As we prepare for the March for Life this Friday, I am led to ponder some of the subtler psychological roots of abortion. Beyond the legal problems and the moral issues such as unrestrained lust, greed, and selfishness, there are several other trends in our culture that should be recognized. They all tend to feed upon one another.
Addiction to comfort
In the modern Western world, we have attained very “comfortable” lives. Our homes are heated and air-conditioned. We have clean running water; access to advanced medical care; an abundant, diverse, and inexpensive food supply; and access to technological inventions that have removed much of the tedious work from our lives.
Aversion to discomfort
All of this has made us extremely sensitive to the slightest discomfort; many are practically terrified of suffering. We react with great drama to the slightest inconvenience. It can be something as minor as having to sit and wait because of a delayed flight, or a computer that is slow to bring up a web page. We also don’t like the discomfort brought on by strong words or challenging ideas. Many complain about what they term “micro-aggressions” and demand that colleges provide “safe spaces” to protect students from the “suffering.”
In an age of near addiction to comfort (and extreme aversion to discomfort), suffering is not only deemed meaningless, it has become the worst thing imaginable. St. Paul said that the cross is an absurdity to the world; that is surely evident today.
Ashamed of the Cross
Today it is not merely unbelievers who shun the cross and reject its wisdom and power; it is also many Catholics, who should know better. Not only do we fear the slightest suffering ourselves, but we also are extremely hesitant to summon anyone else to carry a cross. Thus, many are embarrassed to defend the “hard” teachings of the faith because they might upset someone.
Almost everyone knows that Jesus commanded us to take up our cross and follow Him, and that we should help others to carry their crosses, but at the end of the day, we are too weak, fearful or ashamed to proclaim that the cross is the wisdom and power of God at work in hidden and often paradoxical ways. We have crosses displayed in our parishes and we sing about lifting high the cross, but we don’t really mean it. We are more often embarrassed by any practical application of the command to carry the cross.
Our silence and shame as Christians has allowed our addiction to comfort to grow. Any form of self-denial or call to resist sinful and excessive attachments is considered too hard and mean-spirited. Anyone who is challenged or made uncomfortable is now considered a victim who should be accorded sympathy and understanding.
Absent any theology of the cross, suffering loses its meaning. Serious sufferings so appall us that many actually suggest death as a remedy. Our culture of death increasingly proposes the killing (through abortion and euthanasia) of human beings as a solution to problems. Nowadays, people don’t have problems, they are the problem and their lives seem “meaningless” and worth ending. Eliminate the person and you eliminate the problem; or so the thinking goes. This is the culture of death, and it has happened on our watch, fellow Christians.
When we march, we are confronted by supporters of abortion who contend that abortion is a good thing if the baby might be deformed, raised in poverty, or endure difficult family or social situations. Death, the killing of the patient, is promoted as a kind of therapy—the strangest therapy of all! It is a horrifyingly twisted notion of compassion. Abortion advocates of this sort, claiming to “care” for the unborn child, actually lead them off to execution.
They also claim to care for the mother, who they think might suffer in some way if she gives birth to a child. But instead of really assisting her or offering to facilitate adoption, they lead her into a “clinic” to have an act of violence performed on her.
And thus the combination of our obsession with comfort and our fear of the cross ushers in the greatest cruelty of all. Perhaps no one has more effectively described the cruelty of abortion on every level than Fr. Paul Marx, who wrote the following many years ago:
America has serious problems of poverty, discrimination, and homelessness. But no Americans are poorer, or more discriminated against, or more homeless than the aborted babies: nameless, helpless, defenseless, penniless, naked, abandoned by their parents, forced out of their uterine homes, forsaken by society, stripped of all legal rights, labeled as sub-humans, denied baptism, denied the last rites, denied anesthesia, tortured, murdered, cannibalized for their organs, denied decent burials, cremated, or discarded with the trash, and then totally forgotten (Fr. Paul Marx, OSB, PhD).
This is why we must march. To those children who have suffered the supreme cost of our collective malaise, we must say, You are not forgotten. Our obsession with comfort, our fear of the cross, our darkened intellects, our hardened hearts, our lust and greed, have done this to you. Some of us have acknowledged our personal and collective sinfulness and commit to reminding this world that your lives mattered and that you are not forgotten. We will march for you this Friday and work daily until the time when we can look back and, with converted hearts, recognize the evil our age has wrought.