By Rev. Bernard O'Connor, OSFS
January 21, 2005
There have been dark moments within the history of all world religions. In many ways, the recent hijacking of portions of Islam by radical fringe elements shows the vulnerability of religions to misuse. Religions tap so deeply into the very core of the human personality and approach such fundamental realities, that it is often difficult to contain actions by individuals or groups who distort the core beliefs of the religions.
On the other hand, religions also provide immense benefits for the human family on our journey through life. They articulate meanings that give form to entire cultures. They announce truths that transcend the boundaries of ordinary reason and lead humans to reach for their grandest potentials. It is hard to imagine the peaks of Western civilization in reasoning capacity, moral persuasiveness, artistic accomplishment, social organization, or compassionate service without reference to religious ideals.
In recent American culture, we have been privileged to participate in one of the most significant religious events in the history of human kind. Many religious people in America have clearly drawn a line in the sand. They have taken a stand that will be remembered for centuries as a defining moment in the religious struggle against secularism. This movement is the pro-life cause.
Secularism had mounted a determined campaign to define reality in purely worldly terms. America was susceptible to this strategy because of our love of material things and our devotion to capitalism. We are also deeply committed to the individual and the rights of the individual. This is our history. Our ancestors were a hardy group of individuals who ventured out on their own. They faced adversity, worked hard, and created a productive and wealthy nation. We are immensely proud of their accomplishments.
Our ancestors were also deeply religious people. They built churches before they built centers of government, commerce, or culture. They subscribed to a set of truths that supported their work and fostered the foundation of the nation we love today. In the mid-1900's, however, secularism made a bold move within American culture. Bolstered by many nihilistic ideas that they borrowed from European philosophers, they attempted to elevate the legitimate values of freedom and equality to such a degree that they replaced God. The truths of the foundation documents of the nation and the culture become secondary to these new 'gods.' This developed into a rampant relativism.
The prime example of this reversal is found in the "pro-choice" movement. The foundational documents of most religious traditions clearly proclaim that "God is the giver of life." The founding fathers of our nation speak of certain "inalienable rights...among them are life...." Yet five justices of the Supreme Court ruled that a woman had a right to terminate the life of a child without due process of law. Many religious people throughout the land instinctively knew that something was seriously wrong with this decision. When the issue deals with human life, religions draw a line in the sand. They went to work immediately.
Their work has been both brilliant and noble. Some of the best minds in the land have devoted years of careful study uncovering the confusions that led the Supreme Court to make this crucial mistake. Committed religious people from many faiths joined together to make the case that American law does not permit the conclusions reached by this court. By and large, the intellectual battle has been won. In my opinion, the "pro-life" arguments now prevail throughout a majority of the land.
The next step involved political action. Most religious people are deeply committed to the democratic process. In one of the greatest human rights movements ever, they sought the votes. Gradually, the "pro-choice" or "abortion on demand" forces began to realize that they were on the defensive. Their support of "partial-birth abortion" in many ways symbolized the desperate nature of their position. Americans watched as embarrassed political leaders tried to support this radical procedure. That was enough. Many people of faith abandoned the Democratic party.
The recent election was a watershed in this epic struggle. The power elites of the Democratic party are now in a very difficult position. Without wise action, they could become a minority party for years to come. Political support for "abortion on demand" continues to erode. I believe it is conceivable that the Supreme Court will decisively overturn Roe vs. Wade. Abortion may still be permitted in America, but only after judicial review and due process of law. An abortion will require a specific therapeutic outcome that can be accomplished in no other way. The life of the unborn child will no longer be contingent simply upon the will of the mother. One group of Americans will not be able to remove the gift of life from another group of Americans without due process of law. The child will have a legal voice. Human rights will belong to all members of the human family. The right to life will return to its "inalienable" status.
Secularity, of course, will not simply go away. It still holds sway over much of American culture. But on this one fundamental issue, the origin and destiny of human life, many religious people have given witness to their belief in God. I am proud to be counted among their number.
Rev. Bernard F. O'Connor, OSFS, is the third President of DeSales University and has served since July 1999. He joined the faculty of DeSales University, then known as Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, in 1974.
Press Release: Pro-Life By Rev. Bernard O'Connor, OSFS | Posted on: 1/17/2005
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