Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Dark “Culture of Death” Brought into the Light

Twenty years ago, in Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II warned of the emergence of a “Culture of Death” in western society, which warred against the principles of human dignity upheld in a “Culture of Life.” At that time and ever since, critics have argued that St. John Paul II was imprudent in painting the distinction so starkly, was mistakenly leading the Church into the so-called in the “Culture Wars,” and had wrongly denigrated those who support access to abortion as participating in the “Culture of Death.”

The undercover videos of Planned Parenthood leaders released over the past couple of weeks have confirmed how perceptively and poignantly St. John Paul II understood the corrupting influence of the “Culture of Death.” Among other shocking statements, we hear high-ranking Planned Parenthood officials saying such things as:

“[W]e’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

[Digging through fetal remains and laughing]: “It’s another boy!”

It is too easy to dismiss these statements as those of particular individuals who were insensitive or indecorous in expression on a single occasion. Even Planned Parenthood has apologized for the “tone” of the remarks. But more and more of Planned Parenthood’s prominent leaders have been uncovered in their habitual callousness about the unborn babies they dismember, cold dispassion about the instruments and methods of such slaughter, and even shocking amusement at the sight of the dissected remains of unborn babies.

This is not a single episode of indelicacy. Rather, this constitutes a pattern that arises from a deep-seated underlying attitude. This is the dark culture of the abortion industry, brought into the light. St. John Paul II well understood how this would happen:

Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern God's living and saving presence. (Evangelium Vitae, Para. 21)

The abortion industry has always preferred to keep these behaviors and expressions hidden. They did not want the public to learn about the gruesome reality of abortion and the degrading attitudes that are inculcated as people become inured to the slaughter of unborn babies when the dealing of death to the unborn becomes routine.  The “Culture of Death” has taken a sad toll on our society as a whole, but no more so than on those who have been deeply immersed in the “pro-choice” campaign.

Moral indignation is justified, but it should not metastasize into rage. Being repulsed by these words of abortion providers is natural, but should not lead us into the temptation of despising those who speak such words. Being horrified by the callous destruction of life is right, but should never betray our commitment to life by being tempted by violence.

As the recent videos have shown, those enmeshed in that abortion system are also victims of the “Culture of Death.” And we in the legal profession bear our own heavy responsibility for this situation, as it was our work in the courts that set the stage for this horror.

Let us never cease praying for those who lives were too soon torn away by abortion. But let us also pray, with genuine love and unceasing hope, for those trapped in the machinery and industry of abortion, whether by their own misguided design or by difficult circumstances that led them into such employment. Let us pray for the restoration of informed conscience leading to the “Culture of Life.”


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