Sunday, February 17, 2008

". . . To Be Understood As To Understand"

When I read the Prayer of St. Francis, the hardest line for me to deal with is:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek . . .
. . . to be understood as to understand . . .
I would soooo much rather be understood. But now, I think I have an understanding of a group of people that I didn't have before.

I was perusing a few blogs on St. Blog's Parish that I hadn't seen before, and one of them was that of Radical Catholic Mom. In this post, she gives a review of the book The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children For Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v Wade by Ann Fessler.

As a staunch and uncompromising pro-lifer, I consider my eyes opened.

I don't want to rehash RCM's post completely, but this caught my eye because my mom was telling me how severely girls were punished in the 50s for being pregnant, especially at her (Catholic) high school. They were expelled and made to surrender their children whether the girls wanted to keep them or not.

My argument has always been that maybe it's time to go back to that era, to stigmatize out-of-wedlock sex. But Fessler, and in turn RCM, point out that the wrong thing got stigmatized: the pregnancy rather than the sex. What happened to the boy/man involved? Not much, usually. So much for my argument.

As the post points out, it's small wonder that the anger of these women and those who knew them gave rise to the abortion movement that culminated in Roe v. Wade. Instead of making the girl disappear, now the baby could disappear and the girl could move on. I can see why that "choice" was made.

It seems that one thing that the pro-life and (at least some) pro-abortion activists agree on is the need to reduce the need for abortion. Leaving aside arguments about contraception, I guess what we need is a way to stigmatize fornication without all the scorn heaped on the expectant mom. Unfortunately, as Fessler also points out, pre- and extramarital sex has been a problem for longer than we think. It's just that there is an increasing belief that there's no problem with sex out of wedlock; it's almost expected these days. And about that we can argue.

But just as what happened to RCM, for the first time I think I really understand where my opponents in the abortion debate are coming from, and I feel for them or anyone they knew or are related to who was a victim of societal shunning or forced adoption. I hope that one day the pendulum can swing back to the middle, away from both the side of "anything goes" (where we are now) or the side of "we'll make an example out of you" (from the 50s).

And to any of my opponents, I ask your forgiveness for my inability to understand this. My position hasn't changed, but my eyes have been opened wider.


Anonymous said...

God bless you. I don't know if you have read Ann's book but it will rip your heart out. I think it is crucial for Catholic pro-lifers to understand what happened before Roe v Wade so we can fix what is the real problem.

Honestly,I think conversion has to be #1 along with responsible parenthood. And maybe our lifestyle really is a consequence of the industrial revolution. When you look at the abortion rate in New York City in the 1920s it neared ONE MILLION! Amazing. So, our job is to live a good life and work for others.