A Personal Odyssey Toward Pro-life
Canon 75 (of the Syro-Chaldean Church of N.A.). "Abortion shall be opposed".
How we become anything, is not so simple. But there is a sure steady hand that directs.
With me, it began after a mass Charismatic meeting at Shea Stadium in New York in 1978. The main human participant was Fr. Francis McNutt, a healing gifted priest. As we were exiting a woman thrust in my hand a tract which proved to be a pro-life tract. I don't believe that I did more than glance at it before I threw it away. But I kept remembering that woman, seemingly missing out on the importance of the event that had taken place, and standing outside doing her quaint mission. But something else clicked - I could do nothing about the holocaust, the mass murder of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, but somehow, there was another one going on right now - in the wombs of women, and this one was somehow, a continuation of that one. And I found, that my thoughts more and more drifted to and focused on - what to do about abortion.
In those days, aside from being a clergyman, I was a social worker in the field of child abuse and neglect with the Connecticut Department of Children and Youth Services and I worked out of the main office in Hartford, working with children and families, far too numerous to "doing justice". My specialty was intervention in abuse cases. One day, I received a letter from an abortion clinic which was about to open its doors about 5 minutes from main office. I was being invited to send my case load girls who were pregnant, to receive an abortion at this clinic, with assurance, and here was the inducement, of a greatly discounted price. Suddenly, there was no longer any doubt. Abortion was not about altruism or even about women's rights. It was about money. I was enraged.
And so began the beginnings of my public service for my girls and their babies to be that were now alive in their wombs, and, so my sentiments ran, for the babies of America, and for the fending off another holocaust. Maybe, in the wisdom of God, it sometimes takes for some people big thoughts to bring about even little actions. Once or twice a week, I would leave for lunch, or sometimes after work, and retrieve from my car a large photo on a stick of four babies that had been dumped in a garbage can at a Canadian teaching hospital, and I would don my black clergy suit with white collar and begin my march of demonstration and protest at the vehicle entrance of the Abortion Clinic, back and forth, back and forth, in the heat, the cold, and just right temperature of the day. One day, when I knew that I would not have time to strip of my civvies and don my clericals, I just wore my clergy suit to work. I remember my supervisor saying to me in the hearing of the others, "I thought I hired a social worker, not a priest!"
Good things did happen. A couple or more women did not go through abortion because I was there, but the really memorable things were the "side" phenomena. One was an experience of the evil behind it all, evil that even the abortionist was himself subject to. One day, as the abortionist doctor was entering into the building from the parking lot itself which was on his property, to which I had no access, without my thinking to do it, without my permission, a call came out from me involuntarily, and from the top of my lungs were flung the words, " Doctor, are you still killing babies?", He turned around, as if caught by surprise, and then from out of his mouth to me, and I perceived it equally without his intent or permission, "...and I will keep on doing it long after you are in the grave!"
I then understood that this evil had so taken him over, and that he was voicing what was an intent far deeper and potent than that of his own. He was a tool. That night on T.V., the news featured an interview with the new abortionist doctor in town, and I heard him say that a priest had harassed him this morning. I suppose so.
The other incident that always stays with me is the continual stopping of a dairy truck with various flavored milk drinks during my solitary walks with the sign of the aborted babies, the driver getting out and offering me any drink I would like for free. This was in the middle of summer and most times I was covered with sweat. One day, I asked the driver why he was doing this. He looked at me with sad expression and blurted out, "Years ago, I made my wife get an abortion and I am so sorry!"
But I was not alone all the time in this. A few days ago, I received a letter from a man, that walked with me in this, not at this particular clinic, but in front of Hartford Hospital. I used to picket this hospital, sometimes carrying my young son Daniel. At Hartford Hospital, I was the recipient of both curses and blessing, of course mirroring the dispositions towards abortion of those entering or leaving the hospital.
One day, a hospital worker in green rushed out of the hospital, came up to me, and blurted out before crossing the street and away, " I've been watching you, and I am through!". And a letter showing how much I was not alone, and how fruitfulness propagates with you and without you "...We used to picket Hartford Hospital together, and Mt. Sinai Hospital as well. You had written a "Thou Shalt Not Kill" sign in Hebrew that we used at the latter. God used me to work at Birthright of New Haven for four years..." There must be endless numbers of people that God is likewise using for His many faceted purposes.
But there is a plight in the minds and souls of those on the abortion side of things, nor must we underestimate the ability of God to get down under the skin and deep down further, even if it is not the complete desired end we seek. I knew that of the young women under eighteen on my case load who were pregnant and whose parents no longer had parental rights, those having been terminated and the State now in their place, the final say on whether they could be given abortion sat in the floor above me, in the seat of the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Youth Services. He was the one that signed the papers the allowed for the abortion.
One day, with no real choice in the matter left me, I made my appointment, and went up to his office, and made my case, which was simply, it was his hand that signed the death warrant for these babies. I was told by a fellow Social Worker that if I were to do this, that would be it, I would be no longer working for the State. The commissioner listened to me, without interruption and without protest, then made his point. These were the words of the Commissioner, asking for my understanding. "I also don't like it and if I weren't the Commissioner, I would have no part in this, but I want you to understand. If I don't sign, I lose my job, and someone else appointed that will sign!" And so it goes.
But the Commissioner did not lose his job and neither did I and from that time, when we would meet in the building, I sensed a respect for me.
"And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. ...And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth...For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time". The Revelation 12
Below the surface and behind the intents and reasons, we ought to see the most ancient and irrational of all motivations - spite. Spite of the defeated one who has nothing else left than that and hatred for anything and anyone bearing the image of the Son of God - "...because he knows that his time is short."