Hssss…Is that escaping air, or the sound of a forked tongue?
The leak of the draft of the Supreme Court’s potential upcoming majority decision on Roe v. Wade reminds of a similar one in the prelude to Humanae Vitae. Pope John XXIII had set up a Birth Control Commission (BCC) in 1962, not to consider whether the Church should permit contraception – condemned since the earliest days – but to determine what exactly contraception was. When Dr. John Rock, a Mass-going Catholic, helped invent the ‘Pill’, he claimed it was morally permissible, as an extension of the ‘rhythm method’, which had already been deemed morally acceptable. That is, couples, for proportionate reasons, could avoid pregnancy by limiting conjugal relations to the infertile period. The Pill – so it was argued – simply extended this time of infertility, using human reason and technology, namely, chemical intervention. What could be so wrong with that?
Plenty, it turns out.
The Commission went beyond its mandate, and a majority of the members (69 of the 73, or so I have read) argued for a wholesale permission for contraception, positing various arguments, superficially convincing, but all morally unsound.
As a papal advisory body, the deliberations of the BCC were supposed to be confidential, but this ‘majority report’, as it was called, was leaked, and published in the Tablet, a liberal British Catholic publication, in 1967. This seems to have been a brazen attempt to influence Catholics – which it did – and pressure the Pope to go along.
As we know, and Deo gratias, the Pope didn’t go along, promulgating Humanae Vitae on the feast of Saint James, 1968. In the opening sections, he declares:
The conclusions at which the commission arrived could not, nevertheless, be considered by us as definitive, nor dispense us from a personal examination of this serious question; and this also because, within the commission itself, no full concordance of judgments concerning the moral norms to be proposed had been reached, and above all because certain criteria of solutions had emerged which departed from the moral teaching on marriage proposed with constant firmness by the teaching authority of the Church.
Therefore, having attentively sifted the documentation laid before us, after mature reflection and assiduous prayers, we now intend, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ, to give our reply to these grave questions.
Pope Paul goes on to reply, reiterating in no uncertain terms the traditional teaching:
the Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by their constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life
The current leak seems to have a similar, if more secular, intent: To pressure the Supreme Court not to follow this draft majority opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade. R. R. Reno and Mark Movesian are right, that this undermines the very functioning of the court, the rule of law, and of democratic governance. Ron de Santis goes so far as to call it judicial insurrection.
Yet, it may already be too late to save the republic, for the very fact that we are leaving the question of protecting the lives of the most vulnerable and defenceless to nine unelected members of a Court is itself unsettling, and telling of where we are at. Pope Saint John Paul II says this in the first part of Evangelium Vitae, which deserves to be quoted in its full paragraph:
This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people-even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenceless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practised: some individuals are held to be deserving of defence and others are denied that dignity?” When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.
In other words, neither the Court, nor Congress or Senate or our own House of Commons, nor any political entity, should be deciding whether or not to allow the killing of unborn. Even if Roe is overturned, each state would be given the right to decide what restrictions, if any, to be placed on abortion. That would be better than the blanket permission that Roe offers, but still bad, and the battle far from over.
In a civilized society, such a question would never even be raised. I was about to write that if this were about any other defined group – say, Scotch-Irish Catholics, such as yours truly – it would be condemned forthwith (at least by most, for there may be some out there who would be quite content to see me in a pine box). But even that is no longer true, for here in Canada we are euthanizing – that is murdering – the elderly, the sick, and soon, the depressed and those who cannot afford medical treatment. Infanticide is already permitted across Europe by the Groningen protocol, and is practised surreptitiously in Canada as well. Who’s next on the old chopping block?
So we make do with what we have, to fight the evil before us, and here’s hoping, like Pope Saint Paul VI in his prophetic and courageous Humanae Vitae, the Court stands firm, and condemns, repudiates and casts into oblivion Roe v. Wade. Such is their duty, before God. We must uphold the right to life, not only of the unborn, but of all human beings, without which, again as John Paul II reminds us, there are no other rights, and the very fabric of a nation comes apart.
Deus nos omnes adiuvat +