Dr. David Anders, host of the “Called to Communion” radio show on the Eternal World Television Network, recently spoke at a prolife luncheon in Fargo, hosted by the diocese’s Respect Life Office.
As a regular sidewalk prayer advocate, I eagerly anticipated hearing from Anders, whose graceful intelligence, conveyed through radio, I’ve come to appreciate.
During his talk, Anders mentioned the question at the center of his show: “What’s stopping you from becoming a Catholic?” And how, despite the myriad questions he’s been asked through the years, there’s one that’s not come up: “Why does the Catholic Church oppose abortion?”
“Why do you think that is?” Anders posed. “Well, it’s because abortion is manifestly wrong, and people know that.”
He shared that when his son was a baby, his family prayed at an abortion facility, and watched a woman approaching for an abortion leave at the sight of the infant.
Anders said his daughter Zoe, a young adult, now volunteers at a pregnancy help center. But when she was younger and just learning about abortion, she expressed horror. “Why would they do that?” she’d asked incredulously. “They wouldn’t have wanted to die from abortion.”
“Even the basic argument, from a child’s perspective, is intelligible,” Anders pointed out, and yet the cultural conflict surrounding abortion persists.
Anders said that although the Catholic Church espouses the most comprehensive and consistent life ethic, to reach others, we’ve each got to daily exemplify a culture of life in our own lives.
“Pro-lifers must create internally the kind of life and love that makes abortion unthinkable,” he said. “It’s got to be embedded in the life of the family.”
Indeed, even when we are successful in convincing someone of the value of an unborn life, Anders said, it’s not always enough. “Often, our culture doesn’t deny the value of an unborn life, but neither will it agree to give it the same value as the life of the mother.”
He shared a story from professor and apologist Peter Kreeft, who once, during a class lecture, likened abortion to infanticide. Processing his logic, one student, rather than becoming convinced abortion is wrong, declared instead his newfound support for infanticide.
Feminism has only exacerbated the disconnect, he said, promoting the error that for women “to find full inclusion in civic life,” abortion becomes necessary; that to achieve her dreams, woman “must separate herself from the capacity toward maternity.”
Those who view radical freedom as the ultimate good generally justify abortion, he added, but the Catholic worldview, which sees human beings as having intrinsic worth, takes a different approach.
“The difference between the Catholic Church and liberal progressivism is that our lives mean so much more than a commercial value,” Anders said. “Far from advancing a life of human authenticity, the progressive mindset retracts us from it.”
Anders shared the story of a former feminist who eventually concluded that most women do want to see a culture “that cherishes our shared and wondrous capacity to bear new human life.”
Having her first child had changed her thinking, Anders said. “She began to see feministic activity as fundamentally dehumanizing. It exposed her to a degradation of authenticity.”
Another ex-feminist was on her fifth abortion when things went awry. It wasn’t until the nurse mentioned needing to do a procedure to remove the dead baby from her womb that she, for the first time, comprehended the gravity of her actions. Before that, “her ideology had stifled her natural inclinations.”
But Catholic moral thinking can restore a right mindset, Anders said, as we learn “to orient ourselves to a good beyond ourselves.”
In the first four centuries of the Church, he pointed out, far more women were willing to convert than men, because, women were “massively elevated” within Christianity, from what they’d known previously.
“It was through the Catholic Church that the consent of the woman became required for marriage,” he said, noting that, on the contrary, Buddhists had held that it was “better to be reborn as a cow than a woman.”
In contrast, Catholicism produces examples like Saint Josephine Bakhita, who once said, “I’m definitively loved…and so my life is good.”
Anders highlighted that feminists who promote abortion today fail to see that it’s within the authority of the Catholic Church that the dignity of woman was made possible. “To the world, we are a visible sign and witness. The case for life is intricately linked to the Catholic faith.”
He reminded me what a richness we have in our faith, and reinvigorated me to continue living out this culture of life daily, for both myself and for the good of others.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s April 2017 issue.]