Is Making Abortion Illegal Enough?
I reminded her that there were actually two problems to consider: How to save those children whose mothers wanted to kill them in utero, and how to save those abused and neglected since birth. “Surely you’re not suggesting that death is preferable to an uncertain future,” I urged. “If that were the case, why not kill the hundreds of thousands of children already in the system?” She did not reply, knowing that my two children were adopted “out of the system.”
I was reminded of this conversation again when I heard Elizabeth Thecla Mauro interviewed on WDEO. Her article “The Law of Unintended Consequences: A Cautionary Look at Overturning Roe vs. Wade” appeared in Crisis magazine. She writes:
For everything there is a season, and a time and purpose unto heaven. Perhaps, as we see the glimmer of an opportunity in reversing a heinous law, this is meant to be a season of introspection for the Church the most consistently pro-life voice for all these decades. Assuming that the introduction of Roe v. Wade was God “writing straight with crooked letters,” what could God possibly be up to? Or a better question: Did the Church have any culpability in the passing of Roe v. Wade? Should its passage have forced us into examining not the Church’s teachings, but the manner in which those truths were being communicated?
Nowhere in the article or on the air did Mauro suggest that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. She simply pointed out that changing the law is not enough to affect the moral compass of our culture, or to eliminate the real needs that drive women to consider abortion in the first place. If abortion is today what slavery was in the 19th century, we need the equivalent of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. However, we also need the Underground Railroad, and we need the Harriet Beacher Stowes writing the cultural equivalent of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. To succeed, the pro-life movement needs a human, compassionate face.
Reaching “The Least of These”
There is a big difference between being anti-abortion (or anti-euthanasia) and being pro-life. If we are going to breathe new life into this culture of death, by the grace of God, we need soldiers “at the gates” and political advocacy. However, we also need (as Elizabeth was trying to point out) “underground” types those who respond in love not only for the pregnant women and infants but the hundreds of thousands of children who will wind up in similarly desperate straits if we do not teach them to aspire to something better.
If every Christian family in America took one “unwanted” child (not just the cute infants, but the special needs and older children as well) into our homes, we could turn the tide against the Culture of Death in a single generation and put a human face on the pro-life movement. The question is: Just how committed are we to this particular cause?
There are those who argue that this is folly that children in the system (particularly teens) are already “broken,” and that by taking them in we will merely jeopardize the moral climate for our own children. And, to some extent, they are right. Unloved children are needy, ill-mannered, messy, ungrateful insomniacs. They will hide food, steal, swear, and do all manner of things to make you doubt your parenting skills and even your sanity.
But they are also unforgettable images of redemption. The two-year-old who once took a swing at our priest when Father reached out a hand in blessing is now a vivacious kindergartener. I recently found him force-feeding Cheeze-Its to his little sister, intoning, “The Body of Christ, the Body of Christ.” His older sister, who had to be removed from our home for the safety of the younger two, was at her baptism the picture of contentment with her adoptive family. As the priest poured the water over their sister’s head, my two piped up, “Yay! She’s baptized! Now our sister has a new name, too!”
There is another good reason to do this as well, one that benefits those already in your home: By applying the principles of social justice on such a personal level, you will be teaching your children that faith is more than lip-service. “Knowledge [of social justice principles] acquired in this way does not remain merely abstract, but is seen as something that must be translated into action” (Mater et Magistra, 237).
When Adoption Is Not Option
Obviously, careful thought must be given to the appropriateness of a placement. Those with young children, for example, should not take into their homes children with a history of severe abuse (particularly sexual abuse) or neglect. Those who take these children need to be particularly vigilant, since traumatized children are capable of acting out the abuse that was inflicted on them, and express their anger in ways that can be dangerous. For some children, a group home (like those run by St. Don Bosco) may be the best option. Thankfully, there are a great many children who are currently state wards who do not fit this description, but are difficult to place because they have special needs, are part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together, or are bi-racial.
For those who truly cannot take a child or single mother into their home, for whatever reason, there are other options: Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister; offering low-cost childcare for a single parent who needs to work; volunteering with a local foster agency to provide respite care for children whose foster parents or bio parents need a break; mentoring a single mother who needs life skills to get a job or an education or whatever else she needs; starting a parish scholarship fund for “working mothers” who need to go back to school. The possibilities are endless and, unfortunately, so are the excuses.
But at the end of your life, as you stand before God the Just Judge, which would you rather say, “Yes, Lord, I was pro-life. I picketed abortion clinics once a month, gave used baby clothes to a pregnancy crisis center, and I never voted for a politician unless NOW and Planned Parenthood both had him or her on their hit list.” Or, “Yes, Lord, I was pro-life. I took a child who had no future, and gave him one in Your name.”
Our beloved sons, the laity, can do much to help…[the] diffusion of Catholic social doctrine by studying it themselves and putting it into practice…convinced that the best way of demonstrating the truth and efficacy of this teaching is to show that it can provide the solution to present-day difficulties. They will thus win those people who are opposed to it through ignorance of it. Who knows, but a ray of its light may one day enter their minds. (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961, 224-225)
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Heidi Hess Saxton is a regular contributor to CatholicExchange.com and Canticle magazine, and a graduate student of theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. She and her husband Craig are adoptive parents of two foster children and one recalcitrant Border collie. For more of her writing, go to http://heidihesssaxton.blogspot.com.