Saint Vincent the Deacon (+304), who suffered grievous tortures witnessing to his Catholic faith under the Diocletian persecution, is a providential saint for this sombre anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision of the United States of America which legalized abortion across the nation. It may be beneficial to take some time today to ponder precisely what the euphemism of ‘abortion’ entails: The pagan governor was so angered at the saintly Deacon’s outspoken manner, refusing point black to consign the Holy Scripture to the fire, that he had Vincent subject to the most painful of tortures, racking him, his flesh torn by hooks, salt rubbed in the gaping wounds, and then burned alive on a red-hot gridiron – so too the unborn have their incipient lives snuffed out, by ‘curettage’ – the ‘scraping’ of the contents of the uterus, as they put it – by saline injections, by poisons of various sorts.
And, like Vincent, they suffer silently. In fact, the jailer was so impressed by the saint’s quiet resolve and equanimity that he converted on the spot.
Many are still thankfully aware of the evil of abortion as the annual March for Life signifies, over a hundred thousand souls witnessing to this ongoing holocaust. Too often, however, concerns continue to be, over-ridden, the rightful autonomy of the States squashed as the Supreme Court’s universal ‘right to abortion’ covers the nation in blood. Now any attempt to repeal abortion is a long and laborious endeavour south of the border, and nearly impossible here in Canada; we must not underestimate the pedagogical effect of law, both of the good and bad variety.
Here is the silver lining in all of this: The martyr Vincent went straight to eternal beatitude and, we may hope and pray, so do all the aborted children who, like the Herodian innocents, knew not any taint of personal sin. The primary evil in abortion is moral and spiritual, the corruption of the human will, which makes the soul who formally cooperate in this grave and even demonic evil, in proximate danger of hell, that tragic and final and irrevocable loss of the beatific vision.
That is why Pope John Paul II declared in the very opening of Evangelium Vitae (1995) that not only do these numerous crimes against life ‘poison human society’ at its very roots, but “they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury” (#3).
Strong words indeed, given the heinousness of abortion. For moral evil is always more grave than physical evil. As the Truth Himself warns:
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mt. 10:28)
A final thought: God can bring great good from both moral and physical evil, often in ways that we cannot imagine nor foresee. Here are but two examples, both connected to the infamous 1973 Supreme Court Decision, when the United States determined to allow the murder of its own citizens:
There is ‘Jane Roe’ herself, the woman at the centre of this initial abortion case, whose real name was Norma Leah McCorvey Nelson. She indeed won the right to murder her own child, falsely claiming she had been raped to add emotional appeal to the decision, but the decision thankfully came too late; she not only gave birth to that child (while the three-year Court judgement was pending), but later converted to Catholicism and became a leader in the pro-life movement, dying three years ago, on February 18th, 2017.
And Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the physicians who helped build up the lie about the ‘millions of back-alley abortions’ which added further emotional appeal to abortion’s ultimate legalization – and protesters still use the infamous ‘coat hanger’ as their symbol. Nathanson himself performed thousands of abortions of all varieties – including on his own child – until finally one day the truth began to dawn, and while placing dismembered baby parts on the surgical tray, he saw that they were in fact the limbs and legs of actual humans. It took some time, but eventually he too converted to Catholicism – dying nine years ago, ironically also in February (the 21st), and was at the forefront in the fight to end abortion up until the very end. It was Dr. Nathanson who produced the influential 1984 medical documentary The Silent Scream, showing through real-time ultrasound what an abortion actually is – a baby trying to scream, silently in his watery environment, in its – his – own death throes.
Who knows how many others were brought to the truth by witnessing the effects of the moral evil of abortion? The Knights of Columbus have done wonderful work in the States with their 4-D ultrasounds, through which mothers – before deciding on an abortion – watch their babies in full technicolour. As far as I know, no woman has chosen to kill her child after seeing those images.
For heaven rejoices over even one sinner who repents…
While we continue to pray, sacrifice and work to end the holocaust, we should keep in our minds and hearts that in the midst of this carnage, over which God Himself may almost be said to weep, He is also able in His infinite power to bring great good. For this is a battle not “against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high”
Against which only Christ and His Church can give the victory.
Saint Vincent, ora pro nobis!