Jonathan Swift, best known for his work, “Gulliver’s Travels,” was one of the great writers of the 18th century. Swift was a true satirist, excelling in the art of literary presentation in an exaggerated form so that the audience may be amused while the truth, which ridicules human vice, is being hammered home.
One such presentation by Swift was a work titled: “A Modest Proposal.” In it, Swift reflected on the growing Irish population and the number of homeless and destitute individuals, suggesting that instead of children being a burden on society and the families that bore them, perhaps they should be bred for consumption.
After all, this would serve various purposes of providing a succulent meal and an income for struggling families, while removing the economic burden on society and curtailing the rising Papist population.
“I have been assured by a very knowing American, of my acquaintance in London,” Swift writes, “that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout.”
I imagine the sensitivities of 18th century English society were outraged at this essay. How dare he talk about the eating of children as one would speak of a herd of cattle or swine! This “modest proposal” was offensive because it encouraged a cannibalistic approach to a societal problem. Yet Swift’s point is that the insensitivity to the struggles of a people is, in a sense, contributing to the death of these children.
I wonder what 18th century society would think of our treatment of the unborn. As we approach Election Day, we might ask ourselves whether or not Swift’s “modest proposal” is being inadvertently supported by our insensitivity to the increasingly liberal approach to legalized abortion.
It is important for us to know what stance our candidates take, because by our vote we participate in furthering their agenda. The fact that there are pro-choice candidates is no surprise. However, how many of us realize that some candidates running for office actually support the legalization of the killing of a child born alive after a botched abortion?
Some may be able to ignore the grave evil of abortion, either by rationalizing the destruction of an unborn child as subject to a woman’s rights over her body, or because the candidate supports another aspect of social justice, claiming that those other aspects minimize the candidate’s pro-choice position. But, can one really rationalize supporting a candidate who would justify the taking of a child’s life?
Yes, a Catholic who knows that a candidate supports the legalization of the direct taking of innocent life participates in evil. The Catholic bishops have stated that abortion itself is non-negotiable. It is an evil in itself, and I would imagine that even the most callous in regards to legalized abortion would find the killing of a child already born to be reprehensible.
I have heard the arguments of various Catholic politicians: that they personally accept and understand the church’s teachings on life, but cannot impose that view on others. The argument goes something like this, “I am a Catholic, and I understand that abortion is contrary to the teachings of the church and it is the taking of an innocent human life, but I will not impose that view on others who would disagree with that position.”
Just substitute any of the great crimes against humanity: slavery, the Holocaust, human trafficking, etc., and hear how that sounds. I understand that slavery is wrong, yet I won’t impose my view on others who view this as a property issue.
Or, I know that sending the Jews to concentration camps and potential death is wrong, but I won’t impose my view on others who view this as ethnic cleansing. I know that human trafficking is wrong, but I won’t impose my view on those that view it as an economic issue. One can see how absurd those statements are, yet we hear these arguments from Catholic politicians all the time.
There is a creeping insensitivity to the destruction of life occurring in our society. A growing support for legalized euthanasia is justified under the guise of avoidance of suffering and economic savings.
Even in the area of embryonic stem cell research, we are creating a new scientific slavery, as some justify the use of embryonic stem cells without a sense of respect for the life that is present. We need to remember that every one of us was once an embryo, and yet we think nothing of destroying human life in that state in order to gain an advantage for ourselves.
The more we diminish the importance of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, the more we support a “culture of death,” becoming insensitive to the precious gift of life and the value of human dignity.
Unfortunately, we have experienced the recent occurrences of the random and senseless shootings that have taken place in our communities. Those acts of violence demonstrate a total disregard for the dignity of human life. The more we protect the least vulnerable among us, the more we ensure the dignity of our own life.
In his encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” Blessed John Paul II states: “We have to go to the heart of the tragedy of modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism, which with its ubiquitous tentacles, succeeds at times in putting Christian communities themselves to the test. Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle; when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man of his dignity and his life; in turn the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern God’s living and saving presence” (EV, 21).
As you prepare to vote this Tuesday, please take the time to know the candidates and the issues they represent, and make your vote count for fashioning a “culture of life.”