Saving Babies and Time Off in Purgatory
As I write, Washington lies under light snow and, with wind chill, is 90 F. In most of the country, not too bad for January. In Washington – between the incompetence of government and a population that rarely encounters (read: “drives in”) snow – it means near paralysis. During the Cold War, I used to say that the Soviets were wasting money on nukes and sophisticated weaponry; a few well-placed snow machines would have crippled the capital of the West. But as decades of experience have proven, none of that will stop tens of thousands of people from showing up tomorrow for the March for Life, one of the most selfless public causes on the planet.
None of them comes for personal gain. But this year you can get a plenary indulgence for participating in the events. What a great, good thing: save innocent babies and get time off in Purgatory, too.
Pope Francis has recently – and rightly – been warning the world about the dangers of nuclear war. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two relatively small atomic bombs killed almost 250,000. Today’s numerous and powerful weapons would be much more deadly. But for those of us marching tomorrow, it’s hard to overlook the undeniable fact that we’ve basically had four Hiroshimas and Nagasakis – 1,000,000 dead every year for the past forty-five years. And that’s in America alone, where abortion is still contested, even limited in many states, compared with the past, thanks to heroic public witness and action.
It’s a puzzle why the pope, energetic as he is on many good causes, has been so relatively quiet on this one. He speaks against abortion occasionally and sometimes forcefully (see Notable in column to the left), but he set the tone quite early in his pontificate in an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica about contraception, abortion, and homosexuality that left many pro-lifers speechless: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” Presumably, this reflects some experience of the pope’s. But I know a fair number of pro-lifers – leaders and the ordinary folks who, generously, seeking no personal benefit, turn out every year in the cold and remain active back home throughout the year – on abortion, but also helping the poor, visiting the sick, and much else. The pope’s description doesn’t fit them. And what he calls “disjointed” seems to many consistent and comprehensive Catholic teaching that needs to be emphasized as such.
It’s doubly painful to learn this year, just days before the Pro-Life March, that Lilianne Ploumen a Dutch politician and prominent promoters of homosexuality, contraception, and abortion, not only in Europe but around the globe, was given a medal making her a Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. She claimed in an interview that it was in recognition of her work and that “the Vatican, especially under previous popes, had a rather rigid attitude when it came to girls’ and women’s rights.”