Sunday, May 18, 2014

For Those Who Stand In Witness

The Hall of Remembrance

In Jerusalem there is a monument called Yad Vashem, it commemorates the victims of the Soah, that is the Holocaust - the murder of millions of Jewish men, women and children during the Nazi regime in Germany and German occupied Europe.  It is a poignant place where a fire burns as an eternal flame, and those who come to honour the dead are invited to stoke the fire as an act of commemoration. While we Catholics have our issues with the monument, particularly it's presentation of the role of the Venerable Pius XII during the Second World War (the full historical facts about the Pontiff and his efforts to save Jews have yet to be accepted), we do see the monument as an important place, a poignant reminder of great evil inflicted on a people, a place that urges the world to acknowledge and to ensure that such an evil should never happen again to any other people. 

There are those in the world who deny that the Holocaust happened, and those who downplay what happened. Most people in the world treat such people with contempt and some countries even hold such denials as a criminal act. So what would be the reaction if someone should say this: 
“In the past we have concentrated too much on the Holocaust. It mustn’t be this way because in the middle there’s real life which is constantly changing...I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands at Yad Veshem stoking the flames, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”
I'd imagine there would be an outcry, and rightly so. Such a statement would dishonour the dead, and the living who remember them. We cannot forget such events for to forget them may well lead us to repeat them.  The Jews rightly say "Never again". Indeed, "Never again" for anyone, regardless of who they are. 

Well, those words were not uttered with regard to the Shoah, but about another Holocaust, the murder of millions of innocent unborn children, one which is not a historical event, but is happening now in most countries around the world. You know who uttered these words and why. In presenting them as I did I want to show you how shocking they are, how removed from reality and from the thrust of the Gospel to reach out to the weak and suffering. Those who seek to defend the lives of the unborn threatened with abortion, those who risk their freedom praying outside abortion clinics, deserve better than to be dismissed. 

The struggle against abortion is not a minor issue on the social justice agenda, it is THE ISSUE. It is as important as poverty and jobs because it is tackling the legalised and systematic extermination of innocent human beings at the most vulnerable stage of their lives. Indeed it is at the top of the social justice agenda, because if we cannot defend the right to life, then our work for the poor and unemployed is selective and smacks of hypocrisy.  The defence of the unborn is the most heroic work because, unlike our work for the poor and marginalised (worthy as it is), it is not fashionable and not popular in the eyes of many today. It is work that makes one an outcast in the eyes of polite society, in the eyes of legislators and even in some jurisdictions, a criminal. Men and women, priests and religious, and not a few bishops, now have criminal records in some countries because they simply stood across the road from an abortion clinic and quietly prayed the rosary for the unborn dying that day, for the mothers and for the medical staff committing the act. 

None of our pastors should be embarrassed by these men and women, those who quietly stand in witness and in prayer, who stoke the flames to make the world aware of a new forgotten Holocaust, who remember and pray that the day will come when the people and governments of this world will weep and say "Never again". Our pastors from the Pope himself to the humblest deacon should commend them and pray for them, support them and learn from them. For in their silent testimony they stand like Christ before Pilate and they utter to the world: "Ecce Homo: here is the human person hidden in the womb who now endures a painful death with the approval of many in the world; and there are few who will speak up for them, defend them".

Let us all pray for the Pro-Life Cause, for our pastors that they may guide and support those involved in this work; for those who die in the abortion clinics of the world; for their mothers; for those who commit the act; for those who promote it; for those who legislate for it; for those who think, mistakenly, that this most grave evil is a good.  We pray for those who should understand, but don't. We call upon the mercy of God and the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints.

For further reflection on this issue see Edward Peter's article and SPUC's John Smeaton

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