The Sanctity of Life in Light of the Incarnation

As a New Year approaches, may we still keep our sights on the true meaning and significance of Christmas, that is, the Incarnation. May we also not get lost in the perils of consumerism and economic materialism. This is something I emphasized a couple of years ago in a Christmas piece for Catholic Insight. Furthermore, may we not succumb to any of the numerous forms of idolatry which lurk deep within the dark taverns of the human heart; whether it be money, sex, power, extreme comfort and expedient beliefs, as opposed ones grounded in truth. Last year, I wrote on how idolatry could manifest itself in the figure of Santa Claus for our children if they are not properly educated on what the figure represents – lest we resurrect a false god with some of the divine attributes. This year my focus is shifted to the Incarnation and its relation to the sacredness of life. Let us set our sights on the greatest gift revealed to humanity; the Incarnation of the living God who offers us eternal life.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents by remembering the extermination of young boys (two years and younger) in Bethlehem, which was ordained by King Herod the Great in a bid to kill, the King of Kings: Jesus (Matthew 2:16–18). In modern times, we face a much more ominous and widespread massacre. In a similar fashion, we should keep in memory all of those created in His image-likeness who never had the opportunity to be born. In 2016, there were 97,764 abortions that were reported in Canada. It has been discovered that in previous years, thousands of them have gone unreported. The Guttmacher Institute, has estimated that between 2010 and 2014, the yearly world abortion rates were at 56 million – demonstrating a 50 million annual increase from the early 1990s. This is a significantly larger rate of slaughter than those who suffered at the hands of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot. Appallingly, in a just a few years, we have a significantly larger number of murders than these genocidal maniacs were able to wrack up throughout their reigning years of terror. Moreover, estimated death rates for World War I range between 8M and 21M and, for World War II between 56M and 85M. Just two years of induced abortions topples these figures. Tragically, what is supposed to be the safest place on earth (the mother’s womb) has actually become the most inhospitable and hostile place for the most vulnerable of our society.

Remembering the Unborn

On Remembrance Day, at my local church in Ottawa (Immaculate Heart of Mary), one that I have attended since I was child, Father Joe LeClair delivered a powerful homily. Father LeClair is a controversial figure who, in the past, has made some poor decisions with severe legal consequences, but he has a talent for engaging people on emotionally difficult subjects. His sermon linked the deaths of World War I and II with all the forgotten unborn children. LeClair’s message was simple but poignant. He asked the congregants to remember these forgotten children who never received the opportunity to live outside their mother’s womb. He also spoke of his niece who has Down’s Syndrome and how her life has been a blessing to his whole family. Unfortunately, in our culture, we seem to think we can dispense with people who may be “inconvenient.” Sometimes some may think it is more convenient to abort a child, for whatever possible reason, than to take full responsibility for their actions. It was interesting that at this service, a friend of mine, who many years ago had an abortion, had asked to attend Mass with me, something that she had never asked to do before. Through an act of divine providence, God utilized Father LeClair as a vehicle to communicate to her and others who may have had a similar experience. LeClair indicated that while God willingly takes the unborn back to Himself, those who are unrepentant will be accountable for their choice.

The Incarnation: a Christological Argument Against Abortion

Christmas time should compel us to reflect deeply on the dignity of all human lives including the unborn. The miracle of the Incarnation exemplifies the extraordinary biological process of human birth. God could have chosen many different conceivable ways of emerging into the world, but He chose to come in the most vulnerable form, a dependent infant who required his mother’s love and care. Just as we experience pain and suffering, God made himself susceptible to both human and natural evil through His Incarnation. Christ submitted Himself to God’s providence, subjecting Himself to many of life’s cruel and contingent occurrences. Indeed, God the Son took the human form of Jesus with a fully human nature. Christ embodies both fully divine and human natures through the hypostatic union.

The conception of Christ forms a Christological argument against abortion. The New Testament shows that Christ’s assumption of human nature commenced at conception. This is illustrated in Luke 1:26-37 with Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary about the miracle of Christ’s conception: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” If we deny that, at conception, Christ took a fully human nature in Mary’s womb, where does this lead us? What if His human nature was assumed after conception, perhaps throughout the pregnancy or at the moment of birth? Was the assumption of Christ’s human nature separate from His divine nature? If there are two persons in Christ this would bring about an ancient heresy known as Nestorianism (a notion developed by the patriarch-theologian Nestorius); this heresy denies the hypostatic union and argues that there are two distinct persons within Christ: God, the divine Son, and the human Jesus, who at some point was adopted by the Son later on. This was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431, and at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Human persons are both matter and form, i.e., composites of body and soul. The most convincing position regarding Christ’s dual nature is one of simultaneity for the coming into being of the human body and soul. This is true whether one adopts a traducian position (where a human person’s soul is naturally transmitted through the souls of their parents) or a creationist one (where all souls are created directly by God). If personhood (the coming into being of the soul) occurs after conception not simultaneously with the body, then this would reveal an offshoot of the heretical position of Apollinarianism, i.e., in this particular case, that Christ had no human soul until some time after conception. Thus, the body existed without a soul. These Christological issues can be circumvented if we follow the Church teaching: “The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man” (CCC 464).

Raising Awareness Among Christians

In Canada, there is an unfortunate state of affairs regarding abortion with respect to the position adopted by the Liberal Party and other “progressives.” For instance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has had a highly intolerant stance with respect to any dissent on abortion. Given these deplorable stances, he has intersected ignorance and immorality. In 2014, he didn’t allow any pro-life candidates to run for the Liberal Party. Even though Trudeau claims to be a Catholic, he is a staunch supporter of abortion and assisted suicide. Instead of concerning himself with issues within Canada, he and The Liberal Party have been using Canadian tax dollars to promote leftist ideology, through the allocation of $650 million (in 2017 alone) to promote “reproductive rights” and fight anti-abortion laws globally.  Aside from the fact that The Liberal Government is amassing a tremendous amount of unsustainable debt, they could reallocate such funds for more pressing and legitimate issue such as improving our country’s dwindling educational system and the rapidly decaying infrastructure of our country. It is not the responsibility of the Canadian government to promote the annihilation of the unborn abroad, nor at home, for that matter.

In late September of 2017, Liberal Members of Parliament (MPs) walked out on Rachel Harder, who is a pro-life MP who was picked for the status of women committee chair for the Conservative Party of Canada. This disregard, not only for truth but common decency, dialogue, and understanding, has become pervasive across Canada. In a similar vein, there has been new legislation passed in Ontario by the Liberal provincial government which at the time was led by the radical Kathleen Wynne, to instantiate ridiculous “safe access zones” of 50 to 150 meters around abortion clinics for the purpose of preventing “harassment.” A priest was recently arrested for praying near these “safe zones.” The fact of the matter is that harassment laws already prevent attempts to block access to clinics. It is just another way for abortion proponents to silence pro-life demonstrators and protect the current abortion laws. Finally, earlier this year, in order to be eligible for funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program, the Liberals required applicants to state they were pro-abortion. However, as a recent political ploy to retain Judeo-Christian/prolife voters, they dropped this anti-abortion test, which sought to punish prolife organizations.

It is important to note that as neonatal science advances, the stronger the prolife case becomes. It is with good reason that organizations such as Planned Parenthood do not offer ultrasounds for prenatal care. Political pundit, Ben Shapiro, makes a strong case against abortion in this video. There is also Francis Beckwith’s excellent philosophical treatise against abortion: Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against the Abortion Choice. Those who are in favour of abortion cannot consistently support human rights nor can they be consistent Christians who respect all life. So-called progressives (I prefer the term regressive), should note that, terminating an unborn life is a form of discrimination based on age and geographic location.

Wherever we respect life and let the unborn live, then we truly honour and follow His commands of loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). When reflecting upon the miracle of the Incarnation this Christmas season, we must be mindful that just as Christ’s conception was indeed a miracle, so is the conception of each and every human person (whether they have been afforded the chance to be born or not).

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Scott Ventureyra completed his PhD in theology at Carleton University/Dominican University College in Ottawa. He has published in academic journals such as Science et Esprit, The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Studies in Religion, Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review and Maritain Studies. He has also written for magazines such as Crisis and Convivium and newspapers such as The National Post, City Light News, The Ottawa Citizen and The Times Colonist. He has presented his research at conferences around North America including the Science of Consciousness in Tucson, Arizona in 2016. His newly released book: On the Origin of Consciousness: An Exploration through the Lens of the Christian Conception of God and Creation is now available, for an autographed copy you can contact him through his website: www.scottventureyra.com or email: [email protected]