Monday, January 22, 2007

In his Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Question 96, St. Thomas Aquinas writes that: "Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Prov. 8:15: "By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things." Now laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to wit, they are ordained to the common good--and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver--and from their form, when, to wit, burdens are laid on the subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good. For, since one man is a part of the community, each man in all that he is and has, belongs to the community; just as a part, in all that it is, belongs to the whole; wherefore nature inflicts a loss on the part, in order to save the whole: so that on this account, such laws as these, which impose proportionate burdens, are just and binding in conscience, and are legal laws.

On the other hand laws may be unjust in two ways: first, by being contrary to human good, through being opposed to the things mentioned above--either in respect of the end, as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory--or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him--or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good. The like are acts of violence rather than laws; because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5), "a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all." Wherefore such laws do not bind in conscience.."

Now, abortion laws are obviously contrary to the "human good," the "common good." What should be our attitude toward abortion laws? We should always remember that when man-made laws contradict the Divine Law, we have a strict obligation to oppose them. Our attitude should be that of St. Peter and the other Apostles when they were commanded by the chief priests to cease teaching in Jesus' name. We read in the book of Acts (Chapter 5:29), that our first Holy Father and the other Apostles responded thusly to these ministers: "We ought to obey God rather than men."

Make no mistake about it, the abortion movement is a hate movement. It represents hatred of God's Commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus Chapter 20: 13); it represents hatred of human life; it represents hatred of Christ's Church which teaches authoritatively that abortion and infanticide are "unspeakable crimes."

Back in 1991, I participated in a March for Life through the streets of Boston with His Eminence Bernard Cardinal Law and thousands of lay people, priests and religious. As we were processing through the streets of Boston, I was enjoying a conversation with His Eminence and several seminarians when various onlookers from different apartment buildings began to shout obscenities and to engage in hateful and angry rhetoric. I can remember one angry person yelling out, "You're mother should have aborted you" and yet another screaming at the top of his voice "You ass..... should stay out of my bedroom."

It was obvious to me why these confused and angry souls were lowering themselves to such an immature level of rhetoric. They instinctively realized that their hate movement had already lost the intellectual debate. They also knew full well (in their hearts) that the culture of death hate movement had already lost the moral or ethical debate.

This was the reason for the unbridled hate speech. Angry rhetoric and shrill-voices almost inevitably follow when those whose passions are unchecked begin to realize that the truth is not on their side and that their arguments lack any real substance.

Time is on our side. As more and more Americans come to reject the culture of death and as Roe v. Wade collapses in on itself (and even Sandra Day O'Connor once spoke of this moment when she alluded to the fact that Roe v. Wade was on a collision course with itself), the shrill-voices and hate-filled rhetoric will first increase and then totally subside.

It was the same when Dr. King led so many people of good will in the fight for civil rights for African-Americans. In time, as Americans witnessed with horror the face of hatred on their television sets, they increasingly came to realize that they wanted no part of the bigotry and learned to embrace these fellow American citizens as equals.

It is love which will overcome the abortion hate movement. Love always triumphs over hatred, even if there is pain as we make the journey toward justice, peace and the common good. The hatred which is part and parcel of the abortion movement will be transformed by love and by patient witness to the Gospel truth which proclaims the inviolable dignity of every human person.

Dr. King spoke of this before his assasination: "We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we cannot obey your unjust laws. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children; send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities and drag us out on some wayside road, beating us and leaving us half dead, and we will still love you. But we will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in winning our freedom, we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process."

Dr. King realized that there is nothing stronger than love or "soul force." And isn't this what Sacred Scripture teaches us? We read in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that, "And now there remain faith, hope and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love." This theologal virtue will triumph over the abortion hate movement just as surely as it triumphed through Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement and through the person and work of Gandhi in India.

Paul Anthony Melanson

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