FR. JAMES BRAMLAGE writes that followers of Jesus could never condone abortion . . .
Pro-life or pro-choice? This is one of our society’s most divisive issues. That dichotomy, however, masks the true issue — whether we have the right to end the life of an unborn child.
It wasn’t until the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision opened the flood gates to legal abortion that the matter of “choice” in abortion began to concern large numbers of Americans. At first, most of those supporting the “right to choose” tried to hide what they were choosing under the pretext that the fetus was merely “tissue.” But science has coalesced around the fact that a unique human being begins its life at conception.
So choosing abortion is clearly choosing to end a human life, and those who support that choice are face-to-face with the fact that Christianity has consistently taught that human beings are not the authors of their own lives. We are not free to dispose of life as we choose. Every individual’s life has its origin in God and must respect God’s lordship of life.
How can so many who claim Christianity as their faith reject something so fundamental to that religion as the sanctity of human life — and the consequent immorality of deliberately ending another’s life?
The answer lies in a failure to acknowledge God’s total lordship of life. That failure is rooted in a deep-seated individualism that permeates our society. We want to be free to do whatever pleases us. We want to be free to do whatever makes our lives easier. To do that, we have to be the ones who make the rules for our own lives. Individualism puts me in command of my own life. I may nominally accept God’s sovereignty over my life, but it’s only to the extent that God’s law agrees with what I want God’s law to be. Ultimately, though, I decide what is right for me, not someone else — not even God.
Secularism is the other great contributor to many in our society who claim to be Christian while rejecting basic tenets of that religion. Secularism compartmentalizes life. Religion, whatever that religion may be, can have a legitimate role to play in one’s personal life, but that role must not be allowed to overlap into other parts of one’s life. Religion must not be allowed to play a role in secular or public life, for example. That needs to be a religion-free zone.
Christianity, however, recognizes no such distinctions or separations. Jesus did not preach a gospel that applies to our personal lives but not to our social lives. He did not preach a gospel that applies to some but not to others. His is a universal religion that, because of its universal nature, is intended to draw the entire world together in recognition of the one sovereign Lord.
Beginning with Paul VI’s encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), there has been a growing movement not only to preach the gospel to those who have never heard it or who have never accepted it, but to preach it anew to those who count themselves as Christians but who have never fully accepted the gospel. There are many in the Church who have not yet humbled themselves before God and declared him their Lord and Savior.
To do that places one’s whole life in God’s hands. It does not allow partial submission of one’s life to God’s rule. It does not reserve certain parts of life for self-rule while leaving God to be Lord of the rest. God only truly rules in our lives if we accept his lordship over the whole of our lives.
If God is Lord not only of my life, but of every human life, then I am not free to do deliberate harm to another and certainly not to take the life of an innocent human being except in an effort to preserve my own life.
There is a wonderful consistency to the gospel message the Church has received from Jesus himself. That consistency does not allow us to pick and choose teachings that fit the cultural values of our age and reject others. On the contrary, faithfulness to Jesus and the gospel he preached requires a readiness to stand in opposition to the values of a culture that are opposed to the gospel. To say that Jesus is Lord is a statement of submission to him in all things and the sincere desire to make his teachings the rock foundation of our lives.
One of the particular challenges to Catholics in today’s society is to give witness to the belief that Jesus is the Lord of life — my own life and the life of every other human being.
FR. JAMES BRAMLAGE is the chaplain of Legatus’ Cincinnati Chapter.