Monday, February 21, 2005
Off-the mark reactions to JPII's "Memory and Identity"
Paul Spiegel of the Central Council for Jews in Germany levelled this charge against the Catholic Church: ""the Catholic Church does not understand or does not want to understand that there is an enormous difference between mass genocide and what women do with their bodies." First of all, JPII does not make that allusion. The Holy Father's commentary seems more about the flaws in the democratic process that on one hand gave Hitler the mandate for mass genocide, and on the other hand gives western countries today the mandate for abortion, just about on demand. The Pope did not equate the mass genocide in Nazi Germany with legal abortion today, only the dangers in modern democratic societies where anti-Gospel totalitarianism might be hiding behind a mask of democracy. However, is his charge essentially correct? Does the faithful Catholic who follows orthodox teaching on abortion view Hitler's acts of infamy against Jews at the same level? There is a divergence between how Judaism and the Catholic Church have viewed abortion from the beginning. Various sources seem to suggest that abortion for Jews is not equated with murder. On the other hand, that is how the Catholic Church has always considered abortion. There are clear injunctions against abortion in both the Didache (before A.D. 100, possibly 70 or 90) and the Epistle of St. Barnabas (A.D. 130-131). The Didache says in English: "thou shalt not kill a child by abortion" (2:2). While both were dropped from the official Canon of Scripture in the 4th century (some canons up to that time included them), they are evidence of how the Church considered abortion then: the murder of a child. Personally, my own perspective is that the acts in question are both alike and not. Both were wrongful acts perpetrated against innocents unable to defend themselves. I agree with the Catholic perspective that abortion is a murderous act. On the other hand, Hitler's acts were more deliberately evil while legal abortion is carried along by a lot of ignorance and misplaced good intentions. I don't believe Hitler had any intentions that could ever be considered good. Furthermore, the horror of his acts also comes from having so many lives snuffed out in so short a time as against 30 years for legal abortion. On the other hand, 30 years of legal abortion in the US alone constitutes more than 30 million lives snuffed out over that period. Was there a need for JPII to write those lines in his book? I believe that there was: his point was that governments can get it wrong with disastrous results. I believe that this is a sober and relevant warning for us tday. Was there need for Mr. Spiegel to make his objetions? It could have at least been said differently. His motives were probably to make sure that the horror of Hitler's regime is never distilled nor forgotten. It should not have been a case of "my horror is worse than yours". People might come away with the notion that abortion is always right and is always a right. Unfortunately, in this day and age, far too many would.