Dialogue on Showing the Truth

The following short exchange occurred between myself and a prominent Catholic priest on the subject of showing explicit pictures of aborted babies, which has been precipitated by the Unmaskingchoice.ca campaign. The priest’s remarks are in red.

Needless to say, this is not an easy issue to deal with. There are legitimate points on both sides, and I am not totally comfortable with showing the images in this manner. However, I believe that, on the whole, there is a stronger argument for supporting the campaign than rejecting it.

FIRST CORRESPONDENCE

The obligation is to speak the truth in love.

Of course. But the obligation of speaking the truth sometimes carries the obligation of showing the truth in its full entirety. There is no easy way of exposing the holocaust of abortion. Under the rubric that you are proposing, we should not be allowed to describe what an abortion does either since, by your own pedagogy, that too would not be speaking the truth “in love”.

Is it licit to tell someone that, during a late term abortion of the unborn child experiences so much pain that he begins to bite through his own tongue as his head is removed from his neck?

Sometimes speaking the truth in love means exposing the entire barbarity of the act. Our Blessed Lord certainly did not hesitate to publicly and severely condemn the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of His day. He used very harsh language on them. The money changers too felt His righteous anger. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that we have a correct understanding of love. Sometimes speaking the truth in love requires pain for those who hear it or see it. I cannot understand how it could be otherwise. The Gospels certainly underline this lesson very well.

This is not the pedagogy of love. It offends the dignity of the unborn and assaults all kinds of other people.

It does not offend the dignity of the unborn. The act of abortion itself offends the dignity of the unborn. Exposing the darkness and shining the light on what abortion actually is not only does not offend the dignity of the unborn but draws attention to that which has been offended: the sanctity of human life. What does offend the dignity of the unborn, however, is allowing the darkness to keep people blinded to the truth of what abortion is. That is the far greater scandal. Those pictures scream out: “I am a person who has been murdered” more than any other method could possibly accomplish. As for “assaulting all other kinds of people”, I find that claim hard to understand. Abortion is an assault on all of us, not the least of which are those unborn children who are personally assaulted. The consequences of showing the truth of that assault, however, is an infinitely lesser evil than the perpetuation of the greatest sacrilege known to mankind.

The end does not justify the means.

Father, that is not the issue here. I dispute that the means are immoral in the first place. That is the salient point in this whole discussion. Those who seek to reject this campaign must show how precisely the means are evil. The means are not evil at all since the means are grounded in communicating the truth of an evil. Some of the consequences may indeed be evil but that, of course, has to be weighed against tolerating the evil itself. Unless you are prepared to say that you reject the rationale behind the Church’s teaching on a “just war”, I cannot understand how you can still maintain your position.

SECOND CORRESPONDENCE

The obligation is to speak the truth in love.

Of course.

THIS IS A BIT TOO QUICK. YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT THROUGH WHAT THE DEMANDS OF LOVE ENTAIL. E.G. CONTEXT, PERSONS ADDRESSED, HOW TO PRESENT THE TRUTH SO THAT IT WILL BE HEARD. I THINK THAT YOUR APPROACH IS HARD HEARTED, INSENSITIVE AND WILL NOT BE HEARD. IT IS PROCLAIMED SELF-RIGHTEOUSLY LIKE A PHARISEE.

You are entitled to your opinion, of course. Obviously, I do not share your assessment on the approach. The Catholic Church’s opponents make the same claims when the Church’s teachings on homosexuals is discussed. It would be one thing if this campaign was specifically targetting post-abortive women or children with these images. Obviously that is not the intent. Presenting the facts is no more insensitive and hard-hearted than telling a homosexual what the health consequences of his behaviour will entail. Or are we now to start suppressing the truth of such an unfathomable sin in order to completely eliminate the chance of possible evil occuring? Furthermore, there are many of us on this side of the fence (including, may I add, Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life) who, despite your claim, are not intererested in proclaiming the truth like “a pharisee”. We simply want the truth – ALL OF IT – to come out. Because, for 40 years, nothing else has worked. And there is a reason for that. Most Canadians are woefully ignorant of not only that abortion can be committed right up to the moment before birth, but also what an abortion is. This campaign, and the ensuing dialogue, will correct that deficiency very quickly. But the obligation of speaking the truth sometimes carries the obligation of showing the truth in its full entirety. There is no easy way of exposing the holocaust.

THIS IS AN INAPPROPRIATE EMOTIVELY DESCRIPTIVE WORD.

Why? Holocaust is exactly the word that should be used. The term holocaust originally derived from the Greek word holókauston, meaning a “completely (holos) burnt (kaustos)” sacrificial offering to a god. It perfectly describes what happens to unborn babies after they are aborted since many of them go to the incinerator. Also, they are sacrificed on the altar of the false gods of our age. In fact, it is a perfect term to describe what is going on in our culture today. It is not like the Aztec Empire which was an empire drenched with human blood. The Aztecs sacrificed 20,000 human victims a year in an effort to appease the gods of their religion, especially Quetzalcoatl, the feathered stone serpent god. Our Lady of Guadalupe put an end to that. Hitler went after 6 million Jews. This culture of death goes after 6 million unborn babies in less than six years. We have had 40 years of this barbarism. If anything, Father, the word is insufficient to describe the evil.

THE MOVIE “BELLA” HAS GOT IT RIGHT, BE SURE AND SEE IT WHEN IT COMES OUT – THE EMPHASIS IS ON LIFE NOT DEATH.

Thank you for the recommendation. I will be sure to see it. However, and this point bears recognition, “Bella” will not reach the people that these images will. Furthermore, why is looking at a picture of an aborted unborn child a scandal while gazing on a crucified man is not? Why is it necessary for us to show the very graphic sacrifice of Jesus on a crucifix? Wouldn’t a simple cross be sufficient?Sometimes speaking the truth in love means exposing the entire barbarity of the act.


WHAT’S THE POINT IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HEARD?

If your objection to this campaign is merely because we are not going to be heard, then the whole prolife movement in Canada should close up shop right now. For 40 years, we have not been heard. Shall we therefore ask “what is the point”? No, clearly not. We keep on preaching and exhorting, hoping that people will come to their senses. Likewise here. Except that we both know very well that these images cannot be denied and they will stay firmly planted in the minds of Canadians when this issue is brought up again in debate. They cannot deny the truth.

YOU ARE PREACHING DEATH IN THE NAME OF LIFE.

Father, please. This is not fair. We are not “preaching death”. We are exposing it. That’s a big difference. If I we are preaching death by these images, you are doing the very same thing by merely stating what these picture do. Are you “preaching death” by merely stating that “Abortion ends the life of a human person”? If not, then we are doing nothing less than you are, except by visual imagery. It’s the same thing.>>Our Blessed Lord certainly did not hesitate to publicly and severely condemn the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of His day.

AGAIN I WOULD CHALLENGE THE COMPARISON.

I can’t see how. Jesus did not fear in offending people. In fact, causing offense landed him on the cross. He upset too many people because He would not bend the truth to the itching ears of his listeners.

BUT WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THE MOTHER WHO IS CARRYING THE CHILD? DON’T ADD TO HER PAIN BUT TAKE IT AWAY

But by your own standard that you are suggesting, we should not talk about abortion AT ALL for fear of offending or causing pain to women who have had abortions. Many of our opponents maintain that we should not talk about abortion because of the pain it causes to so many women. Is that the route you want to go?

IT IS BETTER STILL NOT TO DO EVIL BUT TO DO GOOD. There is no evil in proclaiming the truth. There is no evil in merely showing evil. However, there is evil in hiding the truth or, worse still, refusing to talk about it or show it for fear of offense being caused. That is why St. Paul says,

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)
 

THIS IS NOT THE ONLY WAY THE TRUTH CAN BE PROCLAIMED AND LIVED

Agreed. But that does not answer the question. It only side steps it. The truth is the truth is the truth. Communicating the truth therefore is not evil. The only thing that remains is simply this question:
Does the potential harm caused by these images outweigh the potential benefits in exposing the horror of abortion?

I say no. Not even close.

THE PRINCIPLES OF THE JUST WAR “THEORY” ARE STILL DEBATED BY THEOLOGIANS AND THE APPLICATION IS EVEN MORE DIFFICULT.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not suggest that the teaching on “just war” is merely a theory:

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.”

The reference in the Catechism above simply recites Gaudium et Spes, 79.4 from the Second Vatican Council.

The Just War teaching is hardly a “theory” but has been well established since Augustine, and since therefore the rationale behind it is valid, then it forms the foundation of defense for this campaign.

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