“In the last 35 years, those lives destroyed could have included…”

From Fr. George Rutler’s “pastor’s page” for 11 January.

There was a theologian who, when discouraged, would keep repeating to himself, “I have been baptized.” Since the Prince of Lies has discouragement as his chief strategy and purpose, the Rite of Baptism includes an exorcism: an explicit renunciation of Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises.

Jesus our Encourager did not have to be baptized, for he had no sin to wash away, but by plunging into the waters of the Jordan and rising up, he was setting an example of dying and rising, which in daily life is played out by overcoming obstacles and refuting naysayers. This is modeled in the famous legend of the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce. As Sir Walter Scott told it, the Bruce withdrew to a cave after six defeats in battle, and one rainy day, deeply depressed, he watched a spider weaving a web. Six times the spider’s thread broke, and six times the spider resumed its weaving until it succeeded the seventh time. The Bruce rallied and won his great victory at Bannockburn, and the crown of Scotland along with it.

Ever since the legalization of abortion in our country, the Church has resisted the temptation to discouragement in defending innocent life. January 22 will mark the 41st annual March for Life in Washington. The March has gone on in weather fair and foul, whether government administrations have been friend or foe. In those years, more than 56 million babies in our country alone have been destroyed in their mothers’ wombs. We lament the loss of at least 110 million soldiers and civilians worldwide in the two World Wars, and can barely imagine with what talent and invention so many of them might have endowed the arts and science. The same dirge can be intoned for all those babies.

Last year at this time, I cited a statistical abstract using the ratio of professions to population and the number of infants aborted. The resulting estimate showed that in the last 35 years, those lives destroyed could have included: two U.S. presidents; seven Supreme Court justices; 102 U.S. senators and 589 congressmen; 8,123 judges; 31 Nobel Prize laureates; 328 Olympic medalists; 6,092 professional athletes; 134,841 physicians and surgeons; 392,500 registered nurses; 70,669 clergy, including 6,852 Catholic priests and 11,010 nuns; 1,102,443 elementary and high-school teachers; 553,821 truck drivers; 224,518 maids and housekeepers; 33,939 janitors; 134,028 farmers and ranchers; 109,984 police officers; and 39,477 firefighters.

None of those infants lived to be baptized, and they are entrusted to the mercy of God. Our nation now has the lowest birthrate in its history, and may be approaching the demographic winter that is destroying many other countries. The good news is that contending for life year in and year out has raised consciences, and the rate of abortions is at an all-time low. So when facing Satan and all his works and all his empty promises, say with good courage: I have been baptized.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Allan S. says:

    I was baptized as an infant in a Protestant Church ecclesiastical community without any accompanying exorcisms. As an adult convert, is it possible to have these supplied now? With retroactive effect (sometimes possible in matters of grace I was told)?

  2. Papabile says:

    Unfortunately, a significant proximate cause for the”reduction” in the abortion rate is tired too the use of the “morning after” pill.

  3. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Sorry to (appear to) be picking on Fr. Rutler again, but this argument — legal abortion would have killed Beethoven — is the weakest of all pro-life arguments. I can make nearly as decent a case that legal abortion would have killed Hitler, et voila. Sure abortion killed a lot proto-nuns in the womb; it also killed a lots of proto-rapists. That argument gets us nowhere. Abortion is wrong, gravely wrong, because of what it is, not because of what it might cause.

  4. FrAnt says:

    Left from the list is, 56 million occasions to share God’s love with another human being. And abortion (the work of Satan), denies us all of that opportunity for holiness. Our journey to heaven is slowed and made more difficult because we were not given those opportunities. God give them peace. May God give all who fought for our country and freedom his eternal rest.

  5. stephen c says:

    Father Rutler has spent much more time considering the thought process of sinners than most of us, and his argument, quoted by Fr Zuhlsdorf here, might be the best argument ever heard by a fertile young woman considering abortion. Even the type of fertile and lonely young woman who would consider abortion, sad as her situation might be, likely thinks her child, if given the chance, would grow into a handsome and talented young man or a beautiful and talented young woman. She might give little or no thought to the counterargument discussed by Dr Peters.

  6. Scott Woltze says:

    Dr. Peters,

    I don’t see Fr. Rutler employing the argument you ascribe to him. Yes, he’s implicitly pointing out that some very talented people have likely been aborted (Nobel Laureates, Olympians), but his point is that an enormous slice of our whole society (ranchers, maids, firemen, teachers, clergy), from top to bottom, never came to be. In fact, far from touting the lost elites, my guess is that Fr. Rutler has a higher opinion of maids than senators.

  7. Gerard Plourde says:

    Like Dr. Peters, I believe that the strongest argument is the one the Church uses – that all human life is sacred. To focus on talent and high-status professions runs two risks. First, by focusing on individuals judged successful or important using the world’s criteria, it, perhaps unintentionally, appears to make the truck driver or the brick layer less worthy than a president, a Supreme Court justice, a health care professional, or a police officer. Second, such a focus unintentionally allows us to forget the Redemptive Power God makes available to us. Even the worst sinner, if he truly repents, is welcomed into Paradise.

  8. everett says:

    Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Of course the reason abortion is wrong is because it kills an innocent human being, which is always and everywhere wrong. However, to get people to realize that, sometimes you need to approach things from a different angle, to open their eyes and ears and hearts so that they can actually hear the message. Many in society have had their hearts so hardened that the basic message of intrinsic evil just bounces off – if instead this message is able to cause some sort of reconsideration, then it can be useful as a tool to get to the ultimate truth.

  9. Charles E Flynn says:

    I have wondered whether Steve Jobs was God’s first attempt to give us a person who could develop a computer that most people would be capable of using.

  10. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Hello Scott W.

    Fr. R is usually exactly the argument I ascribe to him, that abortion costs us — as it doubtless does — many fine people at every level of society. My point is that, as an argument, it can easily be turned around and used against pro-lifers: abortion has doubtless spared us many monsters being born, again, at every level of society.

    Go down that path, and you inevitably argue what abortion (maybe) does in the world, not what it (undeniably) is.

    Bad argument, that.

  11. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    stupid typos: “usually” should be “using”

  12. saint and sinner says:

    Interesting that the theologian cited by Fr. Rutler was Martin Luther. The man had his flaws, but this was Luther at his best — insisting on the unshakeable reality of sacramental graces.

  13. aviva meriam says:

    Old Jewish Saying…. “he who saves one life, it is as if he saved the whole world”…. and the converse is true….”he who destroys one life, it is as if he destroyed the whole world”…… each and every lost life matters.

  14. stephen c says:

    In my lifetime, at least one pope – perhaps – and many cardinals, not to mention large numbers of others in the church, have fulsomely praised one or more pro-choice politicians. Much prayer, much examination of the conscience, and much penitence is required.

  15. Mike Morrow says:

    “…two U.S. presidents; seven Supreme Court justices; 102 U.S. senators and 589 congressmen; 8,123 judges; 31 Nobel Prize laureates; 328 Olympic medalists; 6,092 professional athletes; 134,841 physicians and surgeons; 392,500 registered nurses; 70,669 clergy, including 6,852 Catholic priests and 11,010 nuns; 1,102,443 elementary and high-school teachers; 553,821 truck drivers; 224,518 maids and housekeepers; 33,939 janitors; 134,028 farmers and ranchers; 109,984 police officers; and 39,477 firefighters.”

    What? No military servicemen…no engineers…no scientists (save for Nobel Prize winners)?

  16. JohnE says:

    I agree with Dr. Peter and came to the comments to see that that point was made. It could be used the opposite way to justify abortion — especially if an abnormality is detected or the mother’s circumstances make it easy for her to believe that her child has a high probability of being a “burden” on society.

  17. I was going to suggest as a 52-year-old never-married person that my wife may well have been included in those statistics, but then I read Dr. Peters’ remarks, and I kind of have to agree that he’s right. Maybe the drunk driver who would have smashed into my car and killed me was aborted. I do wonder why it seems as though God did not provide for me, and “she was aborted” is as good as any other answer, but who knows…

    One principle that is most certainly true is that God does not clean up after our every mistake or sin. Our choices matter, and that is what makes human life so important. Thus, even though we cannot know for certain the consequences of any particular abortion apart from the unjust death of an innocent human being, we can know that the consequences of murder are irreversible in the ordinary course of human events barring extraordinary, divine intervention such as we see in Daniel 3.

  18. My point is that, as an argument, it can easily be turned around and used against pro-lifers: abortion has doubtless spared us many monsters being born, again, at every level of society.

    CF. Freakonomics – although I think this argument has been debunked, at least in part, by other economists.

  19. jflare says:

    Hello, Dr Peters, et al,
    For all that I understand your point about how this argument could be used to justify abortion, I rather lean the same way as Scott W; I’m not convinced that Fr Rutler precisely aims this in the direction of winning a debate per se. Not directly anyway. As I read it, it’s much more an effort at making the numbers..mean something.
    It’s easy enough to express horror at a giant number of people who’ve died. Trouble is, this number literally is too large. We can understand a number like 35 million as a statistic, not so much as something to garner our attention as a plague on humanity.

    I did get a bit of a groan about military service-members having been omitted, so I’ll suggest this: We lost possibly hundreds of Captains and Majors from our Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps, also hundreds of Lieutenants and Lieutenant Commanders from the Navy (sorry Coast Guard, I don’t know your rank structure at all). Some of those might well have become Generals and Admirals, folks who might’ve exercised their influence to cause the nation to fight..humanely.. such as is ever possible in war.

    If we may have lost hundreds of miscreants, rapists, drunkards, and general thugs, yes, we can acknowledge the dark side of humanity that never had a chance to..inflict sin. On the other hand, if someone chooses to focus on these more than others, perhaps that’s a hint that such a person needs some prayers, that they might receive grace to look for the good in life. I don’t think anyone will have difficulty finding trouble if they seek it.
    If you must think of it in that negative of a light, perhaps we should consider some 16 million or so reasons more for why our society would have cause to ease up on restrictive gun laws. However much the media may try, sooner or later the truth about violence does tend to make it to public notice.

    On a more positive note, I might comment that having some 35 million or more souls around might mean more people who could be giving praise to God. ..And marrying.
    Who knows, I might’ve been married by now, except for the general antagonism that society has allowed to develop between men and women. Genocide of the degree we’re talking about has nasty “side effects”.

    Or, when I consider that one of those people who’ve been aborted might have developed a way to fight off a cold virus….

  20. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Monsters aren’t really born per se – something has to happen to them (or they have to be deprived of something) for them to evolve into monsters. Come to think of it, I admit to having seen something not so different from a grumpy monster in the mirror on a couple of occasions just prior to my visit to the confessional.

    If we admit that each new life in the womb is God’s gift to us -intended to flourish in our world, and that abortion amounts to violently throwing this gift back in God’s face , one can’t help but validly wonder whether we may have, through abortion, deprived ourselves of another Curé of Ars for example, whom God may have intended to send/give to us. To make such a proposition the basis for an argument against abortion – by itself, could be effective on the individual level which stephen c describes in his first post – in a case-by-case scenario, but to make it the basis of a general argument could well evoke a tidal wave of counterarguments of the type mentioned above – some of them surely quite convincing. Most of all, as Dr. Peters points out, that approach strays from recognition of the nature of abortion.

    “You have to know the demon you’re dealing with”, was a favorite expression of my dad’s – and on that same note , it’s where FrAnt and stephen c both really nail it : Abortion is the work of Satan, and as the remedy, much prayer, much examination of the conscience, and much penitence is the required.

    For a moment we should , forget marching and peaceful demonstration ; forget speeches ; forget 40 days for life ; forget all sorts of propaganda, including catch phrases ; forget comfy language that doesn’t offend ; forget pro-life politicians, and begin by seriously focusing on these three words : Abortion is demonic. Once we realize that , we’ll understand that all of the aforementioned efforts are going to be virtually ineffective without “much prayer, much examination of the conscience, and much penitence.”

    Don’t take it from me – don’t even take it from stephen c and FrAnt. But if anyone is really, honestly interested in making a difference in this horrendous war in the womb , then take it from one of the brightest contemporary Catholic minds who did come into our world in the last 100 years – Fr. John Hardon S.J.

    In the next post, I’ve transcribed the introduction to Fr. Hardon’s video Abortion is Demonic – Stopped by Grace (Prayer, Sacraments, Virtue) and provided a link. Please give his video a look – at least a partial look. In this video from 20 years ago Father Hardon lays it all out matter-of-factly , but not in a fire and brimstone way – he’s informing – not offending. He is a doctor describing the nature of our illness and prescribing its remedy.

    Let’s know the demon we’re dealing with.

  21. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Transcripts from the introduction to Abortion is Demonic – Stopped by Grace (Prayer, Sacraments, Virtue) – Fr. John Hardon, S.J.

    Full video may be viewed by clicking HERE

    “For some days now your parish has been host to the Human Life International promoting respect for the sanctity of human life and hoping to stop the mania of abortion in the world today. Let’s make sure of one thing : Abortion is not of human origin ; abortion is demonic . I repeat: Abortion is demonic. If then, we hope to even check – not to say stop, the massive murder of innocent children throughout the world , no natural means are enough : No amount of publication of writing , no number of speeches, no politicking, no amount of money will stop abortion in the modern world. I repeat : It is not of human origin , and cannot therefore be checked by merely human means. The only means that will succeed are, what we casually call ‘supernatural’.

    Only a superabundance of God’s grace will convert those who are behind the abortion trend. To convert these people God must provide what we call miraculous grace. There are three principal sources to obtain this grace without which abortion will not be stopped: They are prayer, the sacraments and the practice of virtue.

    Prayer . . . we have not been praying enough ; enough either in the amount of time spent in prayer or enough in the fervor attention and zeal with which we should be praying. Prayer, prayer must be and must be frequent, must be fervent if we hope to put any check on the demonic mania of abortion. No mere suggestion , this : All of us , beginning with the speaker ( note: Fr. Hardon is including himself [ the “speaker”] here ), must examine our consciences : ‘How much and how fervently am I praying ?’ I repeat: There is no human way of stopping abortion. Only God’s supernatural intervention to obtain that ocean of grace which a world-gone-mad needs to recover its moral sanity. First then prayer is not a suggestion. All of us must – that’s the imperative of the verb – must, examine our consciences and ask ourselves : ‘How much and how fervently am I praying ?’

    God would not have allowed this plague to beset our modern world . He must have a proportionate reason – there is ! A magnitude of the evil, should invoke in us a corresponding magnitude of zeal – first in prayer. Secondly, to obtain the grace that the world needs to recover its moral sanity someone, someone must obtain the grace through the two sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession.

    I’ll never forget the homily I gave in St. John’s Church in McLean Virginia, some years ago. That afternoon I was in the confessional all afternoon, that night – the only one hearing confessions. I counted them : 11 people went to confession. 10 o’clock Mass – St. John’s : I had another homily prepared. I looked at a crowded church- I asked the Lord, ‘Should I do it?’ I thought He said, ‘Do it’, so I did :

    ‘My dear friends in Christ’, I addressed them :
    ‘I never thought I’d have the privilege of offering Mass in the holiest parish in the United States. I heard confessions all afternoon and all evening yesterday . . . eleven confessions. This morning the church seats about 800 people. Practically all of you will come to Communion . I just cannot imagine that all of you are in the state of grace, and you should have gone to Confession !’ “

  22. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Monsters aren’t really born per se … ” I agree. And neither are Supreme Court justices.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Monsters aren’t really born per se – something has to happen to them (or they have to be deprived of something) for them to evolve into monsters.”

    Well, yes and no. Some people are born with a tendency towards monsterism as a weakness of nature – perhaps they have an insufficient supply of serotonin and are easily frustrated or they are born in chronic pain. Such things, of course, can develop later in life, but they can develop, in utero.

    The main point is that if one is lucky enough to be born and lucky enough to be baptized, one has access to a wealth of graces that can help to overcome or put to use some of these defects. Everyone has a Cross in life and when they get it may be sooner or later, but most monsters are just like the thief on the Cross who never learned its purpose, but wanted Christ to save them (if He were God). If we are lucky, we learn that our Crosses are the fastest way to Heaven. After all, the Good thief didn’t have to wait very long (yes, I know a lifetime of pain is longer than three hours, but there is a sense in which those who accept their Crosses for the sake of the Lord and His work are already have Heaven in their souls).

    The Chicken

  24. Xmenno says:

    If abortion were not legal and available, there would not be 56 million more of us here in the US. Many of those babies would not have been recklessly conceived by people who knew they could get rid of their offspring if “necessary.” The very availability of abortion has increased the situations where abortions are sought. Who knows who the destroyed infants could have been, but many would not have been wantonly created because the means to destroy them was so convenient.

  25. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Monsters aren’t really born per se … ” I agree. And neither are Supreme Court justices.

    It certainly has become more a challenge of late in being able to discern the difference between the two – both in your country and in mine (largely north of the 49th).

  26. Allan S. says:

    Grumpy Beggar – thank you for the introduction to Fr. John Hardon, SJ, Servant of God. It’s always interesting to read of a Jesuit who is neither apostate, heretic or atheist – and one who suffered so acutely at the hands of an Archdiocese who considered his fidelity to the majesterium to be ‘divisive’, stripping him of teaching faculties.

    I especially liked his take on Judas – stating that God permitted the apostle to betray Jesus to prepare the faithful for heretic Bishops, stating that no heresy ever caught on without first being supported by a Bishop (and therefore we should all pray for Bishops).

  27. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Hi Allan S .
    Quite an oxymoron , isn’t it – ‘divisive’ fidelity to the Magisterium ? I can’t really get it to roll off my tongue . . .even despite the unitive infidelity (thank-you fickle media types) of rather Kasperian proportions we were all required to endure last fall (no pun intended on “fall” but, what the heck).

    In my case, I had asked a knowledgeable deacon friend of mine (who is roughly 23 years my senior) about Father Hardon well over a decade ago over coffee one day, and he couldn’t spill out the credits fast enough. It boggles the mind how much he wrote and spoke . Once my deacon friend had informed me that Father Hardon (after writing ,I think he said, four catechisms himself) served as a consultant to Pope John Paul II in the formulation and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – right then, I decided that was my kind of divisive fidelity !

    Father Hardon also founded the Marian Catechists. Cardinal Burke knew Fr. Hardon and was also involved in the Marian Catechist Apostolate : An excerpt of Cardinal Burke’s words from Marian Catechist Apostolate :

    “I write to all those who have been associated with the Marian Catechist Apostolate since its foundation by the beloved Servant of God Father John A. Hardon, S.J., and to those who have come to know the Marian Catechist Apostolate since his death on December 30, 2000.

    Over the years, as I met with Father Hardon we thoroughly discussed the essential elements of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, and I began to promote the use of his courses for the training of teachers in the Diocese of La Crosse, and to encourage catechists to become Consecrated Marian Catechists. When he became gravely ill, Father Hardon asked me to assume the direction of the Marian Catechists upon his death.”

    Cheers Alan S.

    God bless you.

  28. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Grumpy Beggar: :) edp.

  29. acricketchirps says:

    Although I agree with Dr. Peters that legal abortion may already have killed the genius baby who was to discover the cure for cancer is a very weak argument it can be made airtight by simply pointing out how many Democrat voters have been killed by abortion. Then if the interlocutor mentions how many rapists, ax murderer and ne’er do wells so fortunately have been dispatched betimes by the same, the coup de grace rejoinder is, “ah sir, but they also would most likely be Democrat voters.”

  30. AvantiBev says:

    Besides the lives lost to abortion there are lives that never experience the love of a father. [Good luck, priests and ministers, preaching God our Heavenly Father when the majority of the un-evangelized simply say, “Huh?”]

    The babies being saved from abortion but being raised by single mothers or single mothers and a series of boy pals have not been denied life but they have been denied a very important part of a child’s life; the love, the involvement, the discipline and security of a father.

    I was informed by a pro-life liaison at our parish whom I pressed on adoption, that she wasn’t concerned about the cycle starting all over again when kids are raised in fatherless homes nor the bastardy rate of 41% plus and growing; she just wanted “to save babies”. I suggested that I too wanted to save babies but also save our society from endless generations of fatherless breeding fatherless and the poverty, gang membership, broken relationships, loneliness that this engenders. She assured me that if they pushed adoption at the local center, the single women choose abortion rather than adoption. So we have our work cut out for us not merely ending abortion but ending the whole darn sick, sex drenched , selfish cultural sewer and instead building up a society of St. Josephs.

  31. Pingback: The human cost of abortion - Jill Stanek

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