To that already glaring scene of ironic juxtaposition, (although maybe not, given the Presbyterian Church U.S.A’s recent statement in favor of late-term abortions), let’s add another layer that’s just a bit more subtle.
Over at the “women’s clinic,” on this hot July afternoon, water sprinklers were going great guns, shooting water this way and that, showering nourishment down on the grass, the shrubs and the flowers surrounding the place.
We really owe it to the plants to do what we can to keep them alive.
Because you know, if they weren’t watered, the plants would die.
And that would be wrong.
Even as we kill human beings inside.
And that would be right.
The same unintentional irony afflicts our culture in general as well. Millions of dollars are spent encouraging women to take care of themselves during pregnancy, lest their baby be harmed by smoke, alcohol or a poor diet.
Can’t hurt the baby. That would be wrong.
But we can kill the baby. That would be right.
Hospital wings and research centers are dedicated to the care of early-term infants. Billions of dollars are spent on their care and on research geared towards figuring out how to save them at earlier and earlier ages.
Can’t let the tiny baby be born without helping it. That would be wrong.
But we can kill the tiny baby if it’s not yet hit the air. That would be right.
We maintain life with one hand and deal out death with another. And all the while, we don’t see the irony, nor do we see that in the end, we are engaging in a self-defeating enterprise, for when our devotion to life is selective, we are doing nothing but death keep its foot in the door.
While traveling recently, I attended Mass in one of those huge, super parishes that’s packed full at Mass, that’s expanding as fast as it can, and that boasts of scores of ministries, to fit every need.
It made me tired just to go to Mass there, but for those that are nourished by it, fine. Who am I?
Anyway, as I was tending to my son in the vestibule of this church (he’s fifteen months old. He doesn’t quite understand “be quiet!” yet.), I listened to what I could pick up off the homily and browsed through the pamphlets on the wall describing the church’s ministries. It was the usual collection – liturgical ministries, catechesis, various works of mercy.
I picked up the pamphlet labeled “post-abortion ministry,” and this is what I read:
If you have given up a child to abortion…..
(A compassionate alternative might be, “If you are hurting in the aftermath of an abortion….” Don’t you think?)
So there it was, in this busy, busy parish. Super busy, with a beautiful, flourishing external edifice. Folks everywhere devoted to making sure that this was a parish full of what’s usually called “life.”
But inside, they were blithely equating, by way of grammatical structure, the act of abortion with the act of placing a child for adoption. They were totally obfuscating the meaning of the act. They were even implying that it was not really wrong and that it had nothing to do with death.
Because to obfuscate in the name of compassion, thereby keeping the happy crowds cramming the pews – that would be right.
But to tell the truth about what abortion is – that would be wrong. Let the lawn sprinklers fly. Let the grass grow. Let the happy crowds sing. Let the parish be full of life.
And inside, let the word be spread that the babies can be “given to abortion” as if we are doing them a favor.
And everywhere, let freedom ring and irony reign.
Amy Welborn is a columnist for Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic News Service and a regular contributer to the Living Faith quarterly devotional.