A few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing the March for Life. Maybe I’d had too little sleep or too much breaking news that day, but I sighed at one point and asked, “Do you think it does any good?”
I certainly wasn’t questioning the demonstration’s goal; abortion is an evil that defies language and logic, and clearly we cannot sanction it — or the systemic factors, such as poverty, that often foster it.
But I wondered if those who think in terms of “choice,” “reproductive rights” and “viability” look at pro-life gatherings and say to themselves, “You know, those folks may be onto something. I’d better rethink my position on this issue.”
If the almost five decades since Roe v. Wade are any indication, I suspect the answer is probably no. And while we shouldn’t ever stop marching, I would suggest that we must also develop new ways of presenting the pro-life perspective to those whose ears and hearts are deaf to the cries of the womb.
Almost 25 years before the U.S. legalized abortion, Archbishop Fulton Sheen brilliantly observed that in a post-Christian world, our explanation of eternal truths sounds garbled — not because the Gospel has become irrelevant, but because “the modern soul is too confused to grasp” it.
Sheen pointed out that modern man has managed to retreat within himself, and whereas he once “looked forth to heaven above and to hell below,” his vision “has lately been reduced to a single dimension.” This flat landscape offers only two directions, so that man “moves not up to God or down to Satan, but only to the right or to the left.”
The modern soul is deeply alienated from himself, others and God, wrote Sheen — just like the Gerasene demoniac of the Gospels (Mk 5:1-20, Mt 8:28-34, Lk 8:26-39), wandering among the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. And just as Christ met that suffering soul amid his ravings, so too must we “make a start with modern man as he is, not as we should like to find him,” Sheen advised.
We encounter modern men and women, including Christians, in a wilderness of deep sexual confusion, cutting themselves on many stones: gender identity debates, same sex attraction, contraception, abortion, sexual violence and harassment, sexual abuse, pornography and trafficking.
If we are to end the slaughter of the unborn, we must work to change not only laws, but hearts and minds that have become divorced from the God-given gift of human sexuality. Long before a child is in danger of being aborted, a man and a woman act on attitudes, beliefs and desires that result in the creation of a new life. And they do so having been shaped within a broader culture and society in equal need of authentic renewal.
Writing in 1949, Archbishop Sheen estimated that our church was “about fifty years behind the times” in its dialogue with modern man. Marching in 2020, we’re 47 years beyond the devastating Roe v. Wade decision, with millions of lives lost to abortion. We must move quickly, our steps guided by compassion, courage and a longing for all to embrace the divine image in which we have been made.
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