Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Not the Crime, It's the Cover-Up

Human beings can only be healthy when they are true and when they stop suppressing and destroying the truth.
In the Beginning, 80

Reflection – A little vintage one-liner from Ratzinger here – let’s see what I make of it. I don’t have the book in front of me, so can’t tell you what the context of this is; quite possibly he is talking about the lies of the serpent in Genesis 3, and how the fall of our humanity into sin and sorrow came in the form of lies and deceit.

Of course, all sin is a form of lying. Theft is a lie about property and meaning and value of the world’s goods. Murder is a lie about the relative value of human life and the respect it is due. Sins of violence are a lie about human freedom and dignity. Sins of superstition and false religion are a lie about the nature of  God and the nature of creation. Specific sins of disobedience to the Church are a lie about the nature and God-given authority of the Church. And sexual sins are a lie about the nature of love and its bodily expression.

All sin is flight from reality, denial of truth. But it seems to me that the real damage is done to our humanity, not by the initial fall into sin to which (alas) we all are prone. No, it is the denial of the sin, the hardening of the heart against repentance, the construction of rationalizations and alternate ethical constructs—whatever it takes so that we can keep doing what we want to do.

In other words, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover up. It’s not that the sin itself is harmless—sin by definition harms—but that the real, lasting, and eternally damaging harm is impenitence more than sin. All the harms of sin can be healed by a sincere turning to God for mercy, but the refusal to turn to God for mercy cannot be healed at all.

And so we had this past weekend the spectacle of 500 000 pro-life protestors walking the streets of Washington, an event that was apparently near-invisible to the media, who saw at most ‘thousands’ (technically accurate, in the same sense that ‘hundreds’ of people were killed in WWII), and who made sure to photograph and interview the five pro-abortion rights protestors at the Supreme Court in the interest of ‘balanced reporting’.

There is a desire to cover up the reality of abortion, to do anything to avoid having to talk about it, look at it, honestly discuss what happens in an abortion, to honestly discuss the scientific facts of when a human life begins and the real legal and moral implications of those facts. It is this suppression and distortion of the truth—and of course abortion is only one instance of it, if perhaps the most serious one with the highest body count—that is the deep pathology of humanity in our time.

Abortion hurts everyone. It kills the fetus, does incalculable damage to the woman, unmans the man in the deepest reality of his masculinity, which is to protect and provide for his own. It damages the medical system horribly by negating its whole purpose, which is to heal and save lives. It robs politicians of their integrity. It makes the mass of society complicit in a web of lies and nonsense—silly slogans about choice and reproductive health substituting for actual thought, and the result is another year of wholesale slaughter of babies in the clinics and hospitals of our land.

I promise to move on to another subject tomorrow. I realize this is a heavy one that can only be looked at for so long before it all becomes a little too much. But we need to be clear that the truth does, in fact, set us free, even if our freedom may involve some weeping, some sorrow of contrition, some painful call to conversion. But the truth is good: God is merciful and loving, human beings are infinitely precious in his sight, and so must not be destroyed, the world is a good place, and love truly is the answer to every problem, every hurt, every ailment, every life.

We need not fear the truth; we need not flee from the truth; we need not distort or suppress the truth about anything, however painful, however humiliating. God’s mercy and his power to heal and save are greater than all that, and the fullness of truth he brings us into is beautiful, glorious, and joyful. And with that, we will put the subject of abortion to rest for a little while, and turn our minds to some aspect or other of that glorious truth tomorrow.