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Archive for September, 2010

Who among us has not sinned? Who among us has not grievously hurt another along the way in life? And who among us hasn’t felt deep remorse, guilt, and shame as we realized through the perspective of maturity and hindsight how much our actions have been a stumbling block for those we hurt so dearly?

Working through the guilt and the shame is an essential part of our own spiritual and psychological growth. One of the surest signs that we have accepted God’s forgiveness and forgiven ourselves as well comes when we are no longer controlled by guilt and shame. It comes when we can speak out against the sort of thing that we have done, acting as lighthouses to warn others of the behavior’s treacherous shoals.

In the pro-life movement, and in the Christian life in general, I have encountered not a few who feel a sense of forgiveness for their past sins but cannot speak out as bold and fearless witnesses. They are hobbled by a false understanding of hypocrisy.

“How can I tell my children not to (fill in the blank) when I did it myself?” Drugs, smoking, birth control, premarital sex, abortion… “I would be such a hypocrite,” comes the protestation. There is the sign of incomplete healing, of the stunting of spiritual growth, of the Evil One whispering our guilt and shame. It is all predicated on a very false understanding of what hypocrisy is, and is not.

Hypocrisy is pretending to be someone or something we have no intention of ever being.

It’s an act meant to deceive others into believing we are a very different sort of person. The issue here is intent. The timing for the hypocritical behavior is in the present moment. A brief example to illustrate:

If I used to be an embryonic stem cell researcher and Planed Parenthood escort (which I have not on both counts) but had a conversion of heart after an encounter with the Truth, I would not be a hypocrite for witnessing against those former evil ways. Such a witness would actually be an act of atonement for those sins by warning others against committing them. Such a witness would be akin to the former slave ship captain who penned one of the greatest hymns of all time:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind but now I see.

If on the other hand, as the author of this blog, I was working secretly in embryonic stem cell research and a PP escort (which I am not on both counts), that would be the supreme act of hypocrisy. The blog would be my pretending to be something and someone I had no intention of being. In other areas I have had my share of youthful indiscretions, which I shall warn my children and others against.

How, after we have deeply wounded others and ourselves, can we not warn those we love of falling into the same trap? We need not make our past sins front page news (which is why for Catholics both the priest and the penitent are bound by the Seal of Confession, unless the penitent wishes to witness in a way that would require admitting to the sin in a public manner).

Of all my heroes in the pro-life movement, and there are legions of them, those who hold a special place in my heart are the post-abortive mothers and fathers who stand and give their searing testimonials. Some were duped by abortionists into believing they were only carrying a pre-human blob of tissue. Others knew what they were contracting the services of the abortionist for. All bear the agony of never knowing in this life the child they will be reunited with in the next.

Alongside the post-abortive parents stand another group of heroes who hold a special place in my heart: The former abortionists who converted and bear witness against this holocaust. Along with the post-abortive parents, they bear some of the deepest wounds and scars of all.

It is not inconsistent for them to stand and witness against this holocaust. While not every post-abortive parent or former abortionist can withstand the emotional agony of public witness, many have healed to the point where they can. And when they do, their witness is consistent with their conversion, with the healing graces they have received. Such witness becomes an occasion of grace in the lives of all who hear it, especially those who have labored under the burden of silent shame, and those who change course and keep the child they had been contemplating aborting.

The same may be said of our witness against the corrosive effects of extra-marital sex, contraception, drug abuse, and all other lifestyles that are inconsistent with our human dignity, health and well being. The hurt and the damage done to humans everywhere by sin bears witness to the universal human nature of Christian anthropology.

There is simply no inconsistency in our witness being in accord with our values and virtues, especially when we come to those values and virtues through hard won experience.

It would be hypocritical to remain silent.

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