National Catholic Register

Commentary

A Woman’s Choice

BY DONALD DEMARCO

April 30-May 6, 2006 Issue | Posted 5/1/06 at 10:00 AM

 

Rev. Donna Schaper is senior minister of Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan.

Her op-ed piece in the Hartford Courant has caused a bit of a stir here in central Connecticut where I am currently teaching a course on marriage.

Schaper decided to tell her story about the abortion she had 19 years ago, she says, because she fears that abortion rights may become more restrictive. The people she fears are those “anti-abortion people” who “like to punish people into their version of morality.”

Not far from where Schaper preaches, the Sisters of Life conduct retreats three times a year to ease the pain of, and provide healing for, a number of women who feel they have inflicted an unbearable punishment upon themselves as a result of having had abortions.

As an ordained Christian minister, Schaper might be expected to live and preach a Christian morality rather than one that contradicts everything Christ — who identified himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life — stood for. The anti-abortion brigade — pro-lifers, rather — do not see themselves as imposing “their own” morality on people. They see themselves as humanitarians who are seeking justice for their neighbors. In fact, Schaper’s alleged enemies appear to be more Christian than she is. Why would a person become a Christian minister to preach a private morality to private people while vilifying her Christian counterparts?

Schaper is now 58 years old. She became pregnant at a most inconvenient time for her, when her three children were all in diapers. “I did what was right for me,” she writes, “for my family, for my work, for my husband and for my three children.” And then, in language that almost seems to come from a pro-life handbook, she declares: “I think the quarrel about when life begins is disrespectful to the fetus. I know I murdered the life within me. I could have loved that life but chose not to.”

This is an admission — deliberate, unsolicited, and public — that, as such, prohibits acceptance. To know that one has chosen to “murder” rather than to “love” is not a decision any person of conscience can live with. What could redeem such an inhuman, un-Christian decision? It is, she would have us believe, “choice.”

Choice, as anyone should know, is not self-redeeming. Choice itself does not make any choice whatsoever a good choice. The fundamental myopia of the “pro-choice” movement (which attaches mystical properties to choice) is that it separates choice from the moral categories of good and evil, and then, in a desperate attempt to justify an unloving choice, calls upon choice itself to assuage people’s troubled consciences. Pro-choicers clip the wings of the bird and then bid it fly. And when it does not fly, they redefine being stationary as flying.

Because we human beings — pro-life as well as pro-abortion — are inescapably moral beings, we do not truly believe that we can sever a moral choice from its moral implications. In our heart of hearts we are not convinced that we can make a bad choice a good one by sheer willpower. It is reality, not mental gymnastics, that people should be concerned about, especially if they are Christian preachers. Morality simply cannot be reduced to choice.

Schaper herself is not lacking a desire to moralize. Indeed, she moralizes with abandon. The anti-abortion people, as far as she is concerned, are surely choosing badly. “Abstinence,” she proclaims, “is immoral to its core.” And when she listens to the abortion debate, she can “hear the echo of people wanting to kill women’s maturity and sexuality.”

Her verbal posturing leaves the attentive reader wondering what horribly low opinion she must have of her parents for having given her life, as well as of herself and her husband for having conceived the three children they did not abort.

Traditional moralists, who understand that justice is communal and not the prerogative of the powerful, that love is a commandment and not a private preference, also understand that the basis for genuine morality is as broad as humanity itself. G.K. Chesterton once remarked that pride (our deadliest of sins) “is the falsification of fact by the introduction of self.”

The pro-life movement has a wide perspective. It is about life, humanity, the good of the family as well as of society. The pro-abortion movement is truncated, narrow and visionless in the extreme. It is simply about the isolated self and nothing nobler than that. Schaper’s op-ed piece is the best confirmation of this I have ever encountered.

Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor

at Holy Apostles Collegeand Seminary

in Cromwell, Connecticut.