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The Gospel of Life

| Monday, October 14, 2019

The Catholic faith, rightly understood, is a living witness to the person of Christ. I write on behalf of the thousands of other men and women on this campus who recognize that our active, personal faith demands an unapologetically pro-life response to the contemporary culture of death, especially to the tragedy of abortion.

Without a doubt, Maggie Garnett and Molly Queal’s gem of a letter to the editor was desperately needed in the current campus conversation on pro-life topics. I have quite honestly lost track of the number of letters and columns I have read in these pages over the past two weeks which not only demonize but also fundamentally mischaracterize the purpose of Respect Life Week in particular and pro-life beliefs more generally.

Clearly, the past two weeks of incessantly hostile letters to the editor against pro-lifers has demonstrated that a significant number of Notre Dame undergraduates know very little about the Catholic Church’s definitive teachings on these matters, which St. John Paul II eloquently conveys in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (in English, The Gospel of Life). Anyone who wants to understand the pro-life perspective ought to be aware of the arguments this great pope and saint presents in his letter.

One of John Paul II’s chief concerns in Evangelium Vitae is to identify the “culture of death” which pervades the modern world. He describes this culture as “a war of the powerful against the weak,” a terrifying “conspiracy against life” which comfortably finds a home within an intensely secular, individualist culture. Perhaps most importantly, this culture promotes a warped concept of conscience that rejects our social responsibility for the most vulnerable among us, especially the unborn. On the other hand, the “culture of life” affirms the lesson of Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis that “every man is his ‘brother’s keeper’” (Gen 4:9). The gift of human freedom “possesses an inherently relational dimension” that conscience binds us to uphold, for freedom can only exist when it is linked to this essential truth.

This reality of conscience has been articulated by educated and simple folks alike throughout history and in fiction, from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John Henry Newman to Pinocchio and Buzz Lightyear. The typical God-fearing man or woman perceives conscience to be an active echo or an inner voice pointing beyond itself to bear witness to truth and advise us how to act toward others in accordance with that very same truth. Men and women of good will who listen to the demands of conscience cannot separate truth as a mere ideal from its active component.

Hence, pro-lifers like myself understand that conscience urges us in this overtly secularized age to train our activism most specifically against the tragedy of abortion which, far from the normal medical procedure that liberal individualist ideology distressingly identifies it to be, has destroyed tens of millions of lives since Roe v. Wade was established in 1973. For us, fighting to overturn Roe in American law is only part of the responsibility we have to defend all life from conception until natural death. More imminently and locally, we have a responsibility to aid women with unintended pregnancies, a loving task which the Women’s Care Center has taken up with outstanding results over the past few decades, and to pray for the conversion of souls away from either seeking an abortion or actively participating in the abortion industry. Though we surely pray for an end to Roe when we attend the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, for example, we pray even more strongly for the mothers and babies who are most vulnerable to the exploitative machinery which our society’s present abortion regime advances.

In South Bend, there is only one comprehensive abortion provider that possesses this machinery in a literal sense: Whole Woman’s Health, the site of Notre Dame Right to Life’s recent morning vigil culminating Respect Life Week, which has been so blatantly mischaracterized and angrily condemned over the past two weeks. The facility was closed at the time, but we nonetheless prayed for the conversion of souls and an end to abortion there and everywhere with our most effective weapon, the Rosary.

We prayed and will continue to pray there because we reject the logic that women facing unexpected pregnancies are best served by an impersonal, dehumanizing apparatus of death. The “choice” of abortion that the culture of death has coerced them to make can and must in fact be reversed before a woman walks through the clinic door. When a woman sees dozens upon dozens of young men and women praying for her across the street because they love her, though they may not even know her name, and ponders these things in her heart, she will be inclined to consider the life inside of her in a new light. She will be moved by grace to consider choosing life for her baby, the only choice which affirms her dignity as a relational person, as a person with a conscience, as a person who is created by and for love.

Reflect upon the Gospel of Life. Pray for an end to abortion. Bear witness to the culture of life. Indeed, every single man and woman is “her sister’s keeper.”

Brennan Buhr is a senior Juggerknott from Albany, New York who studies theology, political science (but really, just theory) and history. He loves drinking cold glasses of skim milk and eating salad for dessert when he is not consuming “the living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51) at the Basilica. He can be reached at [email protected] or @BuhrBrennan on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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