Tag Archives: abortion

Chastity and Abortion: Interview with Jason Evert

By guest writer Kathy Clubb.

World-renowned speaker, Jason Evert, was in Melbourne last week for a series of talks on the true nature of love. Jason has spoken to more than one million people about the virtue of chastity and has been a keynote speaker at five World Youth Days. He has written several books, including “Theology of the Body for Teens” and “How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul,” and has studied counseling and theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was my great pleasure to meet him and ask him a few questions about how a return to chastity can put the brakes on the abortion culture.

Chastity and Abortion: Interview with Jason Evert

Kathy: Jason, can we win the battle against abortion without preaching the chastity message?

Jason: No. In order to be fully pro-life, we have to first teach them to be pro-love. I discovered that when doing sidewalk counselling in front of an abortion clinic for three years and I had an inescapable feeling of being late. “Now, why am I meeting this woman forty-five minutes before her abortion? You know –  why couldn’t I have met her when she was 15? Because maybe if she’d learned about chastity then, she never would have dated this guy to begin with, and wouldn’t be in this difficult situation at the age of 25.

And so I realized that I was kind of throwing sandbags on the banks of a flooded river, instead of swimming upstream to where the dam was actually broken. I figured if we could seal off the dam, then there wouldn’t be any need for stopping the flood damage downstream.

Kathy: Is that why you started this whole ministry? Because of that feeling of being late at the abortion facility? Pro-life got you into this?

Jason: Hmmm, yeah, that was a major reason. The other part was leading high school youth retreats, and the kids would open up about how much they were suffering in this area of life in particular. And I was reading Pope John Paul II’s “Love and Responsibility” and began to see that this was the antidote to both issues: to the chastity issue and the fruit of it, which is the abortion culture. Because you don’t have anyone going to the abortion clinic who hasn’t struggled with chastity.

Kathy: It’s been said that the journey to the abortion facility starts years before the appointment on that fateful day.

Jason: And when a woman is coming in to get an abortion, it might not be her first. It could be her fourth. And if she’s not being evangelized at that moment, perhaps through a crisis pregnancy center: “You know, it doesn’t have to be this way – there are many different choices you can make in life, so you don’t end up in this difficult situation a fourth or fifth time.”

Because it’s so important for a pro-life ministry to be pro-life –  not only before the abortion, and also after the abortion in supporting her – but also years beforehand. We have to see this as a preventative measure.

And some people are doing wonderful work sidewalk counseling. I was working with a nun once, and she saved 19 babies in one day. So you can’t underestimate the importance of the work they’re doing. It’s not one vs the other; they are two wings of the same plane.

I was once standing outside of a clinic, and I befriended one of the security guards out front. And one day he confided in me, and he said, “You know, every day I show up at work, and I just hear voices in my head, telling me to kill. And I don’t know where that’s coming from.” And I said, “Let’s try to connect the dots here.” And he said he struggled with alcoholism, and his marriage was falling apart, and I said, “Let’s pray together “, and he said, “Please.” And so we prayed together right outside the abortion clinic.

And I came back a week later and he had quit. Because I had told him, ‘You’re basically working in the vestibule of hell, here. So it’s probably better to find another place to work – get those voices out of your head.’

But then, they kind of had it out for me at the clinic. One day I was out there praying, and I saw them pointing at me. And my friends told me they were saying that that’s the guy that was with Joe before he quit.  A week later we were out there and a police car pulled up. And they came to me, and they pointed down at me, and the police came to me and they said: “Okay, charges are being pressed against you because apparently, you stalked one of the directors of the clinic, and you tried to offer her a coffee and she turned you down. And you asked her on a date and then you chased her into the abortion clinic and you tried to steal her purse.”

And I said, “Oh really? I missed that. When did this happen again?” And they took me to court, and the judge said guilty. And we went to a retrial before another judge and that judge dismissed the case. And I said I don’t even like coffee. (laughs) They were out to get me – you know what it’s like. Ethics are not their strong suit.

Kathy: Why are the pro-life organizations, in general, failing to talk about chastity?

Jason: Largely because they’re so focused on the immediate triage of trying to save the wounded on the battlefield. They’re just trying to save the life of amputees on the battle-field who’ve only got five minutes to live. They’re doing such an important, last-minute effort to save what they can, that it’s hard sometimes to lift up their eyes to see the horizon. Sometimes they may stop and ask, what could we have done to prevent this carnage sooner?

But there’s no competition in the body of Christ. This is something that we need to do together. Pro-chastity speakers need to have a very pro-life heart to their message. And the pro-life movement needs to realize the importance of saving babies five years before they’re conceived.

Kathy: Can you see a place in every organization for this message?

Jason: Oh, it’s essential. In my chastity talks, I’m holding up an ultrasound of my unborn son and it’s giving the message to the kids when they’re 14 or 15: ‘Hey, this is what ultrasounds are showing.’ You know, they have images of children who appear to be laughing in their mothers’ wombs! And I explain this to the kids. And you know, I’m not beating them over the head with some anti-abortion message. This is just pro-life, this is something that we’re for, not something we’re against. It’s very organically woven into the presentation and it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to indoctrinate them on some pro-life position. It’s just a picture of my kid in my wife’s womb. And how do you argue against that?

Kathy: From what you know, are couples who were chaste before marriage more likely to be open to life during married?

Jason:  I think there’s no doubt about it. Because the Catholic Church’s teaching isn’t so much, okay, good Catholics use NFP, bad Catholics use contraception. Good Catholics realize that children are the supreme gift of marriage. So if we have a serious reason not to have kids, we can fall back on NFP, but the default position is not NFP. The default position is an openness to life. Because children are the supreme gift.

If you were going to get married and you went to the reception, and you saw all these presents laid out, and one said, ‘The Supreme Gift’, you wouldn’t be like, I’ll open that in five years time when we know each other better. You’d think, no, we want to receive that gift as soon as we can. So the disposition to do the will of God with your body is something that naturally flows into wanting the will of God for your family. The Church will never tell you how many kids to have, but God will.

It’s a very dangerous thing to put that part of your life completely under His Lordship, because, you know – what if He’s asking more than we want to give because that’s typically exactly what He does? He stretches us far beyond what we expected, but when we look back when it’s all said and done, it’s like, ‘My goodness, if that had been left in my hands, how differently things would have unfolded.’ If I took control over my own fertility in such a way that was able to completely eliminate [the prospect of children]… it’s almost like we would get addicted to the ease. It’s like, oh wow – this is so easy having them all at school and not worrying about having another little one waking me up at night. This sin brings its own punishment.

Kathy: I was at a retreat one day, and it was Thanksgiving after Communion, and for the first time in my life I thought, ‘Oh, I think I might be done with having my family now.” And I got a very firm feeling from God – that we must never say never – and I had twelve children already! And He still seemed to be showing me that we must never say never. Then I had another child after that.

Jason: Slacker! (laughter) Didn’t Catherine of Siena have 20 or something?

Kathy: 26 or something, I think?

Jason: Good thing her mum wasn’t selfish and only had 25!

Kathy: Do you find this is the same for non-Catholics as well, though? Do you find that it goes together for everyone, or is it more of a Catholic thing because we have a comprehensive teaching?

Jason: No, I think they go hand in hand because it’s the proper use of our human sexuality. And if we know how to use sexuality properly prior to marriage, then it follows very naturally and seamlessly into marriage. And likewise, the abstinence required during natural family planning means that that’s ok – it’s an expression of love.

It’s not about withholding love, it’s about expressing love in different ways. And for someone who doesn’t know chastity prior to marriage, then chastity within marriage is a tough go. A lot of times, marriage will do what it’s supposed to do: it will bring your faults up to the surface. And I know a lot of couples who were not chastity prior to marriage, and then they try to practice NFP chastity in marriage, and it brought up a lot of stuff that it had covered up prior to marriage. Because I think chastity in marriage is more demanding than chastity prior to marriage.

Thanks, Jason for dedicating your time and energy to creating a culture of life and true love.

For more information, visit Jason Evert’s website, Chastity Project, for great articles and resources on the virtue of chastity, talking to children about human sexuality, transgenderism, the porn epidemic and much more. You can follow Jason and his wife, Christalina here on Facebook.

Originally posted at The Freedoms Project.

Movie Review: “King’s Faith”

The Christian movie King’s Faith (2013), available on Netflix, is a beautiful and moving story of faith and redemption. Best of all, it manages to convey the reality of faith without being corny or trite, examining complex human issues like death, crime, divorce and abortion with tenderness, displaying the full reality of the pain and trauma of loss while demonstrating the healing that comes with trust in each other and in God.

[Caution: some spoilers ahead]

King’s Faith centers on 18-year-old Brendan King (Crawford Wilson), who has been on the wrong side of the law multiple times and is placed in his eighteenth foster home after being detained for three years. His foster father Mike Stubbs (James McDaniel) is a math teacher at his new high school, and mentors the after-school Bible study group as well as the faith-based community service youth group, The Seekers.

Brendan was given a Bible while in juvenile detention, and came to accept the saving truth of Christianity. With his newfound faith in God, Brendan applies himself to his studies, determined to leave his old life behind.

However, trouble comes calling when Brendan saves a fellow schoolmate, Natalie Jenkins (Kayla Compton), from a car crash and appears on the news. His old gang tracks him down and demands that he hand over a stash of drugs and cash that he and his now-dead best friend had hidden before the federal drug raid that ended his friend’s life and landed Brendan in detention.

The Stubbs are recovering from the death of their only son, a police officer who was killed during a routine traffic stop. Vanessa Stubbs (Lynn Whitfield) is unable to move on, and spends most days cultivating flowers for her son’s memorial on the side of the highway.

Mike, meanwhile, has been able to surrender his pain to God and welcomes Brendan as a foster child, knowing that God may bring good out of this gift of a stable, loving home for a troubled youth. He is a trusting man who looks for the good in others, even those rejected by the rest of society.

As we follow Brendan through his new life and watch him and other characters grapple with the past, we witness the power of faith to transform even the most terrible circumstances, binding old wounds and uniting the estranged in love and truth.

Whatever you did for the least of these…

Someone told me a few weeks ago, in the middle of a martial arts related discussion, “I think that stuff is cool, but I don’t do martial arts. I am a lover, not a fighter.”

It is no exaggeration to say that I have been thinking about that pretty exhaustively ever since.

I have been thinking about it because my initial reaction was, “That’s a contradiction in terms.”

I did not voice that thought because I did not want to start a controversy with a half-formed thought that I wasn’t prepared to defend. I have been examining it ever since, however, and I am pretty well convinced that my initial gut reaction was correct. How can you love anyone or anything without being willing to fight, at least in theory? Being a lover without being a fighter is impossible.

I admit to taking that a little bit out of the context in which it was spoken. We were discussing martial arts and it is quite possible to love without doing martial arts. For instance, Jesus never did any martial arts, as far as we know. Neither did the vast majority of the saints. Even the military saints, who presumably practiced their craft in one form or another, as often as not gave it up at some point to become monks.

So it isn’t martial arts or military training per se that I mean when I say that being a lover without being a fighter is impossible. However, martial arts is a handy example of what I am trying to get at. Too often, I think, our pacifism is not motivated by love or compassion, but by denial or indifference. My reticence to begin a discussion about this is a prime example. I didn’t hold back because I cared about my colleague’s sensibilities but because I didn’t care enough to begin a dialogue.

If my wife or daughter are attacked, the “I’m a lover not a fighter” dichotomy is instantly revealed for the hogwash it is. At that moment I had better become a fighter, or I am a lousy lover. The kind of “love” that refuses to fight for the beloved’s well-being is not worthy of the name.

Of course, fighting takes many forms. The most enlightened and effective form of fighting is the form that eliminates a conflict before it can occur. It preempts the danger, ideally by turning the enemy into a friend, or by finding a mutually acceptable compromise, or by avoiding the circumstances that would lead to conflict, or finally by preempting imminent attack so effectively that it neutralizes the threat before it can become fully developed.

Suppose we have fully developed this enlightened approach and our family is perfectly safe. We have no threats impending on ourselves or our family or friends. Are we now justified in considering ourselves a lover and not a fighter?

I contend that no, we can’t. Firstly, because that is not actually the case. We are not perfectly safe. We are in the middle of an all-out spiritual war, we just don’t see it.

Secondly, because the only reason any of us has any safety is because, somewhere, somehow, someone is fighting to make that possible.

Thirdly, because even though my family and I are safe, that does not discharge my responsibility for charity. We must not forget that subsidiarity is balanced by solidarity.

Throughout this world countless people are under attack every day. There are homeless and immigrants a few miles from your door, if you live in most American cities. There are more than 600,000 children being murdered by abortion every year in our country. 20.9 million people around the world are held in slavery. Children are being abused, exploited, raped, murdered, tortured, and forced to do all of these things as child soldiers. Women are being abused by their husbands and boyfriends, probably on your block or in your apartment complex. Within your city there are hundreds of elderly who have not had a visit from a family member in months or years.

As Catholics we believe that all people are beloved by God and all are worthy of being loved, wanted, and cared for because of that. Of course we are required to show love first and foremost to those closest to us (subsidiarity). However, we are still responsible in some degree to all and for all (solidarity).

This is why we, as Catholics, cannot claim to be lovers but not fighters. Love in a fallen world requires fighting, because the world is horrendously dangerous. Threats are all around us. We cannot allow that to paralyze us with fear or hopelessness. Jesus has died and risen. The war is won, it just isn’t over yet. We must be cheerful, but we must fight.

One day we will stand in judgment. On that day we will see a crowd of children, too vast to count. They will be bearing the scars of their abuse: saline burns, limbs torn off by landmines or industrial machines, physical scars, mental and emotional scars, and spiritual scars. All of these wounds will be glorious, not limitations but badges of glory, transfigured in the Mercy that suffered with them and for them. They will look upon their abusers and murderers: abortionists, terrorists, pedophiles, pornographers, drug dealers, unscrupulous politicians and business owners. They will look upon them with love and mercy and say, “We forgive you.”

I suspect a large part of the eternal fate of such people will depend upon how they react to that forgiveness, either humbling themselves and accepting it, or hardening their hearts and despairing. But that is not our concern, right now.

Those children will also look at us. It is good to think about what they will say to us.

What will they say to me? Will they say, “Thank you for everything you did for us. For all your prayer, fasting, sacrifice, sleepless nights, donations, risks; everything you did and suffered on our behalf to give us a whole, healthy, and happy life”?

Or will they have to say, “We forgive you for turning your back on us.”

And how will I respond?

Whatever they say to me, Jesus has already told us what He will say: “Whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”

Let Yourself Be Moved

Every January, pro-life marches and events are held across the country. We talk about abortion in our parishes and homes, and we eagerly attend special Masses that are held to pray for the sanctity of all human life. We look at the adorable babies in our midst and, spurred on by a passion for life, decide that we will take a stand for the unborn children. We will speak up for the voiceless, and we will aid their mothers. We allow our hearts to be touched, and we are moved into action.

We absolutely need to continue spreading awareness about abortion and work to help the unborn babies and their families. However, we need to widen our pro-life scope and talk about another tragic reality that is in our midst: Sex trafficking.

I wonder, at times, why we don’t talk about sex trafficking very often.

Our silence is possibly due to discomfort. It is much more fun to hold pictures of cute babies on street corners and encourage people to choose life than it is to talk about the uncomfortable, grim reality of sex trafficking in our nation.

Maybe our silence is due to ignorance. We don’t know about this common form of slavery—what it is, or how to combat it—and so we don’t discuss it.

Or, perhaps we do not discuss sex trafficking because we have not let the issue touch our hearts. We stand at a comfortable distance with our “Choose Life!” posters, having the faint knowledge that sex trafficking exists, but keeping ourselves far from the issue. We think that other people can become knowledgeable about this slavery. Other people can do something to fight it. Other people are called to help the victims…but not us. We may share an article on social media about “5 Ways to Fight Sex Trafficking,” but that’s the extent of our engagement with the topic.

Originally, I thought that—since January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month—I would write an upbeat article about concrete ways that we can fight this industry. Then, I realized that many articles like this exist already. Yet, silence still persists in many of our churches and communities. We know about sex trafficking, but we have not let this knowledge touch our hearts. We have not been moved into action by compassion and a sense of justice.

So, let yourself be moved. Read the stories of sex trafficking victims, and listen as their voices cry out for help—the help that only you can give. Watch documentaries, learn about local anti-trafficking organizations, and open up your heart. Let your heart be touched by the stories you hear, by the plight of thousands of people in our cities and towns. When your heart is touched, you will see that the statistics on trafficking represent adults and children from our communities, people who deserve dignity, respect and love.

St. Teresa of Calcutta is attributed with saying, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

Holding this wisdom close, look at your community. Let yourself be touched by the reality of abuse, disrespect, and sex trafficking that affects many people near you. Then, let yourself be moved by compassionate love to do something to help our brothers and sisters in need.

Photo credit: “Human Trafficking” by sammisreachers  via Pixabay. CCO Public Domain.

Why Defund Planned Parenthood

With the transition of both houses and the presidency to GOP control, one of the promises that President Trump made seems to be coming to fruition, namely, to defund Planned Parenthood. Let us hope it does because if not it does not bode well for the future of our deal-with-the-devil that we, as pro-life advocates, contracted when we elected President-elect Trump. (I say we even though I did not personally vote for him, because it was the so-called “religious right” which was instrumental in getting him elected.)

The question that is not being asked is what is to replace PP. This is a more pressing concern than most conservatives seem to think. I do not personally know anyone who has used PP for an abortion. I do personally know several women first hand and many more second hand who have used PP for low-cost pap smears, mammogram referrals, and contraceptive services. (I am not addressing contraception in this post. I hold to the Church’s teaching on the immorality of artificial contraception, but I think the social application of that doctrine is nuanced enough to require its own post.) Like it or not, PP does provide services other than abortion, and those services are both valuable and licit. Something must fill the vacuum if it is defunded.

The second problem is the money. Defunding PP will dump that money back into the government budget and I, for one, would like to know where it is going. Perhaps we should consider sending it back into the healthcare system, to subsidize community health centers, rural clinics, or even primary care providers willing to live in out-of-the-way places. If the concern is PP’s provision of abortion, but we can all agree that women’s health services are a priority for everyone, then defunding of PP should not occur without a direct replacement by some provision for providing women’s health services. Whether this should take the form of subsidies of existing clinics, incentivization or insurance subsidies is beyond my competence to say.

When discussing this with PP supporters, unfortunately there is a certain level at which our position is, and must be, intractable. However, their concerns about women’s health are valid, and we ought to do our best to support and respond to those concerns.

I say that at some point our positions are intractable because despite the validity of concern about women’s health, that is not a valid argument for supporting PP or even allowing it to continue. I do not know what percentage of PP’s services are abortions. I have read figures ranging from 90+% to 3% and the truth is probably in the middle somewhere. The Washington Post article linked sheds some light on the slippery statistics both sides use. The number that concerns me is the hard number, 300,000. 327,653, according to the WP. That is the number of abortions performed by PP in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

If you start with the position (as I do) that an unborn fetus is a human being, then this is a staggering number. It means that more than 300,000 human beings are killed legally every year by this organization. That concern trumps whatever other service they may provide.

Naturally, if you do not start with the fetus-as-human position, then you do not necessarily have to take so stark a position. You are free to regard abortion as good, indifferent or unfortunate, and weigh that in balance with all other services that PP provides. You may find that those services outweigh abortion, or you may not. It is essentially up to you.

If, however, the fetus is human, then there really is no alternative. Try to understand that to someone who believes in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, to suggest that PP’s abortion services should be overlooked because of all the other services they provide is the moral equivalent of suggesting that Germans and Austrians were right to overlook the concentration camps because after all they boosted the economy and provided valuable goods and services. They were wrong, and so are we.

This is my argument for defunding PP. I do not expect to change anyone’s mind, but I do think that it is good for everyone to understand everyone else’s underlying assumptions and the reasoning that comes from them. Again, I acknowledge the necessity of mammograms, pap smears, STI testing and treatments, and other services. I would love to see the federal money from PP going to a non-abortion-providing alternative.

A Person’s A Person, No Matter How Small

Clare and LouiseMy wife Jane and I have two little girls, Clare and Louise; Clare turns two this month and Louise is just over six months old. Clare is at a really fun – but albeit all consuming – stage. She loves nothing more than playing outside, and if she is not insisting on being pushed around in her plastic toy car, she is carefully dropping her toys in the wading pool, before picking them out of the water and starting all over again. Louise is beginning to shuffle around on the lounge room floor while learning about the world through studying a range of stuffed animals. Clare will now regularly come and lay down next to Louise on the floor and with an enthusiastic ‘hello’ proceed to take back those stuffed animals which she believes are her own. Everyday our daughters are growing and developing but they really are still just babies. They rely on us for everything, we are their nurturers and their protectors, their friends and their family. Their world is safe and secure because we make it that way for them.

But what if one afternoon in the middle of Clare playing outside I just walked away, leaving her in the backyard by herself with no food, no protection and no shelter. Her smile would fall and the frown would descend into tears, she would cry her eyes out, her nose would run and she would go to the back door yelling ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’, not understanding what had just happened. As night began to fall she would cry and cry, tears streaming down her face. She would be hungry and want her milk. She is not old enough to reason out her situation and create or find shelter in the yard. I really don’t know, or do I want to know, how she would cope. Would she even make it through the night?

Alternatively, what if Jane and I decided to go away for the weekend and we left Louise crawling around on the lounge room floor. Having even less capacity than Clare, the little darling would do all she knew, and that would be to cry. Without water or any sort of nourishment I don’t know how long she could last.

It breaks my heart to think of my little babies being abandoned and essentially left to die. Clare’s little laugh and beautiful blue eyes would be no more; the gifts she would one day share with the world would be left unknown. We would never even know who Louise would be, we wouldn’t get to see her dancing around in mummy’s hat and daddy’s shoes, we wouldn’t get to see her grow and learn.

I recall a couple of tragic abandonment stories that came across the media in recent years. In 2014 a newborn baby was found after having being left at the bottom of a storm water drain in Australia for five days. In 2015, in China, a baby survived being buried alive for eight days in a botched up plan by the parents to kill their little son because he had a cleft lip. Once found and while being tended to by doctor’s the boy coughed up a thick black substance which was the dirt he had swallowed while being underground; it was suggested that the rainwater provided the little one with sufficient moisture to have kept him alive.

Every day though, 125,000 little Clare’s and Louise’s are left to die. Actually, in reality they are not left to die, they are killed; killed in what should be the safest place on earth. For 40-50 million infants every year the womb will become a tomb. Imagine a little ten week old baby in the womb innocently sucking its thumb, turning somersaults and swallowing when all of a sudden a light appears and a hollow tube with a knife edged tip connected to a vacuum is inserted. Its job – to tear apart the little being; legs, arms, head and body. The one doing the killing will check they have all the parts before discarding the baby and ticking off the procedure as a success.

As you well know it’s called abortion. In polite language it’s a termination of pregnancy. In reality it is the murder of innocent children. I’ve heard the excuses, the reasons, the justifications but at the end of the day they are no more than delusions and lies. We as modern people in modern nations are murdering our children in the womb and there is no valid reason. As Doctor Seuss once wrote, A Person’s a Person, no matter how small. We have to do whatever we can, according to our own situation, to love all children, the born and the unborn, and to support those who care for them.

Those who are suffering grief following an abortion should search “post abortion healing” for support.

 Copyright 2016, Bernard Toutounji

Dick Smith Foods, Microsoft & Cooperation in Evil

In 1999 Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith created Dick Smith Foods to provide Australian owned and produced alternatives to the increasing number of foreign owned products. In a number of cases Dick Smith’s determination to support local growers has seen factories reopened, jobs saved and family security restored. Since it began, Dick Smith Foods has given all its profits – some $5.1 million – to over 350 community based charities including the Salvation Army, the Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

Sharing Dick Smith’s desire to support and sustain Australian farmers, I recently put a post on my Facebook page promoting Dick Smith Foods and encouraging people to buy their products. While I usually enjoy a good debate, I was surprised to see one take place beneath my post, with a number of people commenting that they wouldn’t support Dick Smith Foods because of the man’s enthusiasm for national and international population reduction targets.

Now while I don’t agree with his assessment on the population issue (I actually wrote an article on the myth of overpopulation some months ago), it can sometimes be imprudent to reject the good being done in one instance because of a negative aspect in another. Especially in the case of Dick Smith Foods the profits and ideals of the company have nothing to do directly with issues of population control. It is all good and well to stand up to the immorality of the usual ‘life issues’, abortion, contraception, euthanasia etc., but we shouldn’t do that at the expense of not standing up to the immorality of other justice issues such as the right to have a job, earn a fair wage and feed ones family. If we pray for the life of unborn babies on Sunday but don’t support justice for working adults on Monday are we completely balanced?

We all should have an interest though in where the money we spend on food and household items is being funnelled. For many years now a major pro-life institution in the USA has produced an annual listing of the companies that use their profits to support abortion through the massive corporation Planned Parenthood which carries out around 330,000 abortions per year and receives over $500 million in annual government subsidies. Planned Parenthood also receives donations from close to 200 companies that are behind some of the most basic products and services we use every day: Coca-Cola, Kraft, Pepsi, Microsoft, eBay, Levi Strauss, Black & Decker and American Express are just a small handful.

Because we live in what is most evidently a fallen world, the need has long existed to consider how we interact with aspects of that world which do not correspond with our own ethical position. Classical moral theology refers to this interaction as ‘cooperation in evil’ and then draws a very important distinction between formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation occurs when we deliberately cooperate with the immoral actions of another person or institution and share in that evil intention. Sending a cheque to support the work of your local abortion clinic would be formal cooperation in evil and is always wrong. Material cooperation on the other hand is when we may cooperate with the immoral actions of another person or institution but do not share in their evil intention. Using Microsoft products (so long as they are not pirated) or drinking Coca-Cola comes under material cooperation. In the realm of material cooperation, moral theologians have all sorts of distinctions, the general idea being that the greater the degree of our material cooperation, the greater the proportionate reason should be for us allowing such cooperation. If all the major toothpaste suppliers support abortion, there is a sufficiently proportionate reason to still buy toothpaste.

Dealing with issues of cooperation in evil is something each person will personally have to contend with continuously throughout life. There is no doubt that we all need to be wary of supporting products and services that are contrary to upright moral behaviour. However, we must also ensure we do not become overly righteous at the expense of what is genuinely good. The Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath because he healed a man on a day dedicated to prayer and rest. Jesus’ response to them was “Which of you, if his son or ox falls into a well on the Sabbath, would not pull him out without hesitation?” The task of discerning good from evil is not always as obvious as we might like it to be.

Copyright 2015, Bernard Toutounji

Happy Fault

On the way to work one day, you get into a car crash.  The hassle aggravates you.  But in a phone conversation with your insurance agent, you share the Gospel, and his eternal destination changes.  From this perspective outside of time, you would of course consent to a minor car wreck that wrought another person’s salvation.

When time is no more, the veil will be pulled back, and we shall see why God orchestrated all of history as He did.  It will be our “Aha” moment.  We will understand why He allowed 5.5 million babies to die by abortion in this country and 16 million by starvation in China.  At the end of time, we will consent to all God’s ways, all His will.  We will see the other side of the tapestry whose messy underside has been this world.

If we know we will consent to His will at the end of time, why do we not consent to it now?  If we know we will say “yes” then, why do we not affirm His ways today?  Why do we postpone the submission of our wills?

Just as Christ carries His wounds into Heaven, so His saints carry theirs.  Those blessed with the stigmata retain it in Heaven.  The martyrs display their glorious crosses, arrows, and firebrands.  As Christ’s wounds testify to His victory, so our wounds point to our share in His crown.  God chooses to work through our sin and sadness.  He could have accomplished our sainthood another way, but He chose to do it through free will.  He desires free beings who love Him.

Mother Theresa believed that when Jesus says, “I thirst” from the cross, He is thirsting for souls.  He desires to give Himself to all, to feast with His flock, to serve them His own flesh.  When Jesus said, “Father, let this cup pass from Me,” He foresaw in full the chalice He would drink.  He knew every suffering on the road from Gethsemane to Golgotha.  And He chose it for us.  If Mary Proffit had been the only sinner on earth, God would still have died for Mary Proffit.  When God created Adam, He foresaw how all history would unfold.  He chose to redeem us even when He created it.  He saw through the tragedy to the glorious end.

Thus we pray felix culpa, O happy fault which purchased for us so great a Redeemer.  Had the apple never been taken, we would never have had Mary for our Queen.  As Eve took the fruit from the tree in disobedience, so Mary offers Her Son on the tree in obedience.  Blessed be the time the apple was taken.  Therefore we sing Deo gratias.


Becoming Confidently Pro-Life

Regardless of your stance on abortion, it’s safe to assume you would agree that it is a hot button topic.

What’s a person to do when faced with this topic in the workplace? Or at a social event with mixed opinions?

The knee-jerk reaction for many Catholics would be to defend the sanctity of life, regardless of the setting. After all, we’re called to stand firm in Truth, no matter how uncomfortable….right?

Right. Except, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Believe me, I get it. I work full-time for Students for Life of Illinois, after all. But even after years of experience “outing myself” as pro-life simply by telling someone where I work, it’s not easy. The struggle is real, my friends. But allow me to assure you that discussing abortion does become more comfortable with practice.

Here are a few tips to help increase confidence the next time you’re faced with an opportunity to present a pro-life perspective.

1. Know why you are pro-life.

Many people can discuss at length about the science and politics of why abortion is wrong, yet have little insight into where their passion comes from. In order to make your perspective more than facts and figures, it’s essential to get to the core of why you care about this. Your testimony doesn’t have to be a spectacular story like some you may have heard – every testimony is valid. Perhaps you know someone who experienced an unplanned pregnancy and chose life. Perhaps you know someone who has been impacted by abortion. These experiences don’t have to be linked to the moment you realized you’re pro-life – perhaps it’s simply something that reminded you of why you believe that women deserve better than abortion.

I struggled with this when first asking college students to identify why they are pro-life. I realized that I’d never thought about this; I always just thought: “I’m pro-life because I was raised Catholic and taught this viewpoint by my parents” … and that’s not very convincing, is it? Digging deeper into why I am pro-life – beyond science and religion – has given me more ownership of my pro-life identity. Allow yourself the opportunity to figure out why you are pro-life and own it! This will help to build your confidence in this stance and a firmness that no opposition can budge. In learning to give your authentic pro-life testimony, you’ll be able to show that this issue is not simply philosophical or political, it is personal.

2. Educate yourself.

Following the discovery of your pro-life testimony, it’s helpful to educate yourself on the subject and current abortion debate. One of the keys to feeling confident in discussing any topic is ensuring that you’ve taken the time to educate yourself. Know the impact abortion has had on women, men, and society. Understand the implications of legal action. Become familiar with the tangible resources available to women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant – and also where gaps exist.

You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but learn responses to common arguments! With the internet, many resources are at your (literal) fingertips. I suggest WhyProLife.com for starters. It’s important to be able to pair your personal testimony for being pro-life with an understanding of the scientific and factual truth of abortion. Each are important and can stand alone, but you’ll be better equipped when utilizing both facts and personal stories.

3. Dialogue with Dignity.

There’s a philosophy SFLI teaches called “Dialogue with Dignity”. The idea behind this is to ensure that whenever defending the dignity of all human life, we remember to respect the dignity of the person in front of us. Without respecting those who disagree with us, the “Respect ALL Life” stance crumbles. We must honor those we stand for – mothers and children – by respecting the people we’re discussing with.

Dialogue with Dignity is practiced through active listening, asking questions, responding respectfully, and being mindful of the language utilized. As noted before, this is a hot button topic where emotions easily come into play. This can be dangerous territory if we allow ourselves to focus on “winning” rather than having a productive discussion of different perspectives. Going into each conversation about abortion with the mindset that you desire a discussion rather than an argument will help to set your tone throughout. Additionally, being aware of your own boundaries is important. Know when you need to walk away from a discussion to maintain respect for others and yourself.

Overall, I advise making an effort to learn how to be confident and compassionate in your stance for life. You might be the first pro-life person someone encounters – when you part ways, how will they remember you? Perhaps they will be surprised by the way you shared your personal reasons for being pro-life, responded to their objections with patience, or expressed your confident passion for serving women and children. You never know who might be impacted by your witness.

Reflections of a Sidewalk Counselor

Every Friday morning, my mother and I visit the local abortion clinic.  Women travel from three neighboring states to terminate their pregnancies.  The doctor flies in from New Jersey because abortionists are so hard to find.  As the sun rises, my mom and I kneel, pray, and sing hymns.  This practice sobers and sanctifies our Friday mornings.

Our words have the power to give life and to convey forgiveness.  Effective counseling cares for the woman, listens to her fears, her struggles, her motherhood.  She needs to hear that someone cares and that there are people willing to walk alongside her.  The prayers, fasting, and counseling of 40 Days for Life Pensacola saved fifty-three mothers from abortion last year.  Two thousand were lost.  Out of such darkness each of the lives saved shines as a flicker of hope, a soul who can change the world.  During Lent, the clinic double-books its appointments because of the number of no-shows.  Spiritual warfare is a powerful weapon.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Jesus gives us the words to pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Pope St. Gregory the Great asks, “Is it possible to offer, or even to imagine, a purer kind of prayer than that which shows mercy to one’s torturers by making intercession for them?”  Humility and sorrow for our own sin antidote the temptation to self-righteousness. Like Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov we must claim, “I am guilty for the sins of the whole world, and I more than anyone else.”  True pity and true charity demand that we see others as ignorant, deceived by Satan.  The situation calls for utmost charity in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  There is only one who ever suffered truly innocently, and he interceded for his persecutors.

I have met the perseverance and compassion of Jesus in the counselors who come on Friday mornings:  A husband and wife team sing praise songs, hand out pamphlets, and bring their six children.  A Latino woman cries out to each girl getting out of her car, “Chica, chica, don’t go in there.”  Bundled in a fur hat and coat, a quiet, elderly, Russian woman wanders around praying a rosary that reaches to her knees.  Lustania, a third order Franciscan, brings coffee or hot chocolate for the group on cold mornings.  She holds a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and prays to St. Joseph.  She lives the words of St. Francis:  “It is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  Any grace which we impart on others flows from the grace we have received from the fountain of life.  We love the poor and helpless because we see Christ in them.

A woman with lines of pain and wisdom on her face holds a sign bearing, “I regret my abortion.”  She explained to me that a woman’s conversion often comes at the moment of her abortion.  Unable to descend any lower, she feels her conscience stir.  In the words of Alice von Hildebrand, “To be conscious of one’s weakness and to trust in God’s help is the way to authentic strength and victory.”  Often, only in the throes of darkness and pain can we realize our need for light and healing.  The greatest saints are born out of repentance for the greatest sin.  The centurion at the foot of the cross confessed, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”  Hope, with perseverance, never disappoints, and God can soften hearts beyond our power to imagine.

The birth of a child has the power to transform each mother and father.  Motherhood gives women the opportunity to, like Mary, say yes.  “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”  The call of motherhood is a call of sanctification, one of the highest vocations a woman can accept during her life, the opportunity to evangelize one’s own child.  Mary tells the Angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word.”  Ecce ancilla Domini.  Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.  Mary accepts the divine plan and plays a role in the salvation of mankind.  God also uses our small expressions of humility, our own fiats, in conjunction with His great purpose of redemption.

The figure of Mary and the season of Advent provide a fitting framework to consider the tragedy of abortion.  I first began going to the abortion facility during Advent with a local church who sang Christmas carols outside.  As we consider Jesus’s birth, we also remember Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, the massacre of all male children under two years old.  Matthew calls this event the fulfillment of the prophecy, “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.  Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

As the blood of the innocents cries out from the ground, so the blood of Jesus calls out from the chalice.  To begin Lent, we held a candlelight vigil on Ash Wednesday in which we prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet, entreating God the Father, “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”  The world needs mercy, and we channel that mercy.  Through repentance and sorrow for our sin, we prepare ourselves to go out and to tend the Good Shepherd’s sheep.  Whatever we do to the least of Christ’s brethren, we do unto Christ.  The more dejected and hopeless the recipients, the more brightly His grace will shine.

Culture War Considerations

Since nothing in the ways of evangelization or debate are set, and since there is a time and a place for everything, consider the following list as:

5 Things Catholics Should Consider When Fighting the Culture War

1. Stop Using Reductio Ad Absurdum Arguments

Our society’s morality is skewed. The culture has reached a point where it believes that killing babies is a perfectly normal thing to do.

If that’s the norm, what makes us think that reducing the argument to the absurd will change people’s minds?

For example: Staunch gay-rights activists make an argument that “love is love.” Often, we respond with “well, once you accept gay-rights, you’ll have to accept polygamy,” trusting that gay-rights activists will see this as a big no-no and turn from support of gay rights to support of traditional marriage. This hardly happens; instead most gay-rights activists will think about it, and, deciding culturewarthat “love is love” will agree with you, and decide to support polygamy as well.

That just made things worse.

2. Not Everything Warrants a Response

Often, Catholics and traditionalists feel the need to do “damage control” in response to actions by “culture-changers”. This may not be best because when we respond to everything culture-changers do or say, we do two things:

First, we reward them for their decisions by giving them attention and causing a ruckus, which is often what they were looking for. They want to get our goat, don’t let them!

Second, it puts us on the defensive and allows culture-changers to determine the course of social conversation. We should be setting the tone of what is talked and thought about. We should be putting forward arguments, posts, and events that they respond to. We need to play offense, not defense.

I once had a professor in college say “you don’t have to have an open mind to evil.” He’s right. We don’t. Meaning we don’t need to grant them legitimacy by responding to everything they do.

This is not to say that we should never respond to their antics, but rather that more prudence in picking our battles pays off. Essentially, let us not ponder the evils of the world, but rather “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phillipians 4:8).

3. Show Respect 

Or, in other words, cut it with the snark. It may be funny or engaging on the first read to those who already agree with us. For those who don’t agree with us, snark is a turn off. It doesn’t make them want to listen to us because it makes us come across as sarcastic, snotty, teenagers.

Snark may be a helpful tool every now and then to point out the absurdity of a certain action or belief, but it shouldn’t be a go-to tactic. We need to be the bigger people.

4. Don’t Give Them Opportunities to Think Themselves Right

When I worked in the pro-life movement, I spent a week in Austin, Texas for the abortion debate. One day, our group decided to do a “sting” operation on a pro-choice rally. Since pro-choicers wore orange and pro-lifers wore blue, those doing the sting wore orange and moved around the crowd, passing out literature that “spoke the truth about Planned Parenthood.”

I was chosen to wear orange.

I didn’t feel good about doing the sting, but overrode my conscious and did it anyway. While doing the sting, people began reading the literature, figured out what we were doing, and were not happy. Not only did we put ourselves in a dangerous situation (you try being surrounded by hundreds of pro-choicers all angry at you), we didn’t accomplish any good.

They didn’t believe what the literature said, and why would they? The person who had handed it to them was lying about who they were. How did they know that we weren’t also lying with what was on our literature?

It gave them a reason to see themselves as more honest. They never lie as we did. They didn’t wear blue shirts, never snuck into our meetings. So why were we – those claiming to take the moral high ground – wearing orange? Parading a lie for the sake of life?

We never want to give culture-changers the opportunity to see us as two-faced, hypocrites, or liars. If they have the opportunity to be morally right over us, then all we have done is proven to them that they are just as morally based as we are, that their morals are no worse than ours, that we don’t stand for the goodness we profess, we only have an agenda and will do whatever it takes to push that agenda. This does not witness to the truth we claim to profess.

5. Stop with the shock and awe

Click-seeking posts degrade the conversation. This conversation is about the most fundamental aspects of human existence: whether or not our culture will survive for our children to see, whether or not people have a right to life and dignity. Don’t cheapen the conversation with gimmicks (“You won’t believe what this mother did to her newborn! Unthinkable!”).

We are about true, honest love. Christ didn’t use gimmicks. We shouldn’t “sell” His love to the world with them. If we want people to embrace the truth, we must be authentic; let’s be serious about that of which we speak.

We are trying to sell a hard story. The only way people will believe it is if they know that we are honest in the little things and we take what we stand for seriously. We do not have the luxury of dishonesty or cheap shock and awe articles.

If we want to win the culture war, and do so by claiming the moral high ground, then we must take the moral high ground in every aspect of the debate.

Lead these people to Christ by example.

Treat them, and the conversation, with respect.

Challenge them with authentic love.

Be honest and kind, not snarky.

Don’t give them a chance to see that what we stand for could be anything less than what it really is.

Love is our story, we don’t need to rebrand it or market it. We just need to live it.

Does Contraception have a place in Christian Relief Work?

I was recently invited to tour a new medical ship run by the international Christian relief organisation Youth With a Mission (YWAM). This particular ship, destined for work in Papua New Guinea (PNG), is larger and newer than their current vessel, and it will allow YWAM to increase their medical assistance by 500%, offering healthcare immunisations and training to 1.3 million people, a quarter of the nation’s population. The ship will offer basic but vital services which many of the poorest people of PNG would have little hope of accessing otherwise, such as optical and dental treatment, pregnancy assistance, as well as medications to fight malaria and tuberculosis. There was no doubt in the presentation and ensuing discussion that the work being undertaken was of immense value, truly taking up the most basic Christian tenant to offer help to those in need.

The ship is currently moving up and down the east coast of Australia raising awareness and seeking young people as medical and general volunteers. The reason I was invited aboard was to help them create an awareness of the work amongst young Catholics, especially those who might look to give a few months to volunteering. As the discussions developed I knew there was one question that needed to be asked, and that was their policy on abortion and contraception. While I was relieved to learn that as a Christian organisation they did not carry out abortions, they did distribute the contraceptive pill and the Depo-Provera injection which is designed to prevent pregnancy for three months at a time. Their reasoning for distributing contraceptives was because they operate within the medical policy of the nation in which they serve and contraceptives are part of the ‘health’ strategy of PNG. Their response was not a real surprise and they are certainly not the only Christian relief agency travelling this path (even World Vision is the same). Contraceptives now form a large part of the medical response in developing nations and that is often because it is tied to much needed relief dollars from wealthier nations such as Australia and the USA.

From a moral standpoint though, treating fertility as a disease to be stopped is never an authentically human or Christian response. The long standing Judeo/Christian theological tradition is that fertility is a gift allowing and calling couples to share in the life-giving power of God. And while that has never meant that all couples are obligated to have 10 children, it does not follow that we are able to sterilise the meaning of the sexual union as a complete sharing of two people.

It is a tragedy that natural and scientifically accurate methods of fertility awareness (such as the Billings Ovulation Method) are not taught to these poor women as opposed to injecting them with what is a dangerous drug every three months. After all, a women is only fertile for a small portion of every cycle; natural fertility awareness respects and helps a couple to understand this and plan their family accordingly. Contraception doesn’t care about a woman’s natural cycle, it simply kills fertility completely as if it were some sort of cancer. Even the communistic Chinese government has tested and authorised the national teaching of the Billings Method to help couples comply with their one child policy; of course they don’t care about the moral value of sexuality, but it shows that the method is understood to be highly effective. Teaching couples about fertility awareness helps them understand their bodies and appreciate the gift of their sexuality; handing out contraceptive pills and injections to women is unfortunately more akin to the way we de-sex animals and far below our dignity as beings created in a divine image.

And in addition, even though the YWAM medical ships may not carry out surgical abortions, it is part of the workings of the pill and depo injections that they act as chemical abortifacients, meaning that they stop the implantation of an embryo that has already been formed as a new life. Women are thus likely having very early abortions and being completely unaware of that fact. Anyway, once the theory of contraception has been accepted, the idea of abortion is never far behind. They are two sides of the one coin which says that fertility is a medical problem to be dealt with.

It is very unfortunate that over the past forty or so years a number of Christian (Protestant) welfare organisations have bought into the heavily funded agenda from groups like Planned Parenthood which says that the distribution of contraceptives and even surgical abortion is necessary in the developing world. It is something which the Catholic Church, for some of the reasons above, finds intolerable. And admittedly it makes work with Protestant welfare groups, which on the most part have good intentions, often impossible. The saddest aspect of it all though is that these groups, working under the Christian flag, are standing beside policies that are harmful to the people and families they seek to serve.