Splinter and Wooden Beam –
Abortion and Death Penalty –
Abortion and Immigration/Climate Change -Abortion and the Poor
By: Bernie Long
Luke 6:41- 42
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye’, when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.
A visiting priest gave the homily at our parish mass this weekend. The above reading from Luke was the gospel passage. The priest gave a passionate talk about the evil of the death penalty. He spoke about a book of a former prison supervisor who presided at two executions. This man was changed by these experiences. The book suggested that any politician who supports the state’s right to carry out the death penalty should be forced to participate in and witness an execution. The priest went on to say all life is precious from womb to tomb and we should be compassionate and recognize we have all sinned and we should not condemn anyone.
I had strong feelings listening to this homily. On a recent occasion, which I will talk about later, I had similar strong feelings about another homily, but I just left after mass. This time I was moved by the Holy Spirit to seek out the priest after the mass. I found the priest in the back of the church shaking hands. I told him my name and told him I was a co-host of an internet radio program called Pro Life America Radio. He frowned as if to say oh boy and continued to shake hands. I said Father the Beam in our nations eye is abortion and the splinter is the death penalty. He looked at me and said okay and nodded agreement as if to say – yeah I hear you. As I walked away I gave him a pat on his shoulder and said God Bless You Father, he responded God Bless You.
About a month or so ago we had another visiting priest say mass at our parish. This time the homily was how do we find peace that Jesus Christ promised when our world is so broken? This I believe is a really good and timely topic. He went on to list numerous problems we face today. As we speak thousands of migrants are being turned away at our border, our very planet is being threatened by climate change, we have racial and income inequity. I am not sure I have his complete list of maladies we face but he defiantly did not mention abortion.
Both of these priests to my knowledge are good and faithful priests who are clearly entitled to say what they believe they are called to say. These homilies clearly sparked my interest and to caused me to think.
So let me take a shot at addressing arguments we pro-lifers hear time and again.
Abortion and the Death Penalty
In 2018 there were 25 executions in the United States.
In 2015 the latest year of available statistics there were 638,169 abortions in the United States.
So let’s do the math and compare the death penalty to abortion. The people who are killed by death penalty are only .0000078 or well less than 1% of the number of babies killed by abortion. Actually the abortion numbers are surgical abortions. It is thought that if you add chemical abortion that would increase the number of abortions. This gospel passages places a clear emphasis that there is a difference between big and small. The wooden bean is huge – the splinter is very small. Abortion killings are huge and death penalty killings are small.
So does that mean that the human lives on death row do not matter? No it does not. I share a concern for taking another human life. God is the giver of life and his mercy extends to all no matter how heinous the sin. There certainly is an argument that no one should intentionally end a life. Revenge is certainly no reason to execute someone. Also history has shown that, tragically, people have been executed who were later found innocent. Having said this – there are law enforcement people who will tell you that having a death penalty is a valuable tool in combating crime. Often criminals will give up valuable information that leads to the apprehension of other criminals if they are offered to take the death penalty off the table. For the most part however my personal opinion is that the death penalty is wrong.
At the time of this death penalty homily, New York and other states have passed or are seeking to pass legislation that would allow abortions at any time during the pregnancy. It even gives the mom the choice to allow a born alive baby to die in a botched abortion. Our Congress could not even pass legislation that would ban the killing of a born baby in a failed abortion, yet Father chose to give a homily about the death penalty.
Father could have talked about Abby Johnson the former Planned Parenthood employee of the year who upon witnessing the ultra sound of an abortion changed her perspective. She saw the baby twist and fight for its life when the instrument entered the womb. Her story will be chronicled in the soon to be released movie “Unplanned”.
Abortion and Immigration/Climate Change
The Catholic Church position is that human life must be protected from the first moment of conception. Pope Francis has said abortion is like hiring a hit man. However when Pope Francis came to the United States he specifically mentioned the death penalty, immigration and climate change but did not directly address abortion. That caused some to question whether these other issues are more important as the right to life.
We have had a pro-choice Catholic as a guest on our Pro Life America Radio show who challenged us – do you put in the same amount of effort to end the death penalty as you do abortion? Clearly our answer was no. He went on to opine that pro lifers ignore the poor who live in misery; we ignore the damage to the environment and only focus on one issue.
Wow! Are we in the pro-life movement blind to other issues? First anyone who works to help the poor or any of these issues is to be commended. The pro-life people I know are the most generous and caring people I know.
So let’s talk about Immigration. Many pro-lifers support a pro-life President who is advocating for aggressive enforcement of our immigration laws. Is that an unchristian stand? In fact, he wants to build a wall on our southern border. I think it is entirely fair to say that this immigration issue is very complex and not one that leads to simplistic statements – like Jesus was a migrant and we have poor migrants at our border it is cruel to not let them into our country. How can we build this wall when we are a country of immigrants?
It is difficult to get accurate estimates but one source states that there were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the US in 2016. There is an estimated one half million illegal entries into the United States each year.
It seems that both sides of the political spectrum agree that we have a problem with illegal immigration. No rational person would say we should have open borders. The question of the necessity of the wall is one that is subject to legitimate debate. But labeling it as clearly unchristian is nonsense. We have not done a good job of enforcing our immigration laws; that is a fact. Something needs to be done. Good Christian people lock their doors; sadly churches no longer keep their doors open all the time and many politicians live in gated communities.
Should the people at our borders be treated with compassion and should every effort be made to keep families together – the answer is clearly yes. Most illegal immigrants are good people seeking a better life. But some are thugs and drug smugglers. Legal immigrants are also good people seeking a better life. They are following our immigration laws.
In my view one thing is not subject to debate – life begins at conception and since Roe V Wade there have been about 60 million innocent babies aborted. That is not complicated and that is wrong. We pro-lifers do not need to apologize for fighting for the lives of these innocent babies. Those people who work to help the people at our border are commended as long as they do not help them enter our country illegally.
How about climate change? Again this is very complex topic with no clear answers. We have a duty to protect God’s earth but the narrative about what to do is subject to much legitimate debate. Recently we have a New York congressperson who advocates the “Green New Deal”. She says the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t do something about climate change. We need a plan to completely end our dependence on fossil fuels. First, the 12 year figure is clearly one which there is no agreement. There have been dire predictions many times before about the end of the world if we don’t do something about climate change.
This proposal, “The Green New Deal”, would require all cars and trucks to be changed to operate without gasoline. No air planes as we know them, all buildings and houses would have to have their heating and air-conditioning systems changed. I heard one expert claim that this is impossible to do. But just as important is, if it could be done it is thought that it would not materially address the problem as long as the rest of the world, especially China and India do not do likewise.
Abortion and the Poor
It is often said that Pro-lifers vote for candidates that don’t care about the poor. I have heard Bernie Sanders say it is the height of hypocrisy for pro-life candidates to talk about less government and then have the government involved in a women’s right to control her own reproductive health. Wow, I say it is the height of hypocrisy to say the government needs to care about the lives of the less fortunate, those who cannot take care of themselves and then say they don’t think the government should step in and do something about killing of innocent babies in the womb.
As Christians we all have an obligation to help those in need. But the question is what policies the government should employ to help the less fortunate.
Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964. If you Google how much money has been spent on the war on poverty you will see an answer of 15 trillion has been spent on welfare, with the poverty rates being about the same today as during the Johnson Administration. In 1964 approximately 25% of African American babies were born out of wedlock. Today the number is in excess of 70%. The point is that many of the programs intended to help the poor have failed or at least have not worked well.
As with immigration what we should do to help the poor is a matter of judgment about which there are no easy answers. One thing is clear that we need to be there for moms in a crisis pregnancy. We need to be loving and supportive and provide practical help so she can have her baby. That is exactly what pro-life pregnancy centers do. They are there to help the mom during her pregnancy and even after her baby is born. If the mom feels she cannot parent the baby she can choose adoption. Abortion is not something that needs to be done.
One last point, over 50% of our nations abortions are performed on African American or Hispanic women. There is a movement that has its slogan “Black Lives Matter”- well the black babies in the womb lives do matter.
John Williamson, the founder of the internet radio show Pro Life America Radio is a person who devotes his life to the pro-life movement and he makes the following statements –
Abortion is the leading civil rights issue of all time!
Adolf Hitler killed approximately 12 million
Stalin killed approximately 30 Million
Chairman Mao killed about 50 million
Since 1973 approximately 60 million babies’ lives have been aborted. It is estimated that 1 in 4 babies in the womb are in jeopardy right now.
So again I say – the wooden beam in our nation’s eye is abortion.
Bernie Long is the Co-Host of Pro Life America Radio and a Catholic speaker. He is a pro-life advocate and leads a weekly bible study at City Team Ministries Chester, PA where he also ministers to the addicted and poor.