THEME:LIFE IN THE WOMB:
It is a great pleasure for me to speak at this gathering which focuses attention on life, the greatest gift of all God’s creation. I take this effort as another strategy of New Evangelization which the Church has commissioned in the last decade. Anyone might ask what is the concern of a Catholic Bishop with abortion issues. I would have a simple answer. The issue concerns the baby in the womb. I was once right there and so were you and you and all of us. In solidarity abortion is a concern for all living human beings because we are all involved Obviously we enjoyed a safe trip. Should it not be our concern that others do too? I am thankful that my mom did not think of abortion when I was conceived. You should be as well for it is good to be alive. The second simple reason is that I believe in God and I believe he created all things. He is the author of life. So, if there is anything I can contribute to a greater appreciation of and security for human life I hasten to do it. More importantly as a Catholic Priest, I cannot but be on the side of life because the priesthood is a life-giving vocation. So indeed should all of us here be for the same reason. I am also glad and proud that Obianuju Ekeocha, one of the most passionate pro-life advocates. I have ever met, is speaking at this event. The physician has come to “heal” her own people. The presence of His Grace, Most Reverend Adewale Martins is good for my CV too. Your Grace, it is good to have you here.
I first wondered why this topic was given to me, abortion being an issue of high scientific, medical, and even political resonance. If the organizers here would have wanted an expert medical or scientific presentation, they would not have invited a Catholic Bishop for it. I am sure that it is the religious, pastoral dimension that I am called here to expose.
First and foremost, I would like to express my belief that my topic was chosen by the organizers not to oppose, degrade or condemn women, not even those who have had an abortion, but to educate and empower them. Too often, wherever a discussion on abortion comes up it is construed as a woman-bashing session, another activity aimed at denying women their so-called “right to choose”. I am sure that we shall find out during this session that nothing is farther from the truth. Fr. Frank Pavone, President of the National Pro-life Religious Council and national director of Priests for Life, the largest Catholic pro-life organization in the world, in his book “Abolishing abortion” has argued that genuine pro-life gatherings as this are meant to make people realise that the Church is on their side and that all of us feel the pain of abortion, definitely a little less than the life involved and need to help each other out of it. Hear him “We need to convince the unconvinced that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman. The difference between ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ is not that pro-lifers love the baby and pro-choicers love the woman. The difference is that the pro-choice message says you can separate the two, and the pro-life message says you cannot.” (p 183.) Therefore, deriving from this I should say that in addressing the issue of abortion today we do so in the interest of the woman, the child, the family involved and the society.
God Before All things
In life I think that there are four key questions which we must always ask ourselves when confronted with issues of topical weight . They are: “ Who am I? Where am I from?”, “What am I here for?”, and “Where am I going?”. The compass which these questions provide will always help to find the right direction for our thoughts and actions. Without such self-examination, we are like the character who meets a monk at a three-way junction and asks: “Sir, would you kindly show me the way?” The monk asks him “Where are you going”? He curiously answers: “I don’t really know”. The monk retorts: “Well, if you do not know where you are going, then any road is good enough for you”. So unless we know who we are and where we are bound all kinds of opinions and perspectives can be good enough for our adoption. I assume however that we all here share the belief that God exists and that he has created everything. We also believe that he is the Supreme Being who has a say in the way that our lives must be lived. Hopefully, as Christians we know that we are from God, that He sent his son to die so that we may live, that we are here to live that life to the full (Jn. 10) and that at the end of our lives we will return to see God.
We cannot be true Christians if we do not agree that we DO NOT dictate everything about our life and that we are NOT the measure of all things. The Natural Law, the light of God’s guidance infused in the human conscience about what is wrong or right is given to man at creation. It dictates to us laws that not even the Pope can change. According to Romans 2:12-16 and Jeremiah 31:33, God imprints the natural law on the heart and soul of man, and this leads him to know whether or not an act is moral or evil. The natural law is then buoyed by the Church’s doctrine. We share some doctrines of faith that ought to be common to all Christians. These include belief that God has given some commandments for us to follow especially through his revealed word, the Bible. For Catholics we even go further to believe in the holy Catholic and apostolic Church and her doctrine that is so concisely expressed in the creed which we pray every Sunday and more elaborately exposed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Then, of course, there is the authority of the Holy Father, the Pope and the magisterium of the Church.
WHY ARE WE EVEN HERE DISCUSSING ABORTION?
The equivocal environment in which we find ourselves, is responsible for our plight today. A lot of people have been led to believe that they can have an opinion on everything because of modern overemphasis on freedom of opinion and expression. It grew out of the permissive age of the ‘60s and ‘70s. That age disseminated the libertarian mentality about human sexuality, that of “ If you can’t be with the one you love, you love the one you are with. It was the period when love was separated from the marital act and became an act of recreation. It gave birth to an unprecedented (im)morality license. (Janet Morana)
Secondly we Africans have stopped taking our culture seriously. We need a cultural reawakening to refocus us on the values we ought to cherish, especially the respect for life, new human life. Uju Ekeocha here in her recent book “Target Africa” on ideological neo-colonialism in the twenty first century, has a well-researched chapter on the legalization of abortion as it is being powerfully pushed by international interests and institutions. In protest, she rightly argued: “At the core of my people’s value system is the profound recognition that human life is precious, paramount and supreme. For us abortion, which is the deliberate killing of little ones in the womb, is a direct attack on innocent human life. It is a serious injustice, which no one should have a right to commit”.(p. 98). I totally agree with her and her book is well worth reading.
John Vennari, in a presentation made in Rome in 2011, entitled: “The New Paganism and The War Against Life”. blamed it on the spread of neo paganism:
“Neo paganism has many weapons and one of them is to portray evil as good or at least make it seem neutral, Generally, when it comes to obeying what is considered God’s commandments most people in the world are hard of hearing and slow in compliance”. He describes The New paganism as the forces of Organized naturalism which “are constantly working to degrade human life, and to destroy human life, in the name of social engineering and population control. This anti life program holds that human value does not have value in itself, but only a contingent value based in its Quality of Life (in the case of the sick and the elderly) or based on whether that human life is wanted (as in the case of mothers aborting their babies). If a human life is deemed “not worth living”, it can be destroyed” (p5)
Janet Morana is the Executive Director of Priests for Life and Co-Founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the world’s largest mobilization of women who have had abortions. She is the author of “Recall Abortion”, a book aimed at ending the abortion industry’s exploitation of women. She provides a reason in that book:
“Commitment and family are no longer paramount. It’s all about ‘me.’ If an individual is unhappy, unfulfilled, or bored, there is no societal pressure to try to work things out for the good of the family. Our sense of entitlement has grown so strong that anything that gets in the way of the plans we’ve engineered has to go. That sense of entitlement goes hand-in-hand with the widespread use of contraception and abortion. A child would be too difficult or would interfere with our plans? Easy, just ‘take care of it.’ A woman is made-literally- to be a mother. That doesn’t mean women can’t work or have careers, but contraception and abortion, far from empowering women, actually serve to snatch away from women the very thing makes them unique and powerful” (p. 82).
I personally believe that considering abortion a matter of personal belief or objectively as an issue of the sanctity of human life depends on how we see the being that a woman ejects from her womb, as human or non-human, person or non person. It seems only logical to assume that whatever can become human already possesses the vital human element within it like a fruit to a tree, an egg to a chicken. Some people however believe that there is a stage at which removing the foetus is not killing a human being, claiming that humanity comes into the foetus at a later stage than the point of conception. This sums up as a clear attempt to deny the fundamental human right to life to the fertilized egg until a later stage in order to justify its removal, making it dependent on the opinion of other people. I agree with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse Ph.D., President of the Ruth Institute, in the US who recently said: “The best response to fuzzy thinking is clear, unambiguous positive thinking, especially on the Catholic doctrine on sexuality.” The question is “Why do people not seek out such authentic teaching when it comes to religious and moral matters?” They would do that about financial nutritional, health, cosmetic and other needs and counsel but hardly for religious, moral ones.Why do people not just stick with personal opinion on such needs then?
In 2007, already 12 years ago, Fr Dr. Paschal Nwazaepu, the parish priest of this parish, well -read in bioethics gave me his well-researched book entitled “When Does a Human Person Begin? On the moral status of the embryo and technology. He dedicated the book to Pope saint John Paul II and all those who defend and promote the sacredness and dignity of human life. It should be a vade mecum for all pro-life advocates, nay, all Catholics in this convoluted era in our world. In his ample research he confirmed that personhood begins at fertilization. He strongly affirmed that fertilisation is the only substantial and qualitative change that occurs in the process of human generation. All other changes at different stages of embryonic development are merely quantitative (p.26-27). So there we have it, all equivocal nuances lifted.
According to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in its Declaration on Procured Abortion:
“Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its capacities requires time- a rather lengthy time- to find its place and to be in a position to act. The least that can be said is that present science, in its most evolved state, does not give any substantial support to those who defend abortion. Moreover, it is not up to biological sciences to make a definitive judgment on questions which are properly philosophical and moral such as the moment when a human person is constituted or the legitimacy of abortion. From a moral point of view this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is objectively a grave sin to dare to risk murder. “The one who will be a man is already one.” (no 13)
The following quotes, sourced from Human Life International, HLI, show how many pro-life and even pro-choice scientific experts agree and have found the assertion on life at conception undeniable:
“After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”
― Jerome LeJeune, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Genetics, University of Descartes.
In 1981, a United States Senate judiciary subcommittee studying the status of human life received the following testimony from a collection of medical experts (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to the Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981). The official Senate report reached this conclusion: “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being ― a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.”
“It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive … It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”
― Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School.
“I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”
― Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania.
“The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter ― the beginning is conception.”
― Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School.
“I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.”
― Fate Wattleton, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992. “Speaking Frankly.” Ms. Magazine, May/June 1997 [Volume VII, Number 6], page 67.
“It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”
― Pro-abortionist and infanticide advocate Peter Singer. Practical Ethics [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press], 2008 (2nd Edition), pages 85 and 86.
“We can accept that the embryo is a living thing in the fact that it has a beating heart, that it has its own genetic system within it. It’s clearly human in the sense that it’s not a gerbil, and we can recognize that it is human life … the point is not when does human life begin, but when does it really begin to matter?”
― Ann Furedi, Chief Executive Officer of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the largest chain of abortion clinics in the United Kingdom. “Abortion: A Civilised Debate.” Battle of Ideas [London, England], November 1, 2008).
“Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: Callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life … we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.”
― Pro-abortion feminist author Naomi Wolf. “Our Bodies, Our Souls.” The New Republic, October 16, 1995, page 26.
THE GOOD OLD TIME RELIGION
Anyone who believes that God is the author of all creation and the giver of life should also accept that only God has authority to take life. The book of Genesis teaches that God gave man authority to dominate and govern all creation. That power obviously does not include killing other humans at will. In fact, the first occurrence of such an incident between Cane and Abel, two sons of Adam was punished with such gravity by God that Cane cried out for leniency. (Gen 4: 13-15).
Although what we read in the Bible is not a minute to minute account of God’s activities at creation, we all basically believe that God created man and woman and breathed life into them (Gen.2 ). We believe that one of the tenets of the Ten Commandments which God gave to Moses is the fifth commandment: “Thou shall not kill” (Ex20:13). The Ten Commandments remain “Commandments”, not “advise” of God, for true Christians. Anyone hoping for a constitutional review in this matter had better lose hope. The fifth commandment is short and has no explanation. In fact, it does not need any. “Thou shall not kill”. No further comment. All through the Bible, God punished wilful, unjust killing of human beings, especially against the innocent and defenceless. In addition, when Jesus came, he called himself the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6) He even said: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). Obviously, he, the way the truth and the life cannot but be pro-life.
THE CHURCH TEACHES AUTHENTICALLY
Right from the first century the Church has affirmed that procured abortion, either as an end or as a means, is morally evil. From the moment of conception, the Church teaches that a human being is created in the image and likeness of Almighty God and must enjoy all privileges deriving therefrom. At every period however, heretics, dissidents and adventurous theologians have sought to modify, mutilate or attenuate this teaching. The Church on the other hand has always protected the sanctity of human life from situational ethics and subjective applications The Catechism teaches:
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent life”. The Church’s position is of course firmly biblical: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. (Jer. 1:5) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth (Ps 139:15)
The second Vatican Council affirmed this unchangeable teaching: “God the Lord of life , has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes…. Let all be convinced that human life and its transmission are realities whose meaning is not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full meaning can only be understood in reference to man’s eternal destiny”. (Gaudium et Spes, 51:3, 4) In spite of unbelievable pressure from powerful governments, institutions and movements, the Popes down the years, as pastors of the Catholic Church, have confirmed this unchangeable teaching.
Saint Pope John Paul the Great is probably the model teacher among the Popes in this subject. His powerful encyclical “Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life relaunched and reinvigorated the pro-life mission of the Church and the pro-life movement. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in its Declaration on Procured abortion of 1974 wrote: “one can never claim freedom of opinion as a pretext for attacking the rights of others, most especially the right to life.” (No 2) That declaration was ratified for promulgation by Saint Pope John Paul II
Pope Francis too continues to reiterate the truth about the inviolable sanctity of life in his teachings. In his general audience on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 he said that abortion “suppresses innocent and helpless life in its blossoming.” He said that taking a human life to solve a problem, any problem is like hiring a hitman. “Violence and the rejection of life are born from fear,” The pope added that it is contradictory to suppress “human life in the womb in the name of safeguarding other rights,” the pope insisted. He said: “How can an act that suppresses innocent and helpless life in its blossoming be therapeutic, civil, or simply human?”
The pope was speaking on abortion during a reflection on the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” He dug deeper on the subject saying: “One could say that all the evil done in the world is summarized in this: contempt for life….What leads man to reject life? They are the idols of this world: money, power, success. These are incorrect parameters to evaluate life. The only authentic measure of life is love, the love with which God loves it…. The positive meaning of the fifth commandment is that “God is a lover of life”.
THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA ON LIFE
The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria is decidedly pro-life and that means it believes in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. The Conference has twice organized national conferences and rallies in support of the sanctity of life with international participation and some of its Ecclesiastical Provinces, archdioceses and dioceses have done the same. Thankfully, such resolve to defend life marriage and family is emerging at different levels of the Church’s life even at church society and individual levels. The Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, after its own very successful pro-life/Mariage and Family Conference in 2016, has produced two sizeable catechisms to help the faithful and others to understand better the issues concerning the sanctity and dignity of human life and family. Lagos Ecclesiastical Province has played its part in organizing similar enlightenment conferences and programs in support of life, marriage and the family too. The “Ibadan catechism”, declares that the Gospel of Life:
“…involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel, summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. Not only must human life not be taken, but it must be protected with loving concern… Thanks to this proclamation and gift, our physical and spiritual life, also in its earthly phase, acquires its full value and meaning, for God’s eternal life is in fact the end to which our living in this world is directed and called. In this way, the Gospel of life includes everything that human experience and reason tell us about the value of human life, accepting it, purifying it, exalting it and bringing it to fulfillment” (Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, A Catechism on Human Life: From Conception to Natural Death, No 60-61)
THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION
Even our beloved and belaboured Nigerian Constitution declares that every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life….Just as well, for the Catechism declares: “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation” (CCC 2273).
CHRISTIANS AS AMBASSADORS OF THE TRUTH
Saint Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians calls on all Christians to be faithful stewards: “People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. In such a matter, what is expected of stewards is that each one should be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). For me, this is a passage with a special connotation for the Gospel of Life. Genuine Catholics cannot but succumb to the law of God and the Church. Catholics must be of good, not of convenient conscience and such Catholics obey the voice of God, the Church and the Pope.
Christians especially must be careful not to be caught up in the contemporary epidemic of today’s clichés. When people talk about women’s right to choose, the best, most heart-warming response I recently heard was: “right to choose what”. Right to kill human beings? When people talk of being pro-choice. I say I too am “pro-choice”, i.e. in favour of choosing what is right, choosing good over evil, choosing what complies with God’s will. Shall we then talk of seeking people’s opinion whether what God commands is right? The fact is that too many people ask questions just to find support for choosing what they actually know is evil. I think that the bottom-line question is: “Is it right?”. Is that being in the womb a human being? If yes, then abortion is murder, pure and simple…
Great wisdom can be harvested from that very instructive presentation made at a conference in Rome, Vennari, in his earlier mentioned presentation said:
In it he admits the truth, as many have noted, that we live today in a world where laws are being established based merely on the human will, what we want and what is convenient and whatever is of utilitarian advantage. God and the eternal law or the natural law are easily put in the shade. (Acts 5: 9, Matt6:24, Lk16:13). As one of my good friends put it, in our day everybody can enjoy freedom of speech except of course, Almighty God. In other words, there is a plot to set aside the good old Christian ethic and replace it with a form of opportunistic and situational ethics. Vennari also affirms that this plot to topple the good old Christian Ethic that upheld the sanctity of human life and taught that killing the innocent is always wrong is by no means new. He wrote:
“The famous 1970 California Medicine (an American periodical) article admitted that everyone knows human life begins at conception. The problem, however, is there are too many people who believe in the old Christian ethic that killing the innocent is always wrong. The old ethic is being replaced by the so-called “new ethic” that places a relative value on human life, rather than an absolute value. In other words, a new “ethic” that favors the direct killing of the innocent based on “quality of life”, on whether or not an innocent baby is wanted by the mother”.
THE CHURCH SEEKS ONLY THE GOOD OF WOMEN
With all this coming from pro-life and even pro-choice advocates, from common sense and from the opinion of those who have been involved we must conclude that the numerous exotic terminologies used in our day “reproductive health”, “women sexuality”, “gender empowerment” pro-choice” “safe abortion”, “women choice” in order to justify abortion, are nothing but a shield to claim the right to kill children, human beings. God’s law that we may not kill another is eternally valid. The Church teaches these authentic truths because they are unchangeable and in order to lead people back to God and to salvation.
However, on the same breath the unlimited extent of God’s compassion and forgiveness must be emphasised The mission of healing which is an integral part of the Church’s new evangelization is urgent today. Fr Pavone speaks and I agree, of the necessity of extending the opportunity of healing to all who have had an abortion, to raise awareness of the harm that abortion does to women and encouraging such women to share their experience. This will also serve to help others to understand that abortion does not solve any problem it claims to solve but only creates new ones. “A tidal wave of shared experience is enveloping the globe. Its collective message is that abortion does not spring from freedom of choice but rather from the feeling of being cornered and coerced; that abortion did not help but hurt.” (P. 178)
Pope John Paul the Great’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae delivers a very compassionate message to women who have had an abortion….The concept of a loving, merciful God presented by the Holy Father may be entirely foreign to a woman whose sense of self has been destroyed by abortion, and initially difficult to understand and to believe. Yet, if she encounters the personification of this truly Christian love and esteem in priests, counselors, and fellow Catholic lay persons, this may be the beginning of her healing and a new stage in her development as a person and as a Christian. The Pope wrote:
Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. (EV, 99)
I conclude with these words from a commentary about the foregoing issues: We know what seriousness the problem of birth control can assume for some families and for some countries. That is why the last Council and subsequently the encyclical “Humanae vitae” of July 25, 1968, spoke of “responsible parenthood.” What we wish to say again with emphasis, as was pointed out in the conciliar constitution “Gaudium et spes,” in the encyclical “Populorum progressio” and in other papal documents, is that never, under any pretext, may abortion be resorted to, either by a family or by the political authority, as a legitimate means of regulating births. The damage to moral values is always a greater evil for the common good than any disadvantage in the economic or demographic order. (Congregation n. 18). The bottom line is this quote from the document of the Congregation: “Life is too fundamental a value to be weighed against even very serious disadvantages” and so abortion cannot be a matter of personal belief but an issue that infringes on the sanctity of human life which begins right at conception.
And what better period can there be than now to emphasise this truth than in advent as we await Christmas and celebrate Jesus whose mother conceived him in great confusion and stress. He could have been aborted for many reasons. We must all thank God and Mary and Joseph that he was not. We entrust our current effort therefore to Mary, the Virgin who is the greatest pro-life advocate of all time that she may work with us.
Most Revd Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Nigeria
ORGANISED BY THE CATHOLIC MEN ORGANISATION, LEKKI DEANERY, LAGOS
DEC 1, 2019 FAMILY DAY RENDEZVOUS: