The Catholic Thing
This Sad – and Glorious – Day Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 24 January 2011

This is a sad day in America.

Even the muddled minds who combined bad science and poor legal reasoning to give us Roe v. Wade in 1973 probably would not have imagined that by 2011 almost 50 million babies would have been aborted in the United States. Or that, as we learned last week, over 40 percent of the pregnancies in New York City end in feticide.

If these numbers do not shock you, let me offer a friendly suggestion: you are suffering from a numbness so great that you don’t even know how to react any longer. And I confess to suffering from the same syndrome.

The days are long past when such mayhem could be justified as necessary for “women’s lives” or “reproductive freedom.” When nearly half of all children on the way to being born are summarily killed in a city like New York, you’re not talking about hard cases anymore. You’re looking at a strange and lethal blindness by people who think it’s the rest of the country that is violent and a prey to dangerous beliefs.

I’ve been looking at reports about the lucrative butchery at abortion clinics since 1980, but I was still shocked this past week at the story coming out of Philadelphia. I’ll spare you the details, but you can read about them here if you have the stomach for it. Some have tried to play this down as just unusual abuse by a clinic in a poor area. But even the medically “proper” abortion clinics are revolting, and stories of mangled fetal bodies thrown in garbage pails and callously disposed of in dumpsters have been known, and routinely ignored, by the mainstream press for decades.

This week, as appeared here, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, told the moving story of what turned her towards pro-life beliefs and Catholicism. The last straw was when she watched on ultrasound as a thirteen-week-old fetus squirmed away from the cannula that a doctor positioned in order to suck it out of the mother’s womb. Which he did, as she looked on in horror, joking to the nurse he ordered to turn on the suction, “Beam me up, Scotty.”


That’s the kind of coarseness that thirty-eight years of an abortion regime has produced, paradoxically most often among defenders of “choice,” who consider themselves compassionate and civilized.

But today around noon, something quite different will take place, as it has since these horrors were legalized. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers will march in the freezing January cold on the National Mall in Washington. The numbers are always debated and do not much matter. As usual, The Washington Post will probably tuck it back in the Metro section. Several years ago, asked why pro-abortion events appeared on the front page and pro-life events, when they were even covered, in inconspicuous places, the Post ombudsman commented that reporters tended not to know any pro-lifers.

No matter. I was inoculated in the 1960s against political demonstrations. When I saw, after very little acquaintance, what they are usually about, I stayed away. They almost always embody egotism, self-seeking, and self-righteousness – not to mention self-deception – writ large, and cast as a kind of entertainment with low production values.

But not the pro-life march. The people who take the trouble to come every year – young and old, men and women, Catholics and other Christians, Jews, Muslims, and even a few atheists for life – get nothing personally out of it except, perhaps someday, to live in a less spoiled and murderous culture. Standing in the freezing cold for several hours, often with rain or snow falling, is no fun. And the people who do it don’t expect it to be.

Yet I come away from it every year, humbled and inspired by people who actually do care, disinterestedly, about others.

Pro-lifers continue to be criticized, of course, for their alleged “love affair with the fetus and lack of concern for women and babies after they are born.” This is the rankest nonsense. To take just the example of the Catholic Church, we are the clearest pro-life voice in this country and the whole world, and we also administer the most extensive network of relief agencies and healthcare facilities of any private organization anywhere.

It’s true that Catholics put life questions and other matters on different planes, but that’s because it’s where they belong. There is simply no just reason to take innocent human life anywhere, including in the womb. By contrast, there are multiple and sometimes conflicting opinions about policies to care for women, children, and the poor. And concerned people may reasonably pursue one or the other – and, imagine, even change their minds as circumstances dictate, about what may be most effective.

The popes have made this clear, and our American bishops have followed suit to a degree. The bishops’ document, Faithful Citizenship, states the differing moral status of such questions, which is settled Catholic principle. But then blurs the distinction with far too much confusing detail about social justice obligations, a holdover from a time when matters had not been thoroughly thought through. Serious work needs to be done about this, even among Catholics, who have shown a tendency to take the lack of clarity as an opportunity to misunderstand what our bishops have said.

But over and above these theoretical considerations, today there will be yet another moving testament to the fact that the will to defend innocent human life is far from dead in America. A slim majority of Americans now describe themselves as pro-life, the result of many years of argument and witness. No other nation on earth has had so long and dedicated a pro-life movement, and if abortion is ever seen for the outrage it is in world opinion, our people will deserve no little credit for having kept the flame alive.                        

This is a glorious day in America.

Robert Royal
is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

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Comments (13)Add Comment
written by James Danielson, January 24, 2011
"Glorious" might be reaching a bit far as a description of this day (though things are shaping up nicely here in Florida). We have a generation of Americans who've never lived in a country where abortion-on-demand was illegal. So even if a pro-life majority emerges, it seems reasonable to think that it will be a largely "libertarian" majority, disapproving of abortion, but not wishing to meddle with other people's choices.
written by Jacob Richard, January 24, 2011

Real inroads are being made against abortion right now for the first time in decades.

Perhaps if the pro-life movement is so flimsy you should figure out a way to strengthen it rather than standing by the wayside and lamenting the hopelessness of it all.

One of the main reasons abortion is so available is because so many people who didn't fall in love with it did take the libertarian stance rather than fighting it vehemently.

written by Yezhov, January 24, 2011
Obama rightly asked that the nation's flags be lowered to half mast in commemoration of the attack on Congresswoman Giffords. It's a somber reminder, indeed. But what is needed to remind us of the unspeakable horror of the slaughter of innocents taking place around us daily in airconditioned secrecy is for a black flag to be lashed to the mast of the White House to remain there until the day when the last drop of a preborn's blood goes down the pro choice drain.
written by Ike, January 24, 2011
Sometimes we forget the lessons from past mass murderers: the the Nazis killed 6 Million Jews or the 20 Million Russians killed by Stalin or another 30 Million by the cultural revolution in China. It boggles the mind to realize how puny these figures are compared to the mass murder of babies by supposedly "moral and upright people" of America! I would not be surprised if many years from now a tribunal will be set up by our grand children to indict this generation of inhumanity against mankind.
written by Just Wondering, January 24, 2011
I was just wondering why if life meant so much to American Catholics they voted in a President who never met an abortion procedure he didn't like?
written by debby, January 24, 2011
today reminds me of "Good Friday." God left Heaven, emptied Himself of all glory and willingly clothed Himself in the straight-jacket of humanity for the sake of my soul. Love could not help Himself. and what did i require? nothing less than all of Him...every bit of His sacred flesh torn, while i mocked Him, while i denied Him, while i refused to see, to hear, to be touched, while i demanded my own way....His joints were pulled out of place, His beard plucked, and then when it was not quite enough, He looked at me then toward Heaven and begged still for mercy for me, for He knew i had no idea.....
all those little babies' bodies. all those mothers. all those "doctors." all this sin.
and Jesus bore all this and more.
i have never personally had an abortion. but the spirit of abortion is alive, sometimes even now, even after so many Sacraments, so many confessions, so many receptions of my Lord's most Sacred Body Blood Soul Divinity. because at 50 years old, i still want my way all too often, i still think i have the way, i still resist Grace, i still remain ignorant and grasping at the right to decide what is good (or evil) for me.....
so Jesus received all these, my sins, in His body on Good Friday. He received every sin of perversion, death, lies, hate, lust, apathy.
and where sin abounds HIS GRACE SUPER ABOUNDS!!! to wash- to drown- to consume- to envelope- to embrace- to recreate-
so, yes, today is a glorious day. for this enemy has lost.
death is overcome in Him.
O Come O Come Emmanuel, Come desire of my own heart, Your chosen manger, Your chosen Cross, Rise again dearest Lord and shatter the crypt/cave of my heart! oh Lord, i repent of ever having offended Thee, let me never offend Thee again and do with me as You wish.
written by Other Joe, January 24, 2011
The numbers - especially in New York City - give lie to the wedge rhetoric used by the heartless to push through abortion on demand as a choice without moral implications; that it would only be used in cases of incest, rape or the endangered health of the mother. In New York City, to judge by the numbers, it is used to clean up after all that sex in the city. The moral implications exist even if they are ignored.
written by Louise, January 24, 2011
On the walk from the car to the church, we regularly passed a parked car with two bumper stickers. One read, "I brake for trolls," and the other read "Someone you know may need a choice." I passed them more times than I can count. Finally, one snowy Sunday morning, we parked right next to that driveway. I asked my husband if he had a scrap of paper and a pen. He supplied both. I wrote: "Why would I want my daughter to have a choice that would kill my grandchild? It seems you care more for trolls than for human infants." I added my name, address, and telephone number.

Several weeks/months went by before I finally glanced over at the car. The only bumper sticker remaining was "I brake for trolls." I don't know when the other came off, but it was gone. Thanks be to God.

As long as the sisters, daughters, good friends, friends of friends, whom we love and who, in our hearts, we know to be "good, kind, loving people who would never hurt a fly" decide to terminate their pregnancies "because they were in just horrible, emotional depression and we felt so sorry for them, and we know that they would never do anyone any harm, so it must not be so bad after all", well . . . that's very difficult to wage war against because, after all, it is only one, and she is such a good person, and she would have had to give up her education, her scholarship, her future, her ski trip to Switzerland that she had her heart set on, etc. etc. Many a pro-lifer has been won over by just such personal situations. So there is the macro war and the micro war, and one is as difficult to combat as the other, even though we have all the weapons on our side.
written by Grump, January 24, 2011
I'm confused. Was it "sad" or "glorious"?
written by Billy Bean, January 24, 2011
Please allow me to Amen every comment thus far, except perhaps Grump's, which I am not sure I understand.
written by Billy Bean, January 24, 2011
Debby (most especially): Please pray for me and for my family.
written by Grump, January 24, 2011
Billy, great men are often misunderstood. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
written by debby, January 25, 2011
dear billy, i am praying esp today (Tues 1/25) for your family just because i will be ABLE to remember your request this day. i have asked our Lady-Mom to hold your family in Her own apron pockets so that no intentions will go un-begged-for just because i have no memory!
to grump: it is the very sadness of sin that brings about the glorious mercy of God....His mercy bends all the way down to embrace our sadness, if we but ask for forgiveness. any "on-going" sadness should only be a agent of contrition to grow our hearts to receive and pass on this forgiving love of God Who, "while we were putrefying in our sins, Christ died for us...." He does not wait for our sadness to change, He comes and changes our sadness & restores our life.
it starts out sad, and is transformed to glory.
is that right- RR?

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