Gospel PROLIFEration

Repeating What Brought Bernard Nathanson’s Conversion

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Today, as eight buses from Benedictine College begin their trek to Washington to lead the  March for Life, I remembered a sign.

The sign offended me, it did. It was at a March for Life, maybe in DC, maybe in Atlanta, I forget.  A counter-protester held aloft her sign that said, “This is my body.”  It was an argument in favor of abortion in the words of the consecration.  It ticked me off.

And yet, I can only hope the person holding the sign really believed it. I don’t want to get into the many ways her argument can be refuted. People that show up to counter-protest at the March for Life tend to be beyond a desire to engage in rational debate, at least on that day. But that doesn’t make them less people, less examples of passion for their cause. I admire the gumption, even as I deplore the sacrilege.

At a conference on the family in Mexico City about 20 years ago I got to do simultaneous translation for Dr. Bernard Nathanson. I got to have dinner with him and talk to him for a long while. The biggest abortionist in the US became a die-hard pro-life advocate.  How does that happen?

I asked him. It wasn’t some brilliant argument that suddenly made him see the light. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought his position through, that he was waiting for a rhetorical rapier to find a chink in his armor. It was the witness of people in the pro-life movement. Not the ones who shouted at him, who condemned him, but those who loved him, prayerfully and silently at first, then who made his acquaintance, and bridged one of the widest cultural gaps in our country. He was loved into the pro-life movement by people who sacrificed for him, and whose witness of joy and fulfillment showed him a happiness deeper than what he thought he was purchasing for himself and his patients through abortion.

Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus message spoke of John the Baptist calling Jesus the “Lamb of God,” who takes upon himself the sins of the world. A gentle, innocent, animal that becomes a beast of the worst kind of burden, the burden of sin.  What a challenge to follow such a Lamb!

“What does it mean for the Church, for us, today, to be disciples of Jesus, the Lamb of God? It means putting innocence in the place of malice, love in place of force, humility in place of pride, service in place of prestige. To be disciples of the Lamb means not to live as a ‘besieged citadel,’ but as a city set upon a mountain, showing solidarity, open, welcoming. It means not taking on an attitude of closedness, but proposing the Gospel to all, bearing witness with our lives that following Jesus makes us more free and more joyful.”

Dr. Nathanson’s conversion happened thanks to disciples like that. We need more of them now. Pro-lifers are called to proliferate the Gospel in as many ways as possible.

To a world that seeks to provoke us and say, “This is my body,” we need to answer with love, sacrifice and a million ways of saying, “And this is my blood, shed for you and for many.”

Being pro-life means caring as much or more about the billions of people on earth right now, in or out of the womb, as about unborn children still to come. It means caring about the person who hates us for our views, knowing that wishing them the very best is being pro their life.

It may just mean seeing a person carrying a sign we find offensive, shivering in the cold, and offering him our gloves.

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Reprinted with permission from the Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College. Dr. Mulholland can be reached at emulholland@benedictine.edu.

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Edward Mulholland

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