By Father Leonard Peterson

As the calendar page turned to 2010, I thought about how futuristic the sound of that number is to my generation, born in the 1940s. I also remember how my late, dear mom felt about the year 1980, a number which to her had sounded the same to a person born in 1911.

That calendar shift also got me thinking that I have been writing for this newspaper off and on since the early 1980s. During all these years I don’t know a more neuralgic subject than abortion. The somewhat surprising popular reaction to legalized baby killing has certainly challenged our Church. Arguably, the clergy sex abuse scandal runs a close second. While lives were greatly hurt in this case, there was no physical killing. The possibility of healing is real for the unfortunate victims. Not so for dead babies.

As we know, our Church has had to step out from the calm confines of the sacristy and enter into a very hostile arena. Ever since 1973, she has had to stand up and be counted among the ridiculed members of the loyal opposition in our country. She has had to suffer for it, from detracting commentators on the outside and misguided members on the inside.

One development in all this has intrigued me: the manipulation of the language. Change the wording and there’s a fair chance you will change the reality. Look what has happened to the word “gay” in the time since it appeared in a Christmas carol.

More to the point consider how accustomed we have become to the pleasant-sounding description “pro-choice” to describe proponents of baby killing. Rarely do we hear that stance defined as “pro-abortion.” That would mark the end of the appeal that the word “choice” has in our entitled American society.

Over the years, note how a “baby” has become known as a “fetus.” “Viable fetus” makes clinical the “living baby” in the womb.

Of course, Holy Scripture offers a counterpoint to all that. It speaks of Mary’s “Child,” and her cousin Elizabeth’s “infant.”

So 2010 has come. Another March for Life will be held in Washington and will be largely ignored on evening news or the Internet. Another round of artful avoidance will shame our so-called Catholic politicians. The “sleeping giant” of the majority of our Catholic people will remain asleep. Thankfully, some will carry on the fight.

Predictably, our country’s main worries this new year will resemble last year’s. There will be fretting over shrinking icebergs and much ado lost attempts to quell international terrorism as well as over-coverage on TV of Hollywood couplings and uncouplings.

Meanwhile, another of our society’s most pernicious enemies will quietly work in the operating rooms of certain medical facilities with little interference. The sheer destruction of the abortion mills already exceeds the horror of the Holocaust. It all makes me wonder if someday our country will be described in a future history book as a “formerly great nation that, by approving the killing of its young, became linked with ancient empires like that of the Aztecs, who threw their infants into sacrificial fires to appease some capricious god and suffered the fate of oblivion.”

That’s an awful prediction that need not come true. We can still make a difference. That will happen if more of us look at the word abortion straight in its defining “eyes,” lest by our negligence it someday defines us.

Father Peterson is pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield.