The Pastor's Column

Fr. Maina

The Sanctity of Personhood

On Ash Wednesday, I spoke about how ashes smeared on our foreheads call us to two central realities relating to human nature. The ashes themselves reminded us of the fact of death, witnessed to with the words, “remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The sign of the cross made with the ashes reminds us of something even greater--that Christ conquered death and that in him and through him, we have the newness of life. Ash Wednesday, the Catholic equivalent of the Jewish day of atonement, remains a day when all Catholics, young and old, active and inactive, encounter the mystery of the human life of death and salvation.

This weekend, the Gospel again calls us as a society to those two realities. Two violent events are mentioned: The slaughter of some Galileans and the collapse of the tower of the temple on innocent people. Jesus concentrates on the suddenness of such tragedies and the physical and possible spiritual unpreparedness of the victims. Today we think of the recent tragedies of the Ethiopian Airline crash which killed all 157 people on board and the mass shooting in New Zealand in which 50 Muslims lost their lives while in prayer. At the same time, Jesus mentions a parable that demonstrates God’s relentless mercy. In the parable, God is like the owner and Jesus, the gardener. Both are willing to give us time again and again to repent and change our ways. We risk God’s judgment if we disregard God’s Grace.

In the last few weeks we have seen a turn of events in states that voted on third-trimester abortions. This week, Illinois senators cast their ballots on this issue. Last month, the US Senate did not pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The mistake we make as a nation is to entrust this human life issue to politicians. Because of this approach, abortion has become a complicated issue to navigate and to talk about without taking sides as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities called all Catholics to be Catholics first before identifying themselves as Democrats or Republicans.

The word Catholic means according to the whole. So, all human issues must take into account the wholeness of the human person. As Catholics, we must deal with life issues, social justice issues, immigration issues, equality issues, humanitarian issues, economic issues, and abortion issues. Just like the human body, however, though all parts make up the body, some organs are more vital than others. For example, one can live without a finger or an arm, but not without a heart. The Catholic Church defends against abortion because it attacks the core of human life. It is a termination of life! President Reagan once said, “Everyone who is pro-abortion has already been born.” Let me add that every time we separate the personhood in political or constitution advancement, we fail to uphold the heart of who the human being is.

Consider the following statements:

  • In 1858; The Virginia Supreme Court declared, “in the eyes of the law, the slave is not a person.” (Virginia Supreme Court decision, 1858)
  • In 1881, American Law read “An Indian is not a person within the meaning of the constitution.” (American Law Review, 1881)
  • In 1909, regarding voting rights for women, the British law said, “the statutory word ‘person’ did not in these circumstances include woman.” (British Voting Rights case 1909)
  • In 1936 German Supreme Law refused to recognize Jews as ‘persons’ in the legal sense. (German Supreme Court decision, 1936)
  • In 1997, Canadian Supreme Law said, The Law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights.”

When a society or any legislative body charged with enacting laws separates the person from the human, it fails the mandate of upholding the dignity of the human person. Any person then, regardless of color, gender, race or stage of life, can be regarded as non-human. Today, the life issue of the unborn child remains the main organ of the human person. As people who believe in God, we must continue to oppose political advancement that allows the termination of the unborn child while at the same time, hold and walk in a spiritual and pastoral way with those entangled with this issue. The woman involved, the doctors who participate in the clinic or anyone who under pressure to fund an abortion rely on the mercy of God. Guess who else relies on the mercy of God? You and I! Jesus condemned issues that alienated people from God and one another, but he loved and welcomed all people, even tax collectors and sinners. As Christians, let us oppose any law that seeks to negate the person. Let us also pray for a better world for all of humanity.

May God bless you and your family.
Fr. Maina
With you a Christian, for you a priest.