Thursday, February 5, 2009

Between the Wars [UPDATED]

[Update, 2/6/09: Janet quite rightly points out in the combox that the young Joseph Ratzinger was compelled to fight for the Third Reich, which is certainly not the case for today's "soldiers" for abortion rights. The young Joseph Ratzinger's desertion makes clear his opposition to the evil cause for which he was made to fight. No one, of course, compels Americans to fight against our weakest citizens. In my last paragraph below, I was merely wondering at the way that God sometimes nurtures great good and holiness from evil soil, and hoping that this might be the case with the most committed pro-choicers. But of course, we have to choose it.]


I went to Mass today in a little chapel near my new home. At the Prayer of the Faithful, the priest invited the congregation to voice their petitions. I was about to ask my fellow communicants to pray for my brothers to find work, but an elderly man offered the intention "For an end to the war . . . of abortion." I was struck by his analogy and forgot my prayer request, and indeed no one else mentioned their petitions after this one.

If abortion is a war, that means there are victims of two kinds, at least as we've come to define them: casualties and collateral damage. Collateral damage is damage that is incidental to the intended outcome of the war. If unwanted babies are the intended casualties of this war, then their mothers (and fathers, and grandparents, and on and on in ever-widening concentric circles) are the collateral damage. If we can't bring back the dead, at least, as in a war, we must bind up the wounds of those calamitously injured in it and work to reintroduce them into society.

And if this is a war, then there are generals, officers, infantry and foot-soldiers on both sides. There are, of course, the vocal and dedicated spokesmen (usually, on the pro-choice side, spokeswomen) who rally the rank and file and lead the troops in battle. But the commitment of the soldiers themselves to the cause for which they are fighting varies widely. Many people on the pro-choice side simply accept that abortion is legal and assume it's an uncontestable right; after all, when something is legal, one can usually safely assume that, if not in the interest of the common welfare, it's at least not something that will harm one's fellow citizens. These people might be induced to march in a rally, or might simply do nothing, as so many good Germans did.

It seems to me that, if lovingly presented with the truth, some of these soldiers might lay down their arms and work instead toward the creation of a more just society, in which all lives are valued equally. Many of them care deeply about justice in the abstract, and abortion rights have become firmly entrenched in the public mind as one of the freedoms that should be guaranteed by our hyper-individualistic society; like the good Germans, these soldiers are unquestioning.

But soldiers can have changes of heart; and soldiers, after the war, must be rehabilitated. One German conscript, for instance, who deserted from the Wehrmacht is now Pope Benedict XVI.


Karinann said...

Yes, soldiers hearts can be changed and rehabilitated. I pray for it every day. Sometimes I think if they had the opportunity to sit through a Rachels Vineyard memorial service, where those who have suffered the "collateral damage" of this war mourn their children, grandchildren, siblings, there might be many instant conversions.
*Rachel's Vineyard is a ministry that offers healing to post-abortive men and women.

Pentimento said...

I believe you're right, Karinann.

Janet said...

When anyone mentions the Holy Father being in the Whermacht or whatever it was that he was in, I feel like I need to say that the way he was originally conscripted was that the army took over the school he was in and bang, he was in the army. Also, he was at the most 18 when the war ended.

AMDG, Janet

Pentimento said...

I didn't mean to impute any guilt to our Holy Father, Janet. It just occurred to me that he was a soldier in an evil cause through no will of his own, as you note, and that he deserted, and that now he's the Pope. I thought this was something hopeful.

Pentimento said...

I guess it's not an apt analogy, really, since we have the free will to choose which side we're on, and he really didn't.

Janet said...

I was trying to word that in a way that didn't sound confrontational. ;-) I've just seen it blown out of proportion in the media so often that it worries me that those who don't know the truth (not talking about you here, but maybe some of your readers) will by into the implications.

I was in a hurry before, as now, but I ought to have said that the rest of the post was right on target.

AMDG, Janet

Dave said...

...if lovingly presented with the truth.... Many of them care deeply about justice....

I've long firmly argued that the accusation of "relativism" is not only imprecise, but counterproductive. Those on the other side of this battle are certain enough about a few things and care deeply about justice enough that they clearly demonstrate a belief in absolute truth. What they lack is a belief that any of us can be very certain about much of the Truth (even St. Paul says we only see darkly as in a mirror), and an even greater doubt that the Truth will come from us.

Their uncertainty allows them to choose the side easier to sympathize with. It is far easier to feel sympathy for a frightened 15yr old girl in a bad spot than for an embryo.

Dunno where that leads, but I can say:

Again and again, I really glad you're out there Pentimento.

Pentimento said...

You're absolutely right, Janet, and I will update the post to make it clearer when I have the chance, perhaps tonight - my three-year-old needs me now.

Dave, you raise an interesting point, but I don't really agree with you that pro-choicers believe in an absolute truth, at least not in my experience -- in fact, I tried to say so in the post your daughter read. I think that on the left in general there's a sense of a wavering, shifting truth, and that nothing spiritual can be absolute. The law and legalism, on the other hand, tend to be viewed as absolutes that need to be honored.

And I think one of the reasons that there is so little sympathy for the unborn is simply that they cannot be seen, as you suggest - and thanks for your very kind words.

Dave said...

Pentimento, then how would you explain their dead certainty about so many things (against racism, equal rights for women, absolute freedom of the individual)? How could you explain the fierce moralism of lefties, how they are eager to condemn people who drive Hummers, or don't recycle? They don't say "Well, I think a Prius is right for me, but if you want to drive a Hummer, then that's right for you."

Even going back to those people who jarred you saying "Well, I wouldn't get an abortion myself, but I'll defend your right to have one." I don't think they are saying "It's wrong for me, but it's right for you," but rather "I think it *might* be wrong, but I'm not sure enough about that to stop you, and I am very certain that defending freedom is TRUE for everybody all the time."

I understand that the result looks like the result of relativism. The motives are different though. One says "there are no absolutes", the other says "there are absolutes, but we can't know them, and you can't tell me what they are."

[sorry that was rather long winded - gotta go...]

Pentimento said...

Dave, that's exactly where the illogic lies in leftist discourse. On the one hand, as you note, there are absolutes when it comes to social (though not personal) morals. On the other hand, there is a staunch lack of commitment to whatever might be the source of those morals. Absolutes have to be based on something. If you say Wal-mart is evil but abortion might be okay, you have essentially chucked your moral authority into the dustbin.

Dave said...

I think I can work with that, Pentimento. Will ponder.