Transcript of a reflection given at a memorial service for the unborn, January 22, 2006, on the 33rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The memorial was held at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park in Port Angeles, WA, and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
Abortion and the Dignity of the Body
We are here to remember; but this is an unusual memorial service: we are in the cemetery; but none of those we mourn are buried here. There are no headstones to mark their graves; they have no names, no dates of birth.
Worldwide, abortion has claimed almost one billion human lives—the equivalent of ten thousand Hiroshimas—far more than Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung combined.
At the March for Life last week in Olympia, there were a few counter-protesters. I saw one woman holding a sign that said, “My Body.” What a tragic mistake. A woman carries her child within her body, but her child is not her body.
There is a sad irony here. A few decades ago, if a man beat his wife, and the police were called, they would not interfere. “A man’s home is his castle,” after all, and what right does society have to tell him what to do in his home?
But a woman is a human being, not a piece of her husband’s property. And an unborn child is also a human being, not just an unwanted growth in the mother’s body.
Frederica Mathewes-Green once observed that, “There is tremendous sadness, loneliness in the cry, ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
Why do women feel so trapped? If you knew nothing of human biology, you could listen to most debates about abortion and never realize that men are involved in any way. We talk about the woman’s body, the woman’s right to choose: but what about the father?
Women almost never choose abortion when the father wants their child, and wants to help out. Yet we hardly ever speak of the absent or unsupportive father when we talk about abortion. All too often, women demand the “right to choose” because of men who will not take responsibility for their choices.
As Christians, we do not believe our bodies are our own; they are created in God’s image, they have been redeemed at great price, and they are the temples where God’s Spirit dwells. But in our culture, this truth has been sadly neglected: it is hardly ever preached on Sunday morning, and seldom practiced on Saturday night.
The bodies of the children whom we remember today are not here. Yet we hope that, rejected in this world, they have found Christ’s peace in the next.
No words we can say can do justice to their loss; nothing we can do will bring them back to life. But we can commit ourselves to building the culture of life, a culture in which their younger brothers and sisters will have the chance to live.
There are many ways to build this culture: we can take our arguments to the public square, pushing for pro-life legislation and for the confirmation of pro-life Supreme Court Justices. We can be more personal, trying to convince our friends and family members of the importance of the pro-life cause. Or we can give to crisis pregnancy centers, and other charities that provide services to women who choose to keep their child.
But I want to leave you with a reminder of an all-important, but often forgotten way to build the culture of life: fidelity, in our daily lives, to the truth that the human body was not made for the sexual immorality that so often precedes abortion.
We must commit ourselves to learn from Christ the true dignity of the human body, to teach our culture what we have learned, and to live by what we teach. Our society will learn greater respect for the dignity of the unborn when men and women learn to respect the dignity of each others’ bodies.
In 2003, Justin Lee, the founder and Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network, invited me to write an essay defending the traditional Christian belief that homosexual activity is wrong, and that gays and lesbians who are unable to marry a person of the opposite sex are called to celibacy. Justin wrote a companion essay arguing that God blesses gay marriage. Justin has made the two essays into a prominent GCN feature called the “Great Debate.”
For the Summer 2004 issue, Notre Dame Magazine planned to do a special issue focused on homosexuality and the Catholic Church. They invited me to contribute an essay describing how I came to accept Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Rather than focusing on theological arguments, they asked me to focus on telling the story through my own journey and experiences. The whole package won the 2005 first place Press Award for “Best investigative writing or analysis” from the Catholic Press Association. This is a somewhat revised version of the essay. Click here for the original version on the Notre Dame Magazine website.
In late 2002 and early 2003, there was an ongoing controversy in the letters section of the New Oxford Review over the editors’ use of the word “fag” in an article. With encouragement from several members of Courage who were deeply frustrated with the exchange, I wrote this essay, which was published in the June 2003 issue of the New Oxford Review.
This essay was originally written in 2003, in response to the planned protests of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings in Washington, DC by Soulforce, a pro-gay group. Edited slightly to remove references to the original protest, it still provides a good overview of some aspects of Catholic teaching related to homosexuality.
Also written in response to the Soulforce protests, this essay examines prejudice against gays and lesbians, and attempts to provide a Catholic Response.
This is the keynote speech I gave at the January, 2007 Gay Christian Network Conference in Seattle, WA. It voices frustration at the ways that gays and lesbians are sometimes treated by Christians, and focuses on the importance of obedience to God, even in the most difficult circumstances.
If you knew nothing about human biology, you could listen to most of our debates about abortion and never realize that men are involved in any way. We talk about the woman’s body, the woman’s right to choose. We in the pro-life movement talk about the unborn child’s right to life. But what about the father? In this speech, delivered at the March 25, 2006 Symposium on Life Issues at St. Monica's Catholic Church, I looked at the role of men in building the Culture of Life.
On January 22, 2006, the Knights of Columbus invited me to give a brief reflection at a memorial service for the unborn, held at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park to commemmorate the 33rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
On November 3, 2005, the Philosophy Club at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette invited me to debate Dr. Rick Swanson on the question: “Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?” I do not have a complete transcript of the debate; however, I have made my opening statement available here.
On January 23, 2004, the Washington, DC chapter of Courage and the Georgetown University chapter of the Knights of Columbus invited me to speak at Georgetown about Catholic teaching and homosexuality.
[The responses in this section were originally written in response to questions I received from friends or others. Before posting them here, I edited both question and response in order to enhance clarity and readability.]
Question: In God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door, Alan Chambers writes, “This is why I believe that it is so important to clarify that just living a celibate gay life is just as sinful as living a sexually promiscuous one. The sin is in identifying with anything that is contrary to Christ, which homosexuality clearly is” (218). Would you be willing to identify as a “gay Christian”? How do you think such an identity relates to the arsenokoitai of whom Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 6? [ Read response ]