[Note: This is Part 2 of my conversion story. You can read the other parts here.]
Growing up in my family, religion was something you argued rather than believed. My father’s religious practice involved rebuking the piety of others and branding all organized religion as a farce. He fancied himself an intellectual, and he admired logical argument even though he commonly indulged his own orgies of fallacy.
When I was ten, I asked my dad about his position on abortion. I hadn’t yet made up my own mind, and not knowing better, I respected his views. His syllogism in favor of abortion rights amounted to the following: accepting that a fetus in the womb may be human, it is nevertheless incapable of living on its own. It relies upon its mother to survive. Things that rely upon others to survive are parasites. A person does not owe anything to a parasite. Thus, abortion should be legal (and moral) because a parasite, even if it is human, cannot obligate another to let it live.
From this, I learned two lessons that were essential to my eventual formation as a convert to Catholicism.
The first lesson was a complete gift from God. Although ten-year-old me was essentially a pagan who had never been catechized, God was at work introducing Himself. The Church teaches that the desire for God and His natural law is written on human hearts. (CCC 27, 37). I was unsettled by my father’s position regarding abortion, because the characterization of the unborn as “parasites” opposed what God was already telling me about myself.
I couldn’t imagine myself being much less of a parasite than an unborn child. After all, without an income and totally dependent on my parents for everything, I had no confidence that I would survive for long without my parents’ care. Perhaps my chances were greater than those of an unborn baby, but it made no sense that a person could ever be a “parasite” simply because of his reliance on others, since we are all reliant on each other in some way!
The second lesson was that being pro-abortion is very much about saying that love has limits. As I understood my dad’s position, a person’s principal aspiration in life should be complete autonomy in his financial, civic, ideological, and relational affairs. A person who relied on others wasn’t free. A person who allowed others to be dependent on him wasn’t free. And for some (unarticulated) reason, freedom from these things is what mattered most.
Perhaps this is why we see misery and despair so frequently upon the faces of those who “fight for freedom” in this way. How can happiness possibly be achieved when what one seeks is to be emancipated from others? How does such a pursuit add meaning to one’s own life?
I hear my father speaking of babies as parasites when the pro-abortion movement trots out children at demonstrations holding signs with catchy phrases favoring abortion. The messages are frequently obscene and vulgar. They make me very, very, sad, because they are dehumanizing. I remember being a child who felt like a parasite.
The disheartening aspect of encouraging one’s own children to participate in pro-abortion demonstrations is the message delivered from parent to child: “My love has limits. I love you, but if another one of you comes along, guess what? There’s a limit to my love. I don’t have to love another one of you. If it’s not convenient for me, I won’t love your little brother or sister. In fact, I am free to choose whether I will permit my personal goals and aspirations to be sidetracked further, by yet another trying, problematic, expensive, self-centered, you. My love has limits, and yours should too.”
The embrace of abortion is the acceptance that love has limits. It confines God’s creative goodness. It replaces trust in His providence with a jealous desire to protect the idols in our own lives. It is, quite simply, a lie. It is a lie because God’s love is without limits. There is no degree of consequence that can possibly disturb the fundamental Truth that each and every person – whether newly conceived or hours from death – is a specially loved creation, someone with an inviolable dignity. A child of God. Since we are all created in God’s image and likeness, we should observe that our calling is to express the image and likeness of God by reflecting His truth: Love is without limits.