The Gospel Truth

A Quiet Dismount

August 6, 2015
Leave a Comment

One of the great stories of my childhood was Washington Irving’s 1809 tale of the legendary “Rip Van Winkle,” the man who fell asleep for 20 years, only to awaken to a new world he scarcely recognized. I must have been asleep at the cultural wheel on Jan. 22, 1973 because the infamous Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which has accounted for the premature death of more than 55 million unborn children, flew right under my radar.

My first reckoning of the slaughter of the innocents did not occur until 12 years after that infamous decision. At a parish social after the 11 o’clock Mass, I noticed a tiny lapel pin on a friend’s jacket. When asked, he told me that his pin represented fully developed fetal feet at just 10 weeks of gestation. At that moment I saw no lightening bolts from the sky nor did I have anything as dramatic as a Pauline dismount. There was just this quiet moment of clarity that opened my eyes to the true meaning of abortion on demand.

I started reading everything I could on the subject. I got involved with the Archdiocesan Respect Life Movement in a myriad of different positions, including three stints as our parish co-coordinator. I wrote several letters to the editor. Some were published.

A short time later, I became a weekly radio talk show host.   For 20 years I verbally waged the culture war on air with abortion my salient issue. The publication of my 1999 book, “Liberalism: Fatal Consequences” with abortion as its linchpin followed. In 2008 I wrote a one-act play about abortion, “A Perfect Choice,” which was produced the next year on a local stage. I have also been an advisor to the Vitae Foundation and a board member of Birthright of St. Louis for a dozen years. All this happened to me just because I asked about those tiny fetal feet.

The hardest part of this battle for me has been trying to understand why all Catholics are not equally troubled by the abortion horror as I am. Perhaps the slavery issue may answer my question. The record of Catholics during the days of slavery is not a stellar one. Most Catholics, especially those in the South, were indifferent to the plight of the slave, just as most are indifferent toward abortion today. Like their antebellum forebears, too many Catholics blame abortion abolitionists for disturbing the peaceful order of their society.

Perhaps it was the conservative temperament of most Catholics then not to rock the cultural boat since reforming the earth was unimportant when compared with spending eternity with God. Of course that kind of thinking would be totally unacceptable today on issues as diverse as racism, the minimum wage, nuclear war, the death penalty and even global warming.

I think the real trouble resides in the fact that Catholics today do not fear the establishment as much as they did in the 19th century because we have become an intricate part of the power establishment. Catholic attitudes today spring more from the toxic fumes of an anti-religious secularism then they do from Church teachings on human life.

Most of our Catholic senators and congressmen follow their political consciences instead of their moral consciences. Many go out of their way to embed and expand the abortion privilege instead of screaming in outrage for its speedy repeal. In effect Karl and now Saul are more important than Jesus.

A repeal or even a Constitutional amendment seem like pipe dreams. We have tried the courts, constitutional amendments, political persuasion and public debate for 42 years, and the left, supported by millions of federal dollars keeps up the assault on innocent life with a determined consistency that defies all the Christian virtues.

Granted prayer, sacrifice and the public witness of millions have saved many unborn lives. But abortion is still an intricate part of the social landscape. Only a loud public outrage can make a difference. It is not there because Catholics are not united enough to lead that outrage.

My personal prayer is that every Catholic will think about those tiny fetal feet, feel their power and be moved to do something as I was years ago. If that ever happens, abortion may disappear from this country just as slavery did 150 years ago.

Democratic Pretenders

October 18, 2012

The one really poignant moment in the recent debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan was when each gave his understanding of their Catholic church’s teachings on abortion.

Biden’s was of course nothing deeper than the old bait and switch of pro-choice–that became the Mario Cuomo Notre Dame Doctrine that gave our lexicon the phrase—personally opposed but…

The perfect dodge

The vacuity of that statement has fallen by the wayside as Biden’s Democratic Party has virtually abandoned any pretense they had to support both sides in this argument.

Most Democrats have never met an abortion that wasn’t suitable or useful for their political futures.

This should not surprise anybody because the very first “pro-choicer, was a Democrat.

I am talking about Stephen Douglas, the Little Giant of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858.

He also ran for the presidency in the pivotal 1860 election.

But the issue was not abortion but slavery.

He was indifferent to the morality of enslaving another human being.

Of course the linchpin of the slave movement was the belief, seconded by the Dred Scott decision in 1858 that black people were not human–they were property and could legally be owned and sold and even destroyed.

Precursor of the inhuman fetus

He called this property right–popular sovereignty and laid a historical foundation for the pro-choice movement.

The people of any community were free to vote on having slaves or not having slavery.

Democrats today has dispensed with any pretense of allowing people to vote on it.

There is only one acceptable choice and it’s a thumbs down for the baby.

They, not only support abortion rights but actively promote it through their auxiliary organization, Planned Parenthood, which as has as much to do about true parenthood as the Nazi Party once did.

Abortion has been a thorn in the side of American society since the Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.

Comparable to Scott’s Taney

Since then abortion has become the most verboten of all subjects for polite conversation.

It has divided political parties, households, churches, and has even lead to arguments in Catholic men’s Bible study groups.

Its wicked cords of recent history have knotted America’s moral structure in a conundrum that is subtlety more complex than that, which tore the nation apart in the 19th century.

Like its ante-bellum counterparts, the house of abortion abolitionists is torn between those who wish to rip abortion from the public and legal landscape by its root and branches and those incrementalists who believe a piecemeal policy is the only realistic way to go.

Because of the failure of its political leaders to make any real progress in the last 40 years, Roe is still deeply embedded in the historical landscape.

This is true because too many practical politicians, who lack the courage of their pro-life sentiments, have allowed for certain “exceptions” to abortion.

Unfortunately Ryan’s distillation of his Church’s teachings, erroneously allowed for the usual exceptions–rape, incest and the life of the mother.

A portrait shot of Paul Ryan, looking straight ahead. He has short brown hair, and is wearing a dark navy blazer with a red and blue striped tie over a light blue collared shirt. In the background is the American flag.

Wrong on the exceptions

The only reason anyone should be against abortion is that it takes an innocent human life, albeit it in its nascent stages.

To admit any exceptions undermines the thrust of Thy Shall Not Kill, which literally is a commandment against murder…a specific kind of killing.

I know what Ryan really meant to say–I can’t believe that he or any real Catholic would ever be in favor of these exceptions.

Otherwise he would wade out into an ocean of reality where the ends justify the means.

This is much more Machiavelli than it is Jesus Christ, who despised the violation of any type of human innocence.

But the political realities at this juncture do make it a virtual impossibility to ever secure a majority would oppose it.

While these exceptions amount to no more than 19,500 out of 1.3 million unborn babies annually, these innocent victims are deserving of public protection, without consideration for the relative circumstances of their conception.

Politicians with exceptions fail to understand that to allow the slaughter of these innocents undermines the rationale for their opposition to all other abortions.

The sad fact is emotional appeals have high standing in this debate.

Few people can envision “forcing” a young woman to bear her father’s child or that of a total stranger.

It would take the heroic act of a real saint to bring these children to term.

Yet sometimes we are called to perform acts of moral heroism and saintly courage.

Mothers and fathers and sometimes, even total strangers will risk their lives to rush into a burning building to save the life of a child.

Police officers, firemen and women do it every day.

We cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated by a pro-abortion media that wants the abortion privilege to reign in American culture.

Of all the exceptions it is the life of the mother that poses the most difficulty for the Church and for pro-life people.

The secular media has unfairly painted the Church in misogynistic hues for the last 50 years.

Church leaders have had to walk on eggshells to avoid lending any credence to these vicious attacks.

I recently re-read The Cardinal, a 1950 book by Henry Morton Robinson

It included a graphic scene where the aspiring young Monsignor Stephen Fermoyle was asked to permit a craniotomy, that is, the crushing of a baby’s head upon delivery, to save the life of his unmarried sister who had been in labor for three days.

Under great emotional duress, he told the doctors to save both of them.

Of course only the baby survived.

I believe that the foul taste of seeing this depicted in the subsequent movie 20 years later might have helped fuel the underground swell for Roe.

Monsignor Fermoyle’s decision was very difficult but often the morally correct decision is not the easy decision.

The other side knows this is our Achilles heel.

Onion Magazine recently printed a satirical article about a new anti-abortion pill that killed the mother without harming her fetus.

The Church’s opposition to abortion is based on the principle of the sanctity of all human life.

A person cannot will the death of one as a means of saving the other.

I recognized years ago that this is a tough sell for a growing secular culture.

Taking my inspiration from The Cardinal, I wrote my second play that was produced in 2010, entitled A Perfect Choice.

A young father rushed home from Vietnam to confront his wife’s difficult delivery.

Like the doctors in the Cardinal, they suggested they crush the baby’s skull to save his wife’s life.

Not because of his Church’s teachings but more humanly for his fear of his wife, who was the devout Catholic, he told them to save both because she would never forgive him for sacrificing their child…even for her life.

Well they both die.

His surviving child, age five, doesn’t understand why her mommy had to die.

She blames him for taking her for denying her a mother.

The whole play takes place in a single act some 30 years later on the eve of the dawning of 2000.

The moral principle of double effect applies in cases where the death of the child is only the secondary result of, for example, radiation treatment for the mother’s cancer.

The mother does not have to sacrifice her life for her child but many have, such as St. Gianna.

None of the “exceptions” are easy choices but they all demand exceptional courage and the solid application of Catholic principles on the sanctity of human life.

Being a Catholic is never easy.

Abortion separates the believers from the pretenders.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at