It might be a little late to write a post on the March for Life this year, but I feel that as a blog made up of Jesuit writers, we have to take every opportunity we can get to clear up the name of at least many Jesuits. The Society of Jesus is pro-life. There are some Jesuits who are not, such as the late Robert Drinan. But that is the exception, not the rule. Consider these numbers, which would have been unheard of ten years ago: A mass was held – as it has been held for the past seven years or so -at St. Aloysius Church on North Captitol. It was for students from Jesuit high schools and univiersities around the United States. This year the church was more filled than I have every seen it. The balcony was full, the pews were full, the homily was powerful, and the music was inspired. It was amazing. Fifteen men came down from the Jesuit philosophate at Fordham University in New York. That was half the house of one of three philosophates in the United States for Jesuits. We are pro-life. And we are working to do more. We just don’t think that this march is either the best or most important way to fight abortion. And we think there are other life issues. That is what really gets us in trouble. But know that we are pro-life.
First, we took the group of High School students that we led to the Holocaust Museum. I had gone last year and been through it before, but what particularly struck me this time were two things. First, the fact that, despite repeated pleading from the Jewish world, the U.S. declined from bombing Auschwitz during the war. The U.S. only really began to pay attention to the Jewish situation in 1944. I couldn’t help but think, will we look back one day at abortion in the same way? What were we thinking? Why did we not work harder? What took us so long? And many of us Jesuits will have much to repent for. The Society of Jesus is in a similar place as the Allied forces: newly concerned but late. We have taken too long to respond, we and the Church in this country. But now is not the time to look back and notice how much we have not accomplished. Now is the time to get going.
Second, I noticed an aerial shot of Birkenau that I did not notice last year. When I was in college, I went to Birkenau when I was in Austria. It had a far more profound effect upon me than Auschwitz did. Birkenau was an extermination camp, while Auschwitz was a labor camp. Birkenau was ten times the size, rows and rows as far as my eye could see of bunkers for prisoners of war. And in the back of the camp were the four ruined gas chambers that could kill up to 1000 prisoners at a time. I had not thought about Birkenau for a long time, but this picture stopped me in my tracks. It brought back emotions from my visit, and the emotions from Birkenau washed over me. The next day when we went to the largest Planned Parenthood in Baltimore to pray, I looked at it with new eyes, and prayed that every single PP building will one day be closed down.
Second, the mass at the basilica was as huge and incredible as it always is. But I couldn’t help but notice this year the almost complete lack of blacks and hispanics. For some reason I have never noticed before, but I was shocked. If these are the populations most targeted by Planned Parenthood, they why are they not represented in this mass? And I realized, again to my shame, that the pro-life movement in the United States continues to be primarily a white, middle-class movement. It made me realize again the tremendous change and growth that must happen to this movement on the grassroots level. We are becoming an isolated movement, and as an isolated movement, we will fail.
The following Sunday at mass, this passage was read from 1 Corinthians 12:
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
Some parts of the body have been deemed less necessary for some reason. And this has weakened the movement. “Less honorable” members must be welcomed. The white middle class must renounce its hold on the movement so that the whole body can move effectively to put an end to this evil.