Heresy and the So-Called Pro-Life Movement

Heresy and the So-Called Pro-Life Movement December 8, 2016

When confronted with the claims of superior knowledge and revelation by various heretical Gnostic sects, Christian leaders like Sts. Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria responded by showing how such so-called Gnostic teachings contradicted the basics of the Christian faith, demonstrating why their various sects should be rejected. Clement did not entirely disagree with the pursuit of gnosis, but he indicated the only true gnosticism could be found within the orthodox teachings of the Christian faith, that it was only by practicing the teachings as handed down by the apostolic tradition could a Christian realize union with God.  Even then, the point was not to look for and achieve some esoteric realization apart from the basic teachings of the Christian faith, but to actualize those teachings and realize them in action.

Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred, by Pierre Legros the Younger (1695–1699). Marble, H. 3 m (9 ft. 10 in.). Church of the Gesù, Rome, Italy by Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred, by Pierre Legros the Younger (1695–1699).  Photograph by Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Among the many points Irenaeus and Clement expounded upon was that the use of some sort of name for oneself, like Gnostic, did not guarantee that they actually were worthy of the label. Heretics try to represent themselves as being faithful representative of the truth, either by claiming to have some sort of higher revelation of the truth which others must adhere to if they want to be saved, or by the limiting of the truth to some selective elements taken from the fullness of the truth, disregarding the rest as being inconvenient. Even with the former, the reason why such teachings prove attractive is because they take on aspects of the truth, just enough to make it look as if the truth were being proclaimed, and discount anything which does not fit their vision. For this reason, G.K. Chesterton was right in suggesting that “A heresy is always a half-truth turned into a whole false­hood.” [1]

Expounding further on his understanding of heresy, Chesterton got to the heart of the matter when he said, “A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which, even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run. In short, it is the setting up of the mood against the mind.”[2]  That is, while heresies often cover themselves with some element of the truth, as a way to convince many that they are anything but heretical, their main focus lies not with the doctrines they teach, but the emotional appeals such doctrines bring to those who listen to them. Such appeal motivates their followers to ignore any and all deficiencies in their doctrine by suggesting the importance of what they say outweighs any imbalance in their presentation.

Sadly, all of this is true with the so-called Pro-life movement. It takes elements of truth, the promotion of the dignity of some human lives, creates an emotional appeal as to why those lives matter above all others, and then ignores any and all forms of indignity which does not fall under their narrow concern.  The so-called Pro-life movement takes elements of the truth, takes on a name which makes it appear to be in support of the Gospel of Life, but then actively motivates its followers into action in ways which counter the holistic nature of the Gospel of Life. Following Chesterton’s understanding of heresy, it is a heresy.  Like the so-called Gnostics of old, they use a name which does not properly identify who they are. They talk about the protection of the dignity and life of children in the womb, and the elderly who face euthanasia, but that tends to be the extent of their concern. They might claim they would support and help others only after they are sure children and the elderly are protected, but this is only an excuse to ignore the real world and the needs which are not being met by those who find their very dignity put into question by the powers that be.

To be pro-life, and not so-called pro-life, requires respect for all life, working for the protection of all life, and not pitting a select few over and against the rest, as St. John Paul II indicated: “Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church.” [3]

Everyone, not just a select few, have dignity; everyone, and not a select few, is to be the concern of a Christian; everyone, and not just a select few is entrusted to the care of the Church, to be looked after, to be helped and aided, to be made sure that they are respected and cared for, lest the mission of the Church is itself ignored. This, again, is what St. John Paul II put forth when he wrote Evangelium Vitae:

Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good. We need then to ‘show care’ for all life and for the life of everyone. Indeed, at an even deeper level, we need to go to the very roots of life and love.[4]

There must be no bias, no discrimination, no selection of one group of people being considered more worthy than others for the love and care which is to be given to all. The whole person, including their destiny, is to be the concern of the Christian: no part of human existence is itself to be diminished or ignored. While their eternal destiny should be the foundation by which we look at each person, this destiny includes and must not ignore their full temporal existence, for it is only in what they make of themselves in time does their eternal character get to be made known.[5] That is why we cannot just work to make sure they get born, ignore them for most of their life, and then pretend we are concerned about them when they are about to die of old age. If we do not help them, if we do not make sure they are provided the proper safety net throughout their whole life, we are euthanizing them through the system which deplores them and would have them sent away to their death because that system, and its leaders, deem their lives are not worth saving.

When Christians ignore why life is sacred, it is easy to disassociate the good of life itself from the people who need social justice from the government and charity from the people around them, and so ignore the plight of those who are suffering for the sake of a few chosen elect. Such a Gnostic selection is a rejection of the Christian message.

For the Christian, for the authentic Gospel of Life and not its heretical simulacra, the motivation must be out of love. For it is in and with love, that death itself is overcome, and so it is with love that the true Gospel of Life is lived out.  “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:14-15 RSV).

The Gospel of Life, the call to support and help all life, is the call of love, the call to love our neighbor as ourselves, so as to lift them up and promote them and their real integral dignity as being made in the image of Christ. To love our neighbor is to promote life; to detest our neighbor, to find an excuse to exclude them from our love, is to fall away from the true faith and to follow Cain in the way of death.  Those we exclude from our love, those who we find excuses to ignore, reveal the way which we still reject Christ. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40 RSV).

The true Gospel of Life, the true Pro-life movement, is one which promotes life, not for some, but for all. Those who promote a limited Gospel of Life, saying only a few are worthy of such promotion, finding a way to pit the needs of those few against the rest of society, against the rest of humanity, promote a heresy while taking on a name which does not belong to them. It is not surprising that for many, if not most of those following this heretical pseudo-Pro-life movement, they promote their heresy or follow it, based merely upon an emotional reaction. Likewise, it should not be surprising for most of them, there is no real challenge to their livelihood, no real risk to themselves, in order to promote their error: they are not going to abort their children, nor are they going to euthanize anyone in their families. If that is the extent of what it means to be pro-life, then it is easy to look like a good, outstanding member of the movement while working for the destruction of the dignity of others. In other words, it is easy to use the mantle of being pro-life, taking on the name which does not properly belong to them, and use it to hide their real decrepit, anti-life activities. Using babies as a means of excusing their treatment of others demonstrates how far they are from being truly pro-life. Their rhetoric ends up being geared toward self-promotion, while doing little to nothing in the world which truly makes it better for all.

It is time to call out the heretical pro-life movement for the heresy it promotes. At its root, it is selfish individualism trying to hide from itself its own evil ways, finding excuses to stop the promotion of a better society through solidarity with the needy and the creation of just laws which work for all.  These excuses show how far the movement is from the real Gospel of Life. They promote the core evil which St. John Paul II tried to overcome, the selfish individualism which rejects the need for society to come together and truly worth together for justice. They promote a libertarian view of freedom which denies true freedom, because it is through such an ideology they can justify their own selfishness. Thus, St. John Paul II said it best when he wrote: “At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them.”[6]

That the heretical from of the pro-life movement is a cover for such selfish individualism is easily discerned by the way the lives of anyone else other than babies are elderly are treated by the so-called pro-lifers. All forms of excuses are given to justify disregard human dignity, certifying in the end, that the so-called pro-life movement is as favorable to life as the so-called Gnostics had received higher revelation from God: not at all.

 


 

[1] G.K. Chesterton, America, November 9, 1935.

[2] G.K. Chesterton, William Blake (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1920  ),167.

[3] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae. Vatican Translation. ¶3.

[4] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae. Vatican Translation. ¶87.

[5] “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. Life in time, in fact, is the fundamental condition, the initial stage and an integral part of the entire unified process of human existence,” Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae. Vatican Translation. ¶2.

[6] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae. Vatican Translation. ¶19

 

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