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ETHICS

The Great Disconnect

By Father John Breck

Orthodox Church in America-OCA -

The disconnect, in other words, lies in the irrational and immoral way we have allowed the principle of the mother's rights to take absolute precedence over the reality of the child's very life.

According to my dictionary, disconnect is a verb. Its noun form is disconnection. The idea behind both is the severing of a connection or relationship. More generally, the terms can imply a break in logic, as in to disconnect from reality through false reasoning.

A few years ago people started using the verb form as a noun, to express this last idea. A disconnect doesn't hang together. It can imply a fractured relationship: Jim and his wife a total disconnect! It can signify detachment from reality, as when a teenager remarks about parents, They're on disconnect! Or it can suggest mental incompetency, an inability to reason coherently: Alzheimer's creates a massive disconnect.

The noun disconnect possesses its own special energy. Substitute disconnection for it in the examples above, and you'll see what I mean.

There's a profound disconnect, it seems to me, in the surprisingly articulate and substantive acceptance speech the Democratic presidential candidate (to avoid naming names) made not long ago. Whatever your political inclinations, you could hardly fault him on specifics and the way he spelled out his party's and his own vision for the future. What troubles me is the lack of logic the total disconnect in his treatment of life issues.

First we heard an impressive litany of proposals for supporting and defending everything from affirmative action to universal medical care, particularly for children. Children, in fact, were a major focus of the proposals, as the candidate homed in on problems of health, education and general welfare. He is a family man who takes obvious pride in his own children, just as he reflects family values that in recent years have been trampled into the dust. His proposed programs would offer extraordinary benefits and safeguards to America's children, without concern for their gender, class or race.

As long as they have made it out of the womb.

This disconnect came when he affirmed in strident terms his support for a woman's right to choose. We have heard so much on both sides of the abortion issue that to raise it once again risks annoying, if not infuriating, pro-choice as well as pro-life people. Without going into the details of abortion procedures, as pro-life groups want to do, it's worth giving a moment's thought to the implications of that August speech and to the pro-choice agenda in general.

How is it that a sincere and well-meaning person argues so eloquently and compassionately for education, universal medical care and other benefits for the young yet supports abortion on demand, including the inhumane procedure of infanticide known as partial-birth abortion? How can someone defend with such conviction and passion the rights and needs of our children, yet draw an absolute line at (total) emergence from the womb?

Were my children any less human persons than they are now when they were still in their mother's body, or when all but one small portion of their anatomies was born? Were yours? Were you?

I look at my now grown boys long since become young men and I marvel at the life that is theirs. Not just biological existence, but life in the biblical sense. Not only distinct and distinctive personalities, but persons, unique and inexpressibly precious. Each of them sees the world and relates to it in a special way. Day by day each one contributes something to it, through laughter, humor, sympathy, reflective observations, music, creative energy, and acts of kindness.

All children do this, insofar as we offer them space and encouragement to do so. There's nothing unusual in that. The Columbines of our society are demonic aberrations, not the norm.

Our children like ourselves, though that is harder to admit and maybe to recognize are creatures of infinite value.

They have the capacity to offer the gift that transforms any soul from simple individual into fully mature person : the gift of selfless love. And we can only love them in return.

There are reasons, sometimes very good if inevitably tragic reasons, why a woman feels compelled to resort to an abortion. In all of those times she needs our support, understanding and love rather than our condemnation. This is not where the disconnect lies, whatever the circumstances that lead to her decision.

The disconnect lies in public policy that rightly defends the newly born yet allows the almost born to be destroyed.

The disconnect, in other words, lies in the irrational and immoral way we have allowed the principle of the mother's rights to take absolute precedence over the reality of the child's very life.

Human life does not begin at birth, any more than it begins with adolescence or with the first Social Security check. It begins as the ancient Fathers of the Church knew, long before embryologists came on the scene at conception.

Until that truth is acknowledged, public policy will continue to operate in a mode of profound disconnect. And we will continue, with legal sanction and social approval, to engage in a massacre of the innocents.



The Very Rev. John Breck was professor of New Testament and Ethics at St. Vladimir's Seminary from 1984-1996. He is presently professor of Biblical Interpretation and Ethics at St. Sergius Theological Institute, Paris, France, and with his wife Lyn directs the St. Silouan Retreat near Charleston, SC. His published works include The Sacred Gift of Life, The Power of the Word, and The Shape of Biblical Language (St Vladimir's Press).


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