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Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

I have to tell you, I’m excited by the thoughtful responses engendered by my last post.  For one thing, as I happily blog away, it’s hard to know if I’m making any impression at all if no one responds.  For another, I have always been discouraged by the lack of opportunities for pro-life/pro-choice dialogue.   I’ve written and spoken on life issues for years, but I have always realized that most of my audience already agreed with me, and preaching to the choir isn’t any way to effect change.

As I go forward with this blog I intend to continue writing about life issues.  And I want to be as clear as possible about my beliefs.  So I want to answer Leah’s comments with a whole blog post.  I’m not going to do it point by point, though, so if I miss anything let me know!

I would not wish to minimize in any way the diificulties faced by young mothers unexpectedly pregnant and without financial and personal resources.  I do think it is “pro-life” to find ways to help them.  That’s why I drew attention to Catholic Charities, which I believe is the largest such organization in the country, and the help that it IS giving to poor women and children in general and women in crisis pregnancies in particular.  Here in Knoxville there are at least two “Pregnancy Help” centers run by pro-life folks, and other cities have similar centers run by pro-life supporters.  Systemic change is another, more complicated issue.   I don’t mind saying that I tend to be “liberal” when it comes to providing aid to the poor and “conservative” when it comes to moral issues.  Here’s what Pope John Paul had to say about this in the Gospel of Life (Chapter 90):   

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defence of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life. Here it must be noted that it is not enough to remove unjust laws. The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. For this reason there need to be set in place social and political initiatives capable of guaranteeing conditions of true freedom of choice in matters of parenthood. It is also necessary to rethink labour, urban, residential and social service policies so as to harmonize working schedules with time available for the family, so that it becomes effectively possible to take care of children and the elderly.

Did you read that?  Wow. 

I answered Leah’s earlier comment by saying that the difficult circumstances weren’t pertinent to her sister’s choice to give birth.  I didn’t mean the circumstances that the children were born into were not important, or unfortunate, or damaging.  And I’m not accusing Leah, who is having a discussion with me and not a debate, of trying to confuse the issue.  But “professional” pro-choice advocates DO confuse the issue when they bring up all the unwanted children, all the kids in foster care, all the kids being born out of wedlock and into poverty, because since 1973 we can assume that women who have given birth CHOSE to do so, since abortion has been legal all that time!  In other words, abortion has NOT solved the problem of unwanted children or abused children or children being born into poverty, as some of its advocates presumed it would.  I could go into the contraceptive mentality argument to explain how legalized abortion has even contributed to these problems, but that is a post for another day.

Bottom line, if abortion kills, then it is wrong.  We can’t allow something so morally wrong in a civilized society.  Some people are especially called to fight for changes to the law.  Others are specifically called to work for systemic change to help the poor.  Others are called to direct charitable pursuits.  Yes, all of that can happen at once, and should.  However, no one can do everything, and some have gifts or passions that incline them in one direction more than another.  Once a year I march for life.  I’ve prayed outside abortion clinics.  I admire the people who do so faithfully week after week.  But I have written thousands of words about life issues because writing is my passion and my gift.

I also just don’t understand why any time someone says abortion should be illegal, he or she is immediately called upon to adopt babies or otherwise step up and solve the problem of “unwanted children.”  If I say I am against the death penalty (I am) no one expects me to go out and fight crime.  If I say I am opposed to the war in Iraq(yes, I am), no one asks me to do anything about that.  If I say I don’t think red light cameras are constitutional (not really sure about that, but I don’t like them!) no one demands that I stand at the corner of Henley and Summit Hill to arrest people.  It’s perfectly fine to have a conviction that any other law is wrong without having to back it up with action.  Think about it.

Back to Leah and the foster care system.  I don’t disagree with anything she says.  My husband is an attorney and I am his assistant.  I hear a lot about children with less than ideal parents and who are in and out of foster care.  We do a lot of Guardian ad Litem work where we do our best to determine the best placement for his little clients.  Some of the situations are heart-wrenching.  I don’t know what the answer is and I know what we have doesn’t always work.  Leah is right that these children are scarred at an early age and even if society doesn’t have the heart to care about the welfare of the children, society should care about the effect troubled kids have as they grow into troubled adults, falling into drugs and crime and becoming parents to another generation of troubled kids.

All I can say is that the right to life is fundamental.  Maybe these kids don’t have much of a chance but they have some chance, and it’s not our right to take that away from them.  I firmly believe part of the problem in the system IS our society’s lack of respect for life, which has led to a culture of death and destruction.

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The following is a reprint of a column that ran in the East Tennessee Catholic newspaper on August 11, 2002.  It explains the name of my former column, which is now the name of this blog.

Names are important.

Think of the time we spend choosing the names we give our children, the hours poring over baby-name books, making lists, asking opinions, only to be told years later by an unappreciative adolescent, “I hate my name!”

Now, any writer or artist will tell you that his creative product is something like “offspring” to him.  So when it was time–past time–to name this column, I agonized over the choice for days.  Then, coming up blank, I followed my usual procedure for titling my work:  I stole.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations with its handy index is an old friend that has proved its worth to me many times.  I looked up life in the back of the book, and voila, the works of far better writers than I were at my disposal.

The phrase “life in every limb” sounded perfect at first reading, and once I investigated the source became even more so.

First, the author:  William Wordsworth, famed English poet of the Romantic Period, and as it happens, an old favorite of mine.  My first college English professor, later my advisor, is a preeminent Wordsworth scholar who spends summers at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District.  By virtue of his enthusiasm almost as much as Wordsworth’s talent, he taught us to love Wordsworth too.  This seemed like an omen.

Next the poem whence the line came: “We Are Seven.”   The poem’s narrator encounters a “little maid,” who in answer to questions about her family asserts again and again that there are seven children, even though two have died.  This inclusion in the family’s number of two who are unable to speak for themselves resonated with me as I thought of the voiceless unborn and their need for similar champions.

Finally, the enire quotation:  “A simple child/That lightly draws its breath/And feels its life in every limb/What should it know of death?” I thought of the unborn child, alive in every way, in every part of its tiny body, heart beating, blood pumping, at the very beginning of its life doomed so often to a premature and violent death.

I wonder what Wordsworth might add to the abortion debate if he were with us today.  My first child’s godmother (a fellow student of the aforementioned professor) created a beautiful cross-stitch for Emily from a paraphrased Wordsworth quotation: “Children come trailing clouds of glory from God who is their home.”

This comes from his “Ode on the Intimations of Mortality,” in which he expounds upon his belief that children are closer to God because they remember glimpses of heaven that are more and more lost to us as we grow older.  His own heavenly visions, the “spots of time” he celebrates in his long autobiographical narrative poem “The Prelude,” were a continuing source of inspiration to Wordsworth.  I have a feeling that he would have viewed the killing of the innocent unborn, fresh from God’s hand, as the worst kind of sacrilege.

Moving to a different sort of literature, the phrase “life in every limb” calls to mind St. Paul‘s metaphor of 1 Corinthians 12: ” . . . [T]he body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body . . . .”  Each person, born or unborn, is a part of that body and has a unique role to fulfill.

In valuing all members of the body equally, our church espouses a consistent ethic of life.  Although abortion is the focus of this column, I plan to write about many other life issues, such as the death penalty and euthanasia.  We might think of the abortion issue as just one of the many limbs of the church’s pro-life teachings.  For we are a church that embraces and celebrates and protects all life, that of the innocent unborn equally with that of the convicted murderer, of the ill and disabled along with the healthy, of the non-Christian along with the Christian–life in every limb of the Body of Christ.

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