Friday, June 13, 2008

A Question

A few years ago I was involved in a little speaking group who went to schools to discuss the various life issues with students in high school. In many cases, the discussion would move to the issue of suffering, which underpins much of the debate over abortion and euthanasia, and even embryo research.

I asked the students, normally of a Catholic school, if they thought that suffering was the worst thing in human life, or if they could think of something worse than suffering. I normally ask the question once we have established that the class, in general, is in favour of abortion (or euthanasia) in cases of extreme hardship, or anticipated hardship, for the child. We usually decided that the class favours killing before birth a child (yes, in a Catholic school, shock of shocks...ho hum...) to be born with a terrible illness or into a loveless and disordered family, someone whom we judge to be more or less doomed to suffer throughout life. We usually prefaced this assertion that not every kind of potential suffering was worthy of such a drastic cure.

HJMW: What's your name?

Kid: Julie.

HJMW: Well, Julie, would you mind if I ask you a personal question? (nod) Have you ever suffered in life?

Kid (Grinning, embarrassed. Teachers never ask interesting questions I guess.) Yes. I guess so.

HJMW: Like what?

Kid: Well, you know. Normal stuff.

HJMW: Failed tests or exams? Got the flu? Had a fight with a close friend?

Kid: Yeah.

HJMW: OK. Anything more serious? You don't have to answer of course, if you don't want to. But anything like parents' divorce, or a death of someone close to you, or a really serious illness or something like that?

Kid: (nodding)

HJMW: Or, if not, do you think it might be possible that you could suffer something really serious in the future, something we can't really predict but like what happens sometimes to other people?

Kid: Yeah. I guess it's possible.

HJMW: OK. Well, do you want me to kill you?

(general laughter) Kid: No.

HJMW: No? Why not? I thought we had just established that it is OK to kill people, even before they are born, who might at some time in the future experience serious suffering. What gives here?

(general restlessness... they know they've been trapped)

HJMW: Is it possible, do you think, that you might be able to rise above your suffering? Even, maybe benefiting in some mysterious way from having suffered?

Kid: (nodding)

HJMW: Is it possible that you might even become a better person for having suffered? And that such growth is not really possible without suffering?

Kid: Yeah.

HJMW: So, you don't want me to kill you, in case your anticipated suffering, which you are right to fear, might actually turn out to be a good and useful thing. Right?

OK, well, let me know if you change your mind. I live to help.

* ~ * ~ *

Yes, it's certainly not difficult to talk to kids in school who have never been told anything whatever about the spiritual life. Easy room, you'd say. Yeah, I guess.

But I wonder if we can be so smug about suffering. It's easy to be an armchair Aquinas, but...

Anyway. One time at one of these things, a kid who was assigned to take me to the next class, thanked me for talking about abortion. I had mentioned that in Canada, as in most countries, the rhetoric that has prevailed of it being only and exclusively a "woman's right to choose" meant that in law, no father has any legal right to save the life of his child. And that to attempt to do so results at best in him being labeled and persecuted. The kid, lanky and tall, said, "I wanted to thank you for saying that. My girlfriend had an abortion last year and I wanted to raise it and my parents said they would help, but she went ahead anyway."

Yeah, it's all fun and games and womens' rights until you're faced with this kid and his carefully schooled unemotional expression. I cried for him on the bus on the way home.


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine used to give pro-life talks at schools. Government schools were ok, but she had difficulty getting into Catholic schools.

She said that the boys were the easiest to talk to. I think that was because they were able to listen to the arugments without sentimentality interrupting (because the majority hadn't personally been involved with abortions or known of friends/relatives who had).

Another friend has a son who goes to the TLM. He gets into arguments at his Catholic school about abortion etc. Yep, he is in the minority arguing for Catholic teaching at a Catholic school.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I expect that the boys were easier to talk to because they had not been inundated with feminist propaganda as most girls are.

When one is picketing an abortion mill or standing in Life Chain, it is almost always the women, usually the ones in their late teens to mid-twenties who are most rude and who frequently become hysterical and sometimes become violent.

It is common to have rude gestures from passing cars coming from young women, and equally the norm to have all the thumbs-up and smiles coming mostly from young men who have been effectively shouted down in the debate and left with no voice and no rights.

I'd dearly love to see someone start talking about the right of the father to save the life of his child as one of those, in addition to the right of the child not to be sacrificed to his mother's personal preference or convenience, which is laid against the abortion rhetoric. Almost no one is standing up for men in this. It is almost unthinkable.

It is also, BTW, why I have a rather queasy reaction to the "Silent no More" thing where women start talking about how they've been victimised by having had abortions. I think we've had about as much of women's victimisation as we really need in this culture. I believe it is really just a way, on the activists' side, of making themselves palatable to our opponents and is therefore a rather cynical way of using the women in question, and on the other side, of women weaseling out of any sense of responsibility for having done what they have done. We hear from them all the time the line, "I was misled by my doctor/boyfriend/husband/'s not my fault, I'm just as much a victim as the child" my dear. You are actually the perpetrator of a heinous crime and the sooner we all face up to that fact, the more honest a society we will have.

Anonymous said...

I agree that there’s something sus about the "Silent no More" thing.

Part of this seems to be a push to condemn abortion on the basis that it is contrary to the dignity of women.

But this move won’t wash. While it’s a true claim, it’s only true because abortion murders the unborn baby and so involves the woman in a murder.

As to the comment, “'s not my fault, I'm just as much a victim as the child.”

Leaving questions of guilt and perpetrators to one side, would there be grounds for saying that the murdered child is slightly more of a victim than the survivor?