Apologia pro vita?
For those of us in Europe, the weeks leading up to 25 May 2018 was marked with seemingly incessant communications about the change in the data protection laws. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) is said to provide greater transparency and consistency for data subjects; placing heavier burdens on those who process to be accountable. At the same time, preparations of a different kind were underway in the Republic of Ireland: the proposed repeal of the eighth amendment to the constitution. In simple terms, the proposal to make abortion accessible within the Republic. In the run up to the ballot, there was a good deal of media coverage relating the views of celebrities, actors, writers, social commentators in favour of the repeal. In marshalling their course, they presented the termination of a pregnancy as a form of medical service to which women should be given access. Hence, the competing lobbies were categorised as 'pro choice' or not. The participation of the Catholic Church was somewhat more muted. Some members of the episcopate generated pastoral letters which were bound to leave the average parishioner without the clarity they may have expected from their pastors. Indeed, in at least one case, one might also have detected a form of embarrassed reluctance on the part of the author that he was obliged to say anything at all.
Following the publication of the ballot count, the pundits have begun to advance their theories as to why the result took the form that it did. A number of propositions are beginning to emerge: the suggestion that the people of Ireland are once and for all breaking free from the shackles of the Catholic Church; the notion that the Catholic Church has lost its moral credibility and/or entitlement to express any view on matters of human sexuality; and, finally, the idea that priests are socially disconnected from the realities of modern life. Each is, of course, predicated upon the basis that the provision of choice is the sole determinant of the abortion issue. What is perhaps more startling is the fact that those enjoying the light of celebrity felt themselves able to express opinions without engaging with the moral implications of the choice itself. In this respect, they were not alone. In recent years, societies have seen a rapid expansion in the assertion of subjective rights and with it, the dislocation of rights from any corresponding responsibility. What does this say about our own values as social communities? In his "Values in a Time of Upheaval" the then Card. Ratzinger observed:
"If we wish to build up Europe today as a stronghold of law and justice, vis-a-vis all men and cultures, we cannot withdraw to an abstract reason that knows nothing of God, a reason that itself belongs to no culture but wants to regulate every culture according to its own criteria - for what criteria are they? What freedom can such a reason grant or withhold?"
In our celebration of the Holy Trinity we see in all its glory, the divine patter of life: God the Father, who willed the gift of life; Holy Spirit: the giver of life; The Son: who brought life into the world, sharing our humanity that we might come to understand the enormity of the gift bestowed upon us. The indivisible Trinity attests to a simple reality: if we are to have life to the full and discharge our shared duty to bring life to others, love and sacrifice are irreplaceable. In contrast, in our relativist consumer driven world, we are encouraged to make choices which eclipse human dignity. In Pentecost, we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit; the birth of the Church. On Trinity Sunday, we are reminded that this gift is the lifeblood of our relationships with God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. and must infuse how we act, the choices we make, and our willingness to recognise and uphold the dignity of every human life. A cursory examination of the liturgical calendar reveals the poignant timing of these events. Christ, the Redeemer of all humanity was first recognised as the messiah by the unborn John the Baptist. Life speaking to life. As we approach the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we do well to remember that as Christians we are called to affirm life in all of its forms; especially the vulnerable and the unborn. It is only by this means we can hope to bear witness to our relationship to the Divine: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.