Segment Two: When Freedom and Truth Collide
Overview: Rather than see abortion and euthanasia as violations of the human rights of those whose lives are ended, our contemporary culture sees them as expressions of personal freedom that need to be protected under law. John Paul II calls this a “perverse” idea of freedom that rejects any form of objective or universal truth.
We Americans have a confused notion about the meaning of freedom. For many, freedom means the right of an individual to exercise complete self – autonomy. It’s my “right” to make my “choice.” Nowhere is this connection between freedom and choice more prevalent in the United States than in attitudes about abortion. Every year more than one million American women have an abortion. So many abortions have taken place since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, that presently nearly one out of every three women of child-bearing years in the United States has had at least one abortion. Later in this “Living the Gospel of Life” series we will talk about the deep emotional, spiritual and psychological pain that legalized abortion has caused to women, children, men and families. First we need to better understand the meaning of true freedom.
Freedom is a beautiful gift from God. It helps us seek and find the meaning of human life and love. In the Gospel of Life, John Paul II shows us the danger of accepting a notion of freedom divorced from truth and the common good. He calls it a “perverse idea of freedom” when the strong are allowed to overpower the weak, when reference to common values is lost, and when “everything is open to bargaining, even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life”(20).
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9) was the disingenuous response to God by Cain after he killed his brother. In the Gospel of Life, John Paul II answers Cain’s question affirmatively. “Yes,” he writes, “every man is his ‘brother’s keeper’ because God entrusts us to one another” (19). True freedom is freedom that enables us to love and serve one another, especially the weak, the frail, and the powerless. In contrast, the so-called “right” to abortion is actually “the death of true freedom” (20). It enslaves indivi-duals and nations because it allows “absolute power over others and against others” (20).
Given our contemporary misunderstanding of freedom – where the taking of a life is upheld as a legal right of another - it’s understandable why so many women have abortions and why so many men push women into having them. John Paul acknowledges there are many tragic situations that can mitigate the culpability for individuals involved in abortions. Responsibility for abortion does not end with the women who undergo them or the medical personnel who perform them. We need to recognize the cultural, social and political dimensions of why crimes against life are upheld as “legitimate expressions of individual freedom” (18).
Stopping abortion requires more than just changing laws. In order to build a culture of life, we must first re-establish the connection between freedom and truth. As Christ told us, it is the truth that sets us free. (John 8:32)
Gospel of Life (18-20)
John Paul II, Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio)
Roe Reality Check, www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/roevwade
Questions to Consider:
1. Why is the connection between truth and freedom so important?
2. Why do you think the United States has one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world? What, if any, impact does the Roe v Wade abortion on demand ruling have on this high number of abortions?
3. Many friends and loved ones have participated in abortions. Does that change your feelings toward them?
4. How can you as an individual help shift the public debate on the life issues away from an overemphasis on individual rights?