The following is my column in the weekly Newman Catholic Newsletter. Our E-board officers after reading it suggested that I share this online as well.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Last Sunday I was reading the New York Post and there was a headline in the opinion section that said "He’s no Saint: Pope Pius XII didn’t do enough against the Nazi’s." The headline gives you the gist of the article. The author is arguing that Pope Pius XII could have said or done a great deal more to stand up in face of the Nazi’s murdering of millions of innocent human beings who were targeted by that evil regime all for their diabolical reasons.
The article is in response to those who looked at all that the Pope did during that time and claimed the man is a saint. Those supporting the Pope point out the many, many ways that Pius worked, as our current Pope Benedict XVI puts it, "secretly and silently to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews possible."
While I’m not an expert in this debate, I do know that the Catholic Church wouldn’t canonize someone (declaring a person is a Saint) without incredible scrutiny over all aspects of their lives. So I trust that the Church will discern and investigate Pius’ actions before She would simply name him a saint.
But, the author of the article in framing the debate around Pius XII asked: the story is essentially about how one very powerful man responded to the most pressing moral question of the age. This is not some distant historical dispute among scholars. It is a defining issue that asks... what would you have done?
Not even two hours after I read that article, I happened to read something online that said that on our campus, an organization was sponsoring an informational meeting that asked "Can you be both religious and pro-choice?"
Considering I wasn’t invited to be a part of the discussion, on one level there was a part of me that felt "just ignore it - just let it go." But as your priest, I’m concerned when people try to mislead you or confuse you. I’m frustrated when individuals try to spin their agenda in a particular way to make something that is morally, ethically abhorrent somehow religiously "acceptable."
Since the very first century the Catholic Church has been a clear voice to this pressing moral question: the Church has consistently taught that abortion is a moral evil - it is a grave offense... and in recent years has amplified this teaching in a world that tries to drown out any voices that challenge it’s self-absorbed, self-centered ways.
Those who support abortion have lost the argument in terms of scientific evidence (if a fetus in a mother’s womb is not a human being, what is it? Can a pregnancy result in anything other than a human life? Has a woman ever given birth to a plant?) - so they approach it in different ways. Abortion has moved from being a moral and medical issue to a political issue (which has become a very volatile one).
Now, there are attempts to make it a religious issue. "Can you be both religious and pro-choice," the title to the discussion asks, the short answer - No.
As I said, I wasn’t invited to participate in the discussion on campus, but have been at similar ones in the past. Usually these types of discussions like to confuse the abortion issue by raising questions, questions and more questions. These questions raise other moral evils, all of which are designed to appeal to extreme and emotional examples. "God doesn’t want people to suffer" is the response to those examples- and somehow they argue that while abortion is a bad thing, so is rape, so is incest, so is poverty. They conclude with a seeming shrug of the shoulders that says "until we eliminate those reasons for abortion, we will be left with women who will feel they have to choose abortion." This makes abortion seem like it is not a big issue. Yet, no mention is made that nearly one third of your generation has been killed...
The idea that somehow any religion or religious person would find any moral or ethical justification to supporting the killing of an innocent child in the one place a child should be the most protected, the only "safe space" (if you will) – a mother’s womb is beyond comprehension.
And, it is simply wrong.
The question all of us need to answer, whether we are religious leaders or fellow citizens in a free country: a country that promotes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... When we’re asked about the fact that 4,000 innocent babies are murdered each day in abortion clinics, to this pressing, moral issue of our day and age ask yourself– What did you do?
In Christ’s Peace and Love,
Fr. Jim Chern