Friday 9 May 2014

Seven Reasons I Marched

John D. O'Brien, S.J.

Today I marched with about 2000 others on the streets of Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, which is the province of my birth and where I presently live and work. We marched from the city hall to the legislative buildings through the downtown streets, in a damp and drizzly west coast afternoon. As I reflect back, I can identify seven primary reasons I attended the March for Life today.

1) I am alive. As a human creature, I am grateful for life. This march was about celebrating this miracle, an utterly gratuitous gift. Thank you, Creator. Thank you mum and dad.

2) I am a Catholic. I believe that human life is sacred from conception to natural death. Promotion of this basic sacredness is an object, one way or another, of my life's labour.

3) I am a Jesuit, and Jesuits believe in the promotion of justice in the service of faith. All other works promoting justice, all other causes, depend upon the guarantee of a basic right to life. If entry into the world after conception can be deliberately terminated, then all other "rights" after birth are undermined, weakened, made relative.

4) I am a man, and as a man, I must speak out for the women who find themselves in difficult situations due to the lust and irresponsibility of men. I need to atone for the actions of my fellow men who put women in the position of being alone with unplanned pregnancy. I want women to know they will only compound the spiritual and personal injury by terminating the life within them. I want them to know that there is always hope (see last two paragraphs).

5) I am Canadian, and Canada is presently the only jurisdiction in the world that has no law regulating abortion: nothing, pas du tout. There is only one millisecond of difference, legally speaking, between being considered human, with the right to remain alive, and remaining a non-human entity, subject to the blade or saline solution. No other country on earth, even the most "progressive" and permissive, is this willfully indifferent to human life. We keep the flame of democratic discontent on this point alive by marching each year.

6) I am an educator, and was proud to be part of a large group of staff and students from my college in Vancouver which was attending the March for Life for the first time. I am further proud that this was a student initiative. The young will lead the way (1 Tim 4:12).

7) I read the news, and there have been a number of bizarre stories related to abortion in my country in recent weeks and days. First, that aborted human remains from British Columbia were being shipped and incinerated in the state of Oregon to generate electric power. There is a horrible irony in the fact that we burn the remains of our young at the altar of Moloch to fuel a consumer lifestyle that is driven by electricity. Second, the day before the march, Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and a self-described Catholic, announced that supporting abortion would be a litmus test for candidacy in his party (joining the NDP on this count). There is nothing liberal about this policy; it excludes the beliefs of many Canadians.

Yet there is so much to hope for. A few weeks ago, I received an email from someone in Victoria, telling me about an 18-year old pregnant girl who wants to give her baby up for adoption to a Catholic couple. The girl is not Catholic, but wants her baby to be raised Catholic. Did I know any Catholic couples interested in adopting? I thought there might be some, but when I posted this query on Facebook, I was unprepared for the deluge of personal, heart-felt and serious offers from at least a dozen couples. Never let it be said that pro-life people are not prepared to shoulder the burden of assisting those who bring their babies to term. Indeed, the message these childless couples gave was that they do not see children as burdens, but as gifts, urgently desired.

I know not where our country, or, for that matter, the whole so-called First World will go on the question of abortion. We have become very confused over the fundamental things of life, of love and of sex. With shrinking work-forces, emptying elementary schools, and plunging demographics forecasted for much of the western world, perhaps we will learn again to value children as the gift they are. But first, we may have to learn to become like them. For me today, that meant learning to walk in the rain with joy.


  1. Thank you very much for participating in this. You may have added that the decision women make, whether of their own free will or coerced by fears or overt pressure, will have a social and spiritual impact upon them for the rest of their life. I am speaking as someone personally affected by another's abortion decision.

    1. Thank you for adding your testimony to this point. You may note my line saying "that I want women to know they will only compound the spiritual and personal injury by terminating the life within them." As Christians we also believe in the possibility of healing from the effects of abortion, thanks be to God. - John

  2. I wonder if you feel Catholics are starting to feel "pro-life burnout"? I was at a conference recently, in which some speakers (including religious) complained about the Church's "obsession" with sexual matters. One noted that by opposing abortion, Catholic hospitals were losing their birthing and obstetric units. Another suggested that "concerns about 2 percent of (offside) activities shouldn't stop the other 98 percent." I must admit feeling disheartened by this but maybe I'm in the minority?

    1. Catholics who are actively pro life, i.e. participate in March for Life, 40 Days for Life, Birthright volunteers, etc., do not appear to me to be suffering from "pro life burnout" that I know of although I am not present in the centres of activism. The students I know are as enthused as ever. Catholics in the pews might be another story, but I have no evidence of this. It takes moral courage and not a small amount of perseverance to keep consistent on this issue in our culture. There are some who thought Pope Francis's words about the Church not obsessing on certain moral issues meant abandoning them -- something subsequent words showed he certainly did not mean (context is everything!). Do not be disheartened! The speakers at the conference you attended have likely latched onto this and reinterpreted according to their own preferences. There is no "obsession" in the Church on these issues (when was the last time you heard an actual homily on abortion, contraception or homosexuality, for instance). While we must present the Gospel message and hope for conversion prior to expecting conversion on moral issues, we must also be clear and consistent, starting with ourselves and with the help of God's grace. - John