After having been told in our marriage prep that the choice of contraception was up to my wife and I, and while deliberating about whether or not we wanted to stop at 2 or 3 kids so that we could have that perfect American family, a strange thing happened.
You see, I had been reading a lot about this little thing called the Catholic Church, and I was all-in on the fact that this whole thing made good, logical sense. It was clear – Christ called Peter the Rock, the teachings on faith and morals that were bound here were a bound because it was divinely inspired teaching. Scripture and Tradition – got it.
I was also all-in on contraception. After all, a man of the cloth had clearly informed us that this was not, in fact, a teaching of the Church. If we were OK with it, then God was OK with it.
As both my wife and I grew in our faith, though, we started spending a lot more time with other Catholic families, and at some point my wife informed me that she wasn’t sure we should be contracepting. This was not part of my plan, and I clung to that initial piece of advice we had received as if my life depended on it. Was this the same woman who wanted me to get snipped not that long ago? (I didn’t for two reasons: (1) there was something deep down that told me it wasn’t right, and I could never get past that, and (2) I really cringed and felt pain in my nether region every time I thought about it, and could never get past that.) It finally reached a point where this was causing some real stress in our relationship, and I had a brilliant idea. It was time to go to the Catechism. Yeah, that was it. These other people were taking the extreme position on this, and the Catechism would be my proof that we were OK.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
If I’ve been blessed with anything, it’s the ability to be pretty honest with myself. I am, by nature, a logical and analytical person. Truth is truth, and if it’s presented to me clearly and definitively, I accept it even if I don’t like the answer.
I can still remember that day, opening up the Catechism and reading about the use of contraception. I don’t remember anything I read except two words: “Intrinsically evil.”
My conversion was immediate.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an “Alleluia” moment. It wasn’t a refreshing moment. It wasn’t a happy moment at all.
It was a moment of clarity. And I could not, in good conscience, ignore it.
And so my new life began. The life that would lead me to a family that now includes 9 children who are both a tremendous joy and blessing, while at the same time – in my darker moments – secretly wondering what my life would be like if I had never had that moment of clarity.
I can recount a couple other moments like that in my life. I think God gives all of us those moments. He wants to move us in the right direction, but He often finds ways to make that happen where the choice still has to be ours. Every conversion story I have ever heard is defined by particular moments, and there is not one of them that doesn’t believe that God had a hand in the process. We may all be delusional, or it could be that God actually really does love us and is ready to forgive us and welcome us back to the fold, from whatever distance it is we have strayed. It’s all well and good to have some excuse for a while that you can blame on someone else for why you are doing what you are doing. But if you are not doing right, at some point God will make it your choice, and from that point forward it’s your decision to own.
I think we have these moments as individuals, as families, as parishes, as communities, and as nations.
I believe the recent scandal regarding Planned Parenthood is such a moment.
The discussion and sale of baby parts is nauseating and disquieting. But it changes nothing at all about the abortion issue. It is a stark reflection of who and what Planned Parenthood is, and it unveils the evil that lurks behind the facade of an organization that claims to be a champion of women’s health. But in reality, we’ve had decades of technological capabilities of informing people that the baby is really a baby and not a clump of cells. Ultrasounds brought us pictures of the baby in the womb. Advancements in DNA technology and understanding have reached a point where even the unscientific common folk know enough that all humans have a unique DNA, and that the baby in the womb is human and distinct from the mother’s DNA.
We already know all that, but because many people don’t want to let the abortion issue go, they cling to the “it’s just a lump of cells” argument from 40 years ago as gospel, and continue to avoid confronting their own sense of reason on better understanding the humanness of the “fetus.”
Then there is another group of people – Christians no less – that have managed to convince themselves that abortion is just another issue. They are against it, but because of other influences they have chosen to either minimize its importance or how evil it actually is because they have other political issues they feel strongly about. Whether it’s education or the poor or the economy – good and legitimate issues – they are willing to overlook the fact that abortion should be a disqualifying issue for any candidate. What does that mean? For example: if a candidate came out in favor of re-instituting slavery, but otherwise supported the issues you support, would you vote for him? Most would (hopefully) say “no.” Why? Because that one issue shows a depravity of mind that cannot possibly qualify him for legal office. Period. If he is so out of bounds on that issue, we cannot trust that he will make wise decisions in other areas, regardless of his stand on other issues.
If we can agree that there are issues of disqualification for a candidate, then on what basis can any of us who believe that life begins at conception ever not disqualify a candidate who believes it is perfectly acceptable to kill a child in the womb?
The recent Planned Parenthood scandal is not so much about the strict legalities or illegalities of trading in body parts as much as it is about making it entirely clear to us that abortion is about killing babies with developed baby parts. Those who are arguing that it really is legal, and for research, and all that are entirely missing the point. The entire point is that these are actual developed organs, tissues, heads, livers, you name it. These things come from some living being, and in this case we know that living thing to be human.
In other words, this is a moment of clarity.
Because of these videos, politicians will be required to stake out a position. Everyone will be asked to either align with or against Planned Parenthood. Based on this new information, we know ever more clearly that abortion is about killing human babies. Any politician who continues to align with Planned Parenthood is making a choice that, to be perfectly honest, imperils their soul. Any person who, in turn, aligns with a politician who has aligned with Planned Parenthood is doing the same. I am not the judge, and I am not making any final statements about any individual person’s salvation. But what I do know is that we are given these moments as a gift – a blessing – so that we can correct injustice in a particular area that is a grievous sin against God and humanity.
Making the choice to do this may or may not require putting other things that are important to you on hold. It may not be an easy thing to do. But we are given these moments to make a difference and to take a stand. It may mean that another issue of less importance (Even though important to us) does not go exactly the way we’d like for a few years. Well, it is my opinion that if we all made it clear that we are disqualifying any candidate on this issue, then within 2-3 election cycles it wouldn’t be an issue. Politicians are funny like that. And this does not make us “one-issue” voters. I hate that characterization. That implies that this is just one of many issues. While it is true that it is one of many issues, there are different categories of issues. By definition, a disqualifying issue takes precedence before consideration of other issues. By all means, if there are two pro-life candidates then I will make it perfectly clear that I consider a lot of other issues and will speak to those. If you are not pro-life, well, then your head is not right and I just can[t trust your judgment. It’s actually pretty simple. If you’re still confused, go back to the slavery example and read it again.
We must be honest with ourselves when God gives us a moment of clarity like this. And if we don’t, there will be consequences to us as a nation and as individuals.