at Catholic Online
Words have great potential. They can build up or just as easily tear down; heal as easily as harm; unite as easily as divide. They can also manipulate and conceal the truth.
Words twisted out of their proper meaning into a refashioned one have perhaps the greatest potential of all – the potential to convince untold numbers of well-meaning yet vacillating people to accept a lie they would otherwise reject.
Nowhere in our society is this played out more clearly than in the abortion battle. The pro-aborts depend on verbal shenanigans to persuade and give moral cover to the evil act of killing the child in the womb. Among the abortion peddlers’ favorite euphemisms are “terminating a pregnancy,” “choice,” and “reproductive rights.” These deceitfully constructed terms are preferred over the word abortion itself because they brainwash people into forgetting all about the baby.
Everyone who saw The O’Reilly Factor on October 7th got a double helping of this dehumanizing rhetoric, and sadly some of it came from Bill O’Reilly himself. In a segment with Alan Colmes and Monica Crowley about “nanny state” government intrusion, Colmes argued that Republicans are the worst offenders because they want to prevent homosexuals from marrying and take away “reproductive rights” from women.
O’Reilly started out strong by saying that abortion is about life and death, not “reproductive rights.” Colmes countered, “It’s giving women the right to do with their bodies as they choose.” Then, to my dismay, O’Reilly offered up the latest euphemism du jour: “That sounds good,” he said to Colmes, “but what happens to the potential human being in the process?”
The discussion concluded with O’Reilly asking Colmes whether the government should protect the lives of potential human beings, and Colmes replied, “No, because you cannot tell when it’s a potential human being, you cannot answer when that becomes a human being.”
There it is: potential human being.
Not 30 minutes later in his Culture Warriors segment, while discussing that horrible woman in England who said she’d be the first to put a pillow over the face of a suffering child, O’Reilly told Margaret Hoover that abortion sloganeering has desensitized people to the seriousness of abortion through the use of euphemisms like “reproductive rights.” When Hoover objected to him conflating “reproductive rights” with a woman suffocating a child to death, O’Reilly sternly told her, “Whether you believe in abortion or not, it is a very serious issue. And to cloud it under the euphemism ‘reproductive rights’ is insulting – insulting – to the potential human beings who lose their lives.”
Bill, you may have meant well, but Pot, meet Kettle. By calling your preborn neighbors only “potential” human beings, you are guilty of the very same sloganeering and deceptive euphemisms you properly denounced on your program.
There are no “potential” human beings. Only human beings, with the potential to grow and change and come closer every day to being the person God created them to be.
The pro-abort strategy now is to insist that we cannot know exactly when life begins and therefore, whatever classification you put on the occupant of the womb (zygote, embryo, fetus, baby), it is only a “potential” human being, not an actual one. As such, it’s not a matter of life and death, but solely a matter of a woman’s personal choice and “rights.” Therefore, no need to question the ethics or legality of abortion or consider the life being killed, since what is being destroyed was only “potential.”
Now genetically and scientifically, the matter is settled. Immediately upon conception there exists a new and unique member of the species Homo sapiens. Is there any time from conception to birth when the child is a cat or a whale or a potato?
So now come the ambiguous, subjective definitions of what makes us human and when we become fully human and when a human deserves the right to his/her own life. Some will contend that intelligence is required, or independence, or utility.
The pro-aborts insist that a human being is only an actual human being deserving of life if and when the mother decides so. If she wants the child, the child is a human being. If she doesn’t want the child, it is at best a “potential” human being, but more likely just an insentient parasite. For the abortion propagandists, humanity is irrelevant.
I expect the abortion peddlers to perpetuate this false and dehumanizing notion that the child in the womb is merely a “potential” human being, but not O’Reilly. O’Reilly is Catholic, and a high profile one to boot. The responsibility of his faith obliges him to know better and to defend the humanity and right to life of every child in the womb from the moment of conception, period.
In fairness, O’Reilly has on many occasions been a vocal advocate for the preborn and I appreciate his willingness to speak out when no one else in the media would dare. He helped Jill Stanek put the spotlight on Christ Hospital’s infanticide over a decade ago. He was willing to call the late Dr. George Tiller exactly what he was – a baby killer. He didn’t shy away from pointing out the funding of abortion in Obamacare. In many ways, O’Reilly is an ally in the fight to protect the preborn.
Yet, like so many Catholics, he seems to be either ignorant of authentic Catholic teaching or uncomfortable defending it.
For all our sakes, let’s review what the Church teaches about the human person: “Man exists as a unique and unrepeatable being, he exists as an “I” capable of self-understanding, self-possession and self-determination…However, it is not intellect, consciousness and freedom that define the person, rather it is the person who is the basis of the acts of intellect, consciousness and freedom. These acts can even be absent, for even without them man does not cease to be a person.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 131)
As to the cowardly tendency of many to say that abortion is “between a woman and her God,” we should remember this:
“Certain sins, moreover, constitute by their very object a direct assault on one’s neighbor. Such sins in particular are known as social sins…Social too is every sin against the rights of the human person, starting with the right to life, including that of life in the womb…” (CSDC, 118)
Regarding the alleged “right” to abortion, the teaching is crystal clear; there is none. There IS a right to life:
“The right to life, from conception to its natural end…is the condition for the existence of all other rights and, in particular, implies the illicitness of every form of procured abortion and of euthanasia.” (CSDC, 155)
“Concerning the ‘methods’ for practicing responsible procreation, the first to be rejected as morally illicit are sterilization and abortion. The latter in particular is a horrendous crime and constitutes a particularly serious moral disorder; far from being a right, it is a sad phenomenon that contributes seriously to spreading a mentality against life…” (CSDC, 233)
In truth, birth does not elevate the humanity of the child to a new, previously unattained status. The child in the womb is fully human from the moment of conception and as Catholics, we are gladly burdened with the duty to proclaim and defend this truth against the deceptive euphemisms of our time. We’re not lacking in this country for public Catholics who don’t know and don’t live their faith, or worse, flaunt their open disregard for Church teaching. What we need are more Catholics who know their faith thoroughly and profess it unapologetically.
Bill O’Reilly has great potential to become such a Catholic. Each of us has that potential. Here’s hoping we all exceed our potential.
(By the way, the Compendium is available on Amazon.com and Catholic bookstores everywhere. Every Catholic should have one.)