Skip to comments.A Good Week for Life
Posted on 02/19/2002 11:25:14 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
The Superstition of Divorce
The world's two most powerful men took actions recently that should gladden the hearts of Catholics. First, Pope John Paul II urged lawyers and judges to oppose divorce, calling it a "festering wound" devastating society. The Holy Father called on civil lawyers to refuse to "use their profession to an end contrary to justice, such as divorce" and shun activity that "could imply a cooperation with divorce." Judges cannot avoid their duty to handle cases, he said, but they "must find effective means to favor the marriage union" and seek reconciliation.
Naturally, secular commentators pounced upon the pope. One Italian newspaper said the Holy Father's appeal to conscience was the same "as the one made to the Taliban to resist in Afghanistan." Journalists found no shortage of Catholics willing to say that the pope should "mind his own business."
Well, the sacrament of marriage is very much the Church's business and, in fact, the Pope has every right to tell the secular world to mind its own business. Our Lord said that when husband and wife are joined, the "two shall become one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." I don't see any exceptions for lawyers and judges.
The controversy calls to mind G. K. Chesterton's aphorism, "If there is such a thing as marriage, then there's no such thing as divorce." Chesterton reflected the Catholic view that divorce is a "superstition," meaning that the bonds of matrimony, since made in Heaven, are unbreakable on earth. It is a fallacy to think anyone - including the state - can sunder them. Even the Church can annul a marriage only if it wasn't valid in the first place.
Sadly, the Church has undermined her own authority by granting far too many annulments. Nevertheless, the Pope is right - attorneys and judges shouldn't participate in the fiction of divorce. As I explain to my kids, you can no more cease being someone's husband or wife than you can stop being a brother or sister. Bad or even evil behavior by one side doesn't invalidate the relationship and thus the state has no ability to grant a divorce. Saying it doesn't make it so.
Upgrading the Fetus
Second, President Bush announced plans to define a fetus as an unborn child for purposes of providing taxpayer-funded prenatal care to low-income women. Howls of protest quickly erupted from the usual places, as pro-abortion forces sensed a gathering storm. "If a fetus is defined as a person, which is a legal term," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women, "then even first-trimester abortions would be murder." Precisely.
Abortion advocates' revulsion at the Bush proposal was predictable - their case rests on maintaining the falsehood that the fetus isn't a person. Once the debate shifts from "choice" to "child," the moral authority of the "pro-choice" crowd is completely demolished. Such is the peril of basing one's claims on a lie.
Bush's plan caught many liberals in a dilemma. Usually welcoming expansion of the welfare state, most are also fanatical abortion supporters. Forcing a tough choice usually reveals where your true priorities lie - and this was no exception. Fearful of rousing feminist ire, these "friends of the poor" uniformly denounced the proposed change, supporting abortion over additional health care for the needy. After all, poor women don't raise campaign cash and the unborn can't vote.
Whether intended or not, President Bush reminded people that what is carried by a mother in her womb is a child - not a fetus, a tissue mass, a "potential" human life or other euphemism used to degrade the unborn. Calling things by their correct name is the first step to restoring societal sanity.
All in all, a good week for the culture of life.
James Bemis is an editorial board member, weekly columnist and film critic for California Political Review. He is also a columnist for the Internet website Catholic Exchange and served for years as a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. He is a frequent contributor to The Wanderer, the oldest weekly national Catholic newspaper. Mr. Bemis' work has appeared in National Catholic Register, Catholic Faith & Family, Catholic Digest, Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter, The Wanderer Forum Focus, the Los Angeles Times, the Ventura County Star, and the Simi Valley Enterprise. His five-part series, "Through the Eyes of the Church," on the Vatican's list of the 45 Most Important Films in the Century of Cinema, was published in The Wanderer. Mr. Bemis is currently writing a book on Catholic art, literature and film.
You might as well ask bears to not crap in the woods. The success rate would be the same.
I think we have our Irony of the Century winner already!
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