catholic Ireland” tour, Fr. Boquet said he encountered many faithful Catholics, pro-life and family leaders, and groups who are using their apostolates to promote the Catholic faith and to witness to the beauty of the Church’s teachings on life and family.

“There is great hope and strength there,” Fr. Boquet said. “We must never forget that the beautiful faith and grace strengthened in them through the inspiration of St. Patrick didn’t go away. That beautiful seed is still there.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

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Unborn humans are persons with equal basic rights

Biology shows that abortion kills a human being — a human embryo or fetus. This should be enough to settle the issue of whether human embryos or fetuses have a right to life, since every human has equal and inherent fundamental rights.

Patrick Lee

Patrick Lee

However, some philosophers argue that, although a human embryo or fetus is a human organism, it is not yet a person. In order to be a person, they object, a human organism must have some additional characteristic — usually a capacity for higher mental functions, such as for self-consciousness. The argument may sound plausible at first: Are we not different from other animals precisely because we possess the capacity for higher mental functions?

Human embryos, in one sense, have the capacity for higher mental functions. If provided a suitable environment, they will actively develop themselves to the stage where they perform all of those types of actions. So the objection must be that human embryos or fetuses are not persons (bearers or rights) because they lack the immediately exercisable capacity for higher mental acts (that is, a capacity that can be exercised now or in the immediate future).

However, if this argument were correct, it would also follow that human infants are nonpersons and it would be morally permissible to kill infants, subject to parental approval. Some philosophers (Peter Singer, for example) say that intentionally killing infants — subject to parental approval — can be morally right. Still, most people still believe killing a newborn is wrong.

A second problem with this argument: If it were right, then it’s hard to see why it would be wrong to kill someone in a temporary coma. A human being in a coma lacks the immediately exercisable capacity for self-consciousness, although still a human being. The clearest reason why it’s wrong to kill a human in a coma is that he is the same kind of being as you and me: He is an individual with a nature that orients him to having self-consciousness and shaping his life by deliberate choice. But this same point is also true of the unborn human being.

Someone might object that, unlike an unborn human being, the individual in a coma did have self-consciousness in the past. And this being is a person, a bearer of rights, only because of that past self-consciousness, and that is why killing him is wrong. But suppose I had surgery that put me in a coma from which I gradually regained consciousness and knowledge and experience, but none of the memories and skills I possessed before the coma. In other words, I survived but never regained any of my past memories, skills, habits, and so on.

Would it be right to kill me after the surgery while I was in a coma and recovering? Of course not! But that would not be because of my past self-awareness, since all of that is gone forever. Rather, it would be wrong to kill me because it would deprive me of my future as a rational being, a being that, although not now conscious or self-aware, has a nature orienting him to develop to the stage where he will perform all of those distinctive human actions.

The best explanation of why it would be wrong to kill me in such a situation is that I am identical with the thing that eventually will have rational consciousness. So what makes you or me valuable as a subject of rights is the fundamental kind of being (substance, in philosophical language) we are. It’s wrong to kill you or me because we are beings with a rational nature, a nature orienting us to rationality and shaping of ourselves by our choices.

But a human embryo or fetus is the same kind of being as you and me. He or she also is an individual with a rational nature; only, it will take this being some time to actualize his or her rational nature. Another way of putting this is that every human being is a person, using the word “person,” though, to mean (as St. Thomas Aquinas used it) an individual substance with a rational nature.

You and I once were adolescents, before that we were children, before that we were infants, and before that we were fetuses and embryos. And just as it is wrong to kill you or me now, it would have been wrong to kill us when we were adolescents, wrong to kill us when we were infants, and wrong to kill us when were fetuses or embryos.

PATRICK LEE, PH.D., is the John N. and Jamie D. McAleer Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Pain-capable abortion legislation

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER writes that new pain-capable legislation is a pro-life game-changer . . .

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser

by Marjorie Dannenfelser

For the first time since Roe v. Wade, we are very close to protecting an entire class of unborn children from abortion. These children will not be spared because of a parental notification law or because their mothers rejected the gruesome reality of abortion after informed consent.

Although these laws are good, just, and lifesaving, they regulate around the child. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would save the lives of children simply because they are children. Boy or girl. Created by God. Sent into the world for a specific purpose, without whom we are a lesser nation.

We may have lost faith at times along the way, but it’s telling of the pro-life movement that we did not stop. While we have been waiting to change the law, we have been on our knees in prayer. We have been in front of abortion facilities counseling. We have welcomed women into our hearts and into pregnancy care centers and have welcomed their children into the world by the tens of thousands.

But our nation is finally getting to the point where we are living up to the aspirations of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Living up to those aspirations — to protect and enrich the lives of the most vulnerable — means that we are continuing a pathway begun by our Founders. In their wisdom, these men set up a system of government where, when there was an injustice to be confronted, the American people had the tools to fight and to overcome. It’s simple: There needs to be a law.

Every other successful human rights movement has come to this moment. It is that moment to understand where you are in history, to seize what is before you. It is that moment to freshen resolve because the fight it not over; there is a seminal battle ahead of us. And for the right to life movement, the battle has two fronts: at the ballot box and in the halls of Congress.

First, at the ballot box. The 2014 midterms revealed that abortion-centered feminism is dying, if not dead. Pro-choice candidates in the last election were advised, almost unilaterally, not to speak of the abortion issue. Retreated from their own abortion-centered position, the abortion lobby and its candidates are talking about pay equity and family life. Meanwhile, our candidates and volunteers are going on offense to expose hidden abortion extremism.

The Susan B. Anthony List saw this on the ground in 2014. We saw how person-to-person interaction, on doorsteps across five states, can make the difference in a tight race. Our pro-life activists were ready and willing to talk to their neighbors about the importance of voting pro-life. Moreover, they were ready to bring our message to outlying communities. We have learned that being bold with our pro-life ideals, taking our message to Democrats, women, independents, and Hispanics, yields important fruit.

Our candidates are echoing the message. Fourteen declared and likely Republican presidential candidates have spoken out in support of the Pain-Capable bill and are now calling out their Democrat counterparts for their unwavering allegiance to abortion on demand. With a broad coalition of candidates going on offense, cheered on by an equally broad coalition of pundits, pro-life leaders are poised to flip the script on abortion.

The pathway to success in 2016, to electing a pro-life president, will require going on offense like this. Taking the White House is the last key step in passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13.

That journey was not without its own struggles. In the interim months since the bill was delayed, pro-life activists rallied by generating thousands of phone calls and messages to Congress requesting a vote. Fortunately, our pro-life champions in the House heeded the calls of the grassroots.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is ready to move with this proposal in the U.S. Senate and will introduce the legislation with an impressive number of original co-sponsors. When the time comes to have the debate in the Senate, Graham said, “It will be a joy; it will not be a burden.”

Passing this legislation and seeing it signed into law by a prolife president, who we must help elect in 2016, will be no small accomplishment. This compassionate legislation will save 15,000-18,000 children a year! When we consider the effort that goes into saving just one life, imagine what it will means to save 40 per day! We are on the cusp of this reality and we must see it as a beginning. This is the beginning of the end of abortion.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List and a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.