"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

The story behind today's feast is well-known: see Matthew 2: 13-18. The feast itself is becoming well-known as the Pro-Life Feast, second in the U.S. only to the anniversary of Roe v Wade (January 23, which will be upon us all too soon, alas). The theme of the slaughter of innocents connects today's holocaust with the Gospel story so obviously that thought ends easily enough for emotion to take over at once. But if we meditate further on the connection, Herod's motives for killing the newborn boys of Bethlehem also seem chillingly apposite to the motives for practicing and advocating abortion.

In both cases, the motive for killing the defenseless is to protect people's position. Abortion has become a secular sacrament in which the innocent are ritually sacrificed to preserve the personal "autonomy" of women who have had sex without desiring its natural consequences. The term autonomy is most apt: its Greek roots essentially mean "being a law unto oneself." With the full acquiescence of male legislators— however variously motivated that may be—women in the "developed" world now have the absolute right to decide who, upon conception, will be allowed to live and who will not. If a woman wants her conceived child, then that child is a "baby" and thus a person with a right to live; under the laws of most American states, anybody who kills a baby in the womb, either directly or in the course of an assault on the mother alone, is liable for murder. If, that is, the mother has indeed regarded the life within her as something sacred and inviolable. If she doesn't, however, and instead regards the life within her as an unwonted intrusion on her personal autonomy, something that would "ruin" her life unless eliminated, then she is free to define that life as a non-person and kill it with medical help. No questions asked. You have indeed come a long way, baby.

Of course there is some difference. Herod was protecting a throne; women who abort are protecting themselves from suffering. But in either case, lawlessness is cloaked in the guise of practical necessity. It was indeed the same sort of reasoning that caused the high priest Caiaphas to advocate turning Jesus over to the Romans for execution. So today, instead of dying to self so as to live for God and his will, we kill the innocent so as to live life on the terms we define for ourselves and thus find worth protecting. Abortion, like the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, is the refusal of the kingship of Christ. That is why Catholics who procure abortions, for themselves or others, are automatically excommunicated. Nancy Keenan, take note.

Holy Innocents, pray for us.
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