This is a bit behind - partly because my email server was down all last week - but I wanted to do some follow-up since The Sanctity of Life Sunday on January 22. As I wrote recently, abortion is not a one day issue for the year to be chastized and condemned; and then essentially hidden until the following year. It is something that is with us every day, and threatens to remain so for the forseeable future. It takes thoughtful and prayerful reflection so as to understand the bioethical issues involved. A Christian response can be much more effectively formed with study then by an emotional response that is always in danger of breeding hatred of a demonized opponent. Be that as it may, I wanted to reproduce the paragraphs from Fr. John Breck's book: Longing for God - Orthodox Reflections on Bible, Ethics, and Liturgy that I read aloud to everyone on that Sunday. Especially for those who were not in church that day, or who came after the homily. In an article entitled, "The Status of the Unborn - Again," Fr. John closes with a few excellent paragraphs that firmly and soberly summarize a sound Orthodox "pro-life" position:
Science and politics often mix no better that oil and water. Although embryology may confirm that human life exists both genetically and developmentally from conception, concern to placate pro-choice advocates has led all three branches of government to preserve the "right" even to such late-term procedures as "partial birth abortion," an act of undisguised barbarity.
While many abortion opponents are trying to overturn Roe v. Wade and similar legislation, working as it were from the bottom up, it may prove more effective to reverse course and begin with the most egregious practices in the abortion business. President Bush has expressed clear opposition to partial birth abortions. If they could be outlawed throughout the country, then this would go a long way toward confirming what Jewish and Christian tradtions have always known: that life in the womb is human life, worthy of legal protection. Then it would be necessary to work incrementally backward, eventually to eradicate from the public's mind the false distinction between "child," "fetus" and "embryo."
Science operates on the basis of knowledge; politics, on the basis of pressure. It is up to each of us, in appropriate and peaceful yet firm and relentless ways, to apply that pressure. Then eventually we may make it beyond this tragic moment in our history, marked by a level of self-interest that allows incipient human life to be sacrificed in the interests of cloning, the harvesting of embryonic stem cells, and partial birth infanticide. Then finally we might acknowledge and affirm, through public policy as much as through religious conviction, that the "status of the embryo" is none other than the status we enjoy ourselves, as citizens endowed with certain inalienable rights, and as persons endowed with the Image of God. (p. 87)
When we approach the Chalice to receive the Eucharist, we are approaching and then receiving Life in abundance. We must stand in defense of the sanctity of life if we are to receive from the Chalice of Life in a "worthy manner." Informing ourselves of the bioethical issues involved is a good starting point, and we thank God that we have theologians and pastors such as Fr. John Breck to guide us with clarity and conviction.
Dear Parish Faithful,
Below is a bit of updating in relation to yesterday's "theological thoughts" about abortion, from Luke Loboda. - Fr. Steven
After reading your email following up on abortion and our faith, I wanted to make sure you were fully aware of recent legislation and so forth. Father Breck's comments (I do not know when he wrote them) are a bit out of date on the partial-birth abortion issue.
Congress did pass a Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in 2003. The law prohibits the procedure described below:
An abortion in which the person performing the abortion, deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that t he person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus. (18 U.S. Code 1531)
Although it might be a bit confusing, at least this disgusting barbaric procedure (also known as "intact Dilation and Extraction") is outlawed. The problem is that other late-term procedures are possible and this procedure represents less than 1% of abortions (estimated as about 2000/year). Still, that is 2000 lives saved per year. The Supreme Court also upheld the constitutionality of this ban in the case Gonzales v. Carhart.
So while we have far to go, at least this "start" has been made.