Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Letter to Diognetus, written in the second century, is one of the earliest descriptions of how the early Christians lived. One very noteworthy passage says that Christians “marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.”

Reading those lines, you might be wondering what it means for people to “expose their offspring,” since that is an expression that we do not commonly use today.

Recently I came across a good explanation of that phrase in a 479-page book about the first one thousand years of ancient Rome entitled, S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome, written in 2015 by Cambridge University historian Mary Beard. The initials “S.P.Q.R.” stand for, “Senatus Populusque Romanus,” Latin for, “The Senate and People of Rome.” In describing the way life was in the ancient Republic of Rome, she wrote, “Childbirth was always the biggest killer of young adult women at Rome, from senators’ wives to slaves. … Those babies that were safely delivered had an even riskier time than their mothers. The ones that appeared weak or disabled would have been ‘exposed,’ which often meant being thrown away on a local rubbish tip. Those that were unwanted met the same fate.”

The ancient Roman practice of “exposing their offspring” came to mind recently when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and other state Democrats defended a failed bill that sought to allow abortions up to the point of delivery in some cases. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, described the procedures “done in cases where there may be severe deformities.” “There may be a fetus that’s not viable. So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” In other words, the newborn baby would be exposed “if that’s what the mother and family desired.” While it may be some comfort that “the infant would be kept comfortable” and not thrown on a trash heap, the reality is that the baby would be left to die.

In a similar vein, last month New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, which permits abortion in many cases up to the moment of birth. It eliminates legal penalties on abortionists who allow an aborted baby, who somehow survives the scalpel, vacuum and dismemberment, to die. It also permits these perilous procedures to take place without a physician present. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in a guest column in the Feb. 8 issue of The Wall Street Journal, called this law “grisly legislation that … was perhaps expected in a state completely dominated by a party that has become increasingly intolerant of pro-life Americans.”

The word here in our Illinois State Capitol in Springfield is that this same political party is planning to introduce similar legislation that would overturn parental notification, repeal the ban on late term abortions, mandate insurance companies to pay for abortions in addition to public funding, and allow non-physicians to perform abortions. That party has no monopoly on facilitating abortion, since former Gov. Bruce Rauner last year signed into law House Bill 40, providing for taxpayer funding of abortion and keeping abortion legal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

In view of these horrific attempts to expand abortion rights, it must be said that any baptized persons — Catholic or Protestant, Democrat or Republican — who sponsor, promote, advocate, uphold, affirm or vote for these gruesome pro-abortion measures would be acting in a seriously sinful manner unfaithful to the 2,000-year-old Christian teaching against abortion and infanticide and therefore would place themselves outside of the full communion of the church. Such persons should not present themselves to receive holy Communion. As Sacred Scripture warns, “Whoever eats unworthily of the bread and drinks from the Lord’s cup makes himself guilty of profaning the body and of the blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).

Those who object to this teaching would do well to remember the words of St. Paul to the Galatians: “Some who wish to alter the gospel of Christ must have confused you. For even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel not in accord with the one we delivered to you, let a curse be upon him!” (Gal. 1:7-8).

There is hope, however. The proposed federal “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” would impose penalties on physicians that refuse medical care to infants born alive in botched abortion procedures. We should pray for Congress to pass this legislation and for the president to sign it. Through God’s grace even the most hardened proponents of abortion rights can have a change of heart, repent their ways, and decide to support the protection of the lives of unborn babies and newborn infants.

May God give us this grace. Amen.