The Good Argument and the Better Example

At the conclusion of the last week’s meeting of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference in Bregenz, the Conference Chairman, His Eminence Cardinal Christoph Schönborn – who is also the Grand Chancellor of the ITI – gave an interview during which he explained how the Catholic view on life is increasingly being regarded as a minority ‘opinion’, and what our response as Christians to this situation should be. We need sound arguments to explain why the Church is defending the humanity of society here, the Cardinal underlined, and even more we need the most credible argument of a life in Christ lived by example. In the future, “we will recognize Catholics by what they will not do”, Schönborn said, referring to a host of ‘medical’ procedures ignoring the inviolability of human life and dignity. The Cardinal specifically referred to the Church’s opposition against the selective (and massive) destruction of human beings in the embryonic stage during in-vitro fertilization procedures, as well as state-sanctioned assisted suicide. These Church positions have only one thing in mind, he concluded, and that is the preservation of a humane society.

The history of the 20th Century should have taught us enough lessons showing what happens to a society where the inviolable right to life and respect for the dignity of every human being, from the moment of conception onward and regardless of any human-made categories or labels, is not upheld in full and without exceptions. The moment one group in society starts making exceptions with regard to another group, we are already moving towards new forms of mass killing. This is the tragedy of human history: ever since we human beings discovered the power to kill, we have found reasons to explain to ourselves and to others why it is good to kill this person or that group. Endless exceptions have been created to God’s clear commandment “thou shall not kill”.

How true were the words of the Cardinal was shown this week on Tuesday when the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the so-called “Tarabella Report”. Meant to report annually on the development of equality between women and men in the EU, as so often happens the report was cleverly twisted by those wanting to introduce a “right to abortion”. For years efforts have been underway at the EU, the UN and other international organizations to introduce abortion as a fundamental human right. This report was part of this ongoing effort. EU reports have no legislative status, but they strongly influence policy making. The European Parliament approved the report with 441 to 205 votes and 52 abstaining. More such “reports” are in the pipelines. It is useful to analyze more closely some of the wording used to promote abortion, because those promoting it are of the – seemingly majority – opinion that this killing of innocent human life actually makes sense and is perfectly justified, and therefore should even be included in the international catalog of human rights.

Paragraph 45 of the “Tarabella Report” states:

“Maintains that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights, not least by having ready access to contraception and abortion; supports, accordingly, measures and actions to improve women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and inform them more fully about their rights and the services available;”

The last part of the quote “inform them more fully about their rights and the services available” is particularly problematic because it not only equates the possibility to end the unborn life with a “right” the woman can insist upon at the cost of the taxpayer, it also presents it as a service that should be provided by the State. Language promoting abortion has thus developed to a point where the procedure of deliberately terminating an innocent life in the mother’s womb is seen as a service to women and to society as a whole. When before in the history of mankind has the possibility to kill a defenseless human being been called a service the State should provide? What is our understanding of human life when the State becomes the provider of life-ending “services”?

As Cardinal Schönborn said in his press conference, we need sound arguments and good examples to show why those promoting such procedures are wrong. We should show how these procedures destroying human life disregard the most fundamental reality of human life, so well expressed by the writer Michael D. O’Brien:

“Each human life, no matter how “small”, is miraculous, infinitely more valuable than an inanimate object. Each and every person is a word never before seen, never to be repeated, inexpressibly beautiful in the eyes of God.”

This simple yet profound truth is our most powerful argument, and is now increasingly being publicly confirmed by those testifying by example to the uniqueness and beauty of each and every human being by their own lives, even in the most painful of situations: abortion survivors and rape victims. Claire Culwell is a young woman who survived an abortion but lost her twin sister in the procedure. She is now a voice for the unborn and tells her story in this video. Three women in another video give testimony of their horrendous ordeals and how they still chose for life, where one of the women says:

“My daughter is just the absolutely greatest gift for me. I think that the biggest problem I have had in recovering from my rape is that for so long I wanted to go back and be the person I was before the rape. And, what my daughter taught me is that there is value to who I have become after my rape, and the value is in being a mother to her and learning to love in an absolute unconditional way, to start seeing the innocence and the beauty in life again. She has taught me all that… I have absolutely no doubt that my daughter was a gift from God to help me to overcome and survive this experience. She will forever know that she changed her mother’s life for the better.”

They are the best examples of what it means to answer evil not with evil, but with charity and generosity, and how this is the only right answer, because only love generates and regenerates life, even in the most difficult of circumstances. This is the hope by example and good arguments Christians are called to live, and this is also what we teach our students here at the ITI.


“Memorial for Unborn Children” by the Slovakian sculptor Martin Hudácek