Catherine Shenton

Man’s Search for Meaning and abortion: finding hope in suffering

Catherine Shenton
By Catherine Shenton
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“The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.”
– Helen Keller

October 10, 2012 (Unmaskingchoice.ca) - Viktor Frankl witnessed and experienced the far reaches of human suffering. “Life in a concentration camp,” he wrote, “tore open the human soul and exposed its depths.” Man’s Search for Meaning—his reflective recounting of his imprisonment by the Nazis—has much to tell us about life, suffering, and what it is to be human.

Frankl and his fellow prisoners had everything taken from them that could be taken. They were forcibly removed from their homes and separated from their families. Their possessions were confiscated. Even their names were replaced with numbers. Others told them when and where they could sleep, when they must arise, what work they must do, and even how much (or how little) they could eat. And yet we find many heroes among the victims of the concentration camps; for, as Frankl tells us, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I, and probably most people who read this, have never experience the depth of suffering Frankl and his fellow prisoners experienced. Our lives, nevertheless, are not without suffering in some form or another, and so I want to examine how suffering affects opinions and choices in our society. In particular, I often hear suffering given as a justification for abortion, whether the suffering be that of the mother or of the child. Does the suffering of either justify abortion?

Abortion to alleviate the suffering of women?

So many times I hear people condoning abortion out of a sense of compassion for women. An unexpected pregnancy can be a terrifying thing. Sudden responsibility for another human being, if she accepts this responsibility, may reshape a woman’s life—both present and future. Fear, uncertainty, and lack of support are just some of the factors that may contribute to the suffering of a pregnant woman. For some there are further difficulties to deal with—her child may have been conceived in rape, or her health may be in danger. If a woman is considering abortion, it seems reasonable to infer that she is suffering in some way, and that she sees abortion as an acceptable means of alleviating that suffering.

Viktor Frankl witnessed many men, who when confronted with difficult circumstances sought only to alleviate their own suffering, with no regard for the wellbeing of others. He tells of the Capos—men who betrayed their fellow prisoners and took the side of the Nazis. They made their own lives easier, but increased the suffering of others, even condemning some to death by their actions. While we may sympathize with the desperation that led people to behave in this way, these are certainly not the people we remember as the heroes of the concentration camps. We look up to those who chose the harder path—that of retaining their dignity and moral conviction in spite of their suffering, those who sacrificed in whatever ways they could for the benefit of others.

We admire people who do hard things when the right things are hard. We admire people who suffer with dignity, and who suffer for the sake of others. And yet, as Frankl points out, admiring this noble suffering in others is no assurance that we will respond this way when faced with our own sufferings. Most people can probably relate to this. Even in the simple things, we may blame our circumstances for our irritability, impatience, or our failure to help another. While suffering can be an opportunity for courage, so often we use it as an excuse. Frankl, on the other hand, maintains that to be worthy of suffering is to seek the ways our unavoidable suffering can benefit others.

While removing (in the case of abortion, killing) another human being whose presence is causing us difficulty is something we can do, and is a decision which some may sympathize with because they see the difficulty of our circumstances, this is not to say that it is something we ought to do. Acting to alleviate our own suffering at the expense of the lives of others is something many people have done throughout history, but on a deeper level we know that this is not a choice we would commend or even condone in other situations—why should we do so with abortion? Why should our society say that because one human being is suffering, she has the right to end the life of another? The answer is, we should not. We should instead do our utmost to alleviate the suffering of women in crisis, and to preserve the lives of their children.

When we talk about people having freedom to choose, we should always consider what is being chosen, and should strive to challenge one another to choose the highest good. For a woman in a crisis pregnancy, this may mean choosing to see her child as someone to fight for, rather than as something to be gotten rid of. Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Living for her child will not take away a woman’s suffering, but it can help to give that suffering meaning.

Abortion to alleviate the suffering of children?

There are times, according to some defenders of abortion, when abortion is what is in the best interest of the child. “The child is going to have a terrible life. The child is going to suffer. The mother is choosing what’s best for her child.” And what’s best for her child (according to these people) is death.

If someone is going to suffer—perhaps to suffer greatly—are we doing that person a service by ending his or her life? Is abortion justified in cases where children are very ill, or will be born into difficult life circumstances? Is sparing them this suffering an act of compassion?

What was the correct response for Viktor Frankl when confronted with the challenge of speaking to fellow inmates who were in despair? He knew with certainty that if these men remained convinced that their lives had no meaning, if they remained without hope, they would die. Their suffering would end. He could have told them this. He could have said that they were all better off to give up on the miserable lives they were forced to live and simply die. Instead, he challenged them. He challenged them to consider not what they expected from life, but what life expected from them. He challenged them to find a “why” worth living for. He could do little to eliminate their suffering short of ending their lives, but he did much to alleviate it, to help them see meaning in their suffering.

Sparing others suffering when we can is, most certainly, an act of compassion when our means are moral. Sparing someone suffering by ending her life, however, is a misguided attempt at compassion. To deny someone a chance to live will indeed prevent her from suffering, but it will also prevent her from experiencing joy, from loving, and from having the choice to overcome her suffering with dignity. You are the only person with the choice to see meaning or despair in your suffering. You are the only person to make that choice of how you will respond to your circumstances. Why would we deny this choice to others?

We live in a culture that abhors suffering. Suffering is to be avoided—almost at all costs. Life is seen as good and valuable when it is pleasant, comfortable, and pleasurable. We may admire the noble way in which others suffer, but most of us would rather avoid suffering altogether for ourselves. No life, however, is devoid of suffering. There are times when it is inescapable. What then does this mean for our life? Every living human being will suffer in some way or another. Is life then less valuable? On the contrary, Frankl reminds us, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed… When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Every human life will have suffering. Every human being will be faced with choices as to how to respond to his own unique suffering. Some will allow their suffering to chart their course, to dictate their thoughts and actions. Others will be the masters of their suffering. Some will hurt others because they themselves are hurting. Others will face their suffering as a means of protecting others from harm.

What did Frankl discover in his time in the concentration camps? “The truth—that love is the ultimate highest goal to which man can aspire.” To love is to choose the highest good for the other. If we love someone we certainly do not want to see that person suffer. We may do all we can to alleviate the suffering. But when we cannot take the suffering away, to love is to walk beside them and help them recognize their dignity, to help them suffer with their head held high.

To love a woman in crisis is not to offer her death for her child in order to take away her suffering, but to empower her to live for love, and so to find a meaning for her suffering. To love a woman in crisis is to walk with her so that she may not say “My circumstances forced me to do what was wrong,” but rather, “I had the courage to do what was right.”

To love one’s child is not to deny her life so that she may never suffer, but to give her life so that she may experience it in its fullness, and to teach her to suffer with dignity when suffering cannot be avoided.

We live in a culture where people seek to make their lives easier by ending the lives of others, but to love our culture is to constantly call people to live for something higher, to recognize their own dignity and the dignity of others. Humanity is capable of great cruelty, selfishness, and evil. We see this now with abortion, as we see it throughout history. Humanity, however, is capable of still greater love, selflessness, courage, and good. We must decide how we will respond to our own sufferings, and to the sufferings of others.

“We have come to see man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

—Viktor Frankl

Reprinted with permission from UnmaskingChoice.ca

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A protester rallies against Hobby Lobby, protesting against the Supreme Court decision Dan Holm/Shutterstock
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

DNC chairwoman exhorts constituents to boycott local Hobby Lobby store

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was nearly two months ago, but the issue as hot as ever, as was demonstrated yesterday when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, D-FL, urged constituents to boycott a Hobby Lobby store in her district.

In a press conference one lot away from the Hobby Lobby location in Davie, which opened in April, Wasserman-Schultz said that she wanted "people to know that this Hobby Lobby is here and they should vote with their purses and their pocketbooks, and women should not shop here."

"If you didn’t know this Hobby Lobby was here before, know it now and don’t shop here. They don’t deserve women’s business because they are the ones that all across the country have made it harder for women to get access to birth control,” she said.

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Wasserman-Schultz said that Hobby Lobby's corporate ownership "doesn’t support its employees" and "wants to be able to get in the personal business of their employees and make health care decisions and replace their own values, replace their employees’ health care decisions, with their values…."

She also criticized the Supreme Court's late June decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, which had sued the federal government over the Obama administration's HHS Mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, say it violates their conscience to pay for coverage for the four abortifacients and potential abortifacients that the mandate required them to cover.

"The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case was not only disappointing, it was dangerous," said the Democrat. "No boss should have the right to dictate and employee’s health decisions because [they] don’t belong in the bedrooms, doctor’s offices or pharmacies of their employees.

"A woman and her doctor know what’s best for their body. Not an insurance company. Not a politician. And certainly not a manager at a Hobby Lobby."

The Supreme Court's decision allowed closely held corporations to not fund coverage of contraception or abortion drugs and devices.

Wasserman-Schultz's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Through a spokesperson, the Green family declined to comment about the Congresswoman's statements. 

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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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America is rejecting abortion because pro-lifers are having more children: study

Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten
By Kirsten Anderson

According to a new Northwestern University study, American attitudes about abortion are trending more conservatively than other contentious social issues, a phenomenon the authors credit to the simple fact that pro-lifers have more kids.

“We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes,” the authors wrote. Using GSS data collected between 1977 and 2010, “We test[ed] the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population.”

The authors wrote: “Support for abortion rights has turned flat after a period of increase following Roe v. Wade, and in recent years there are even indications of a reversal toward more restrictive attitudes. This U-turn is evinced particularly among younger cohorts, and is happening despite liberalizing trends in several ostensibly related issue domains.”

The authors speculated that the reason for the increase in pro-life attitudes among young people is that their parents had more children than their pro-abortion counterparts. When they examined the data, they found that pro-life individuals had, on average, 27 percent more children than those who considered themselves “pro-choice.”

Not only that, but pro-life parents appear to be much more likely to pass their views on to their children. The researchers found that the younger generation’s pro-life shift was too strong to be blamed solely on differences in fertility – meaning children of pro-abortion parents are rejecting their parents’ views.

“[E]ither pro-life beliefs are always more faithfully transmitted than pro-choice ones; or, there has been a cultural shift towards more pro-life beliefs that is being reflected in the parent-child correlations,” the authors wrote.

The study concluded that if it wasn’t for the higher fertility rate among pro-life people, the nation as a whole would favor abortion by about five percentage points more than it does currently – and researchers predict the pro-life trend will continue.

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“Taken together, these findings suggest that fertility has had at least some part in leading the population in a more pro-life direction over time,” the authors wrote. “Further investigation into this pattern indicates that not only are abortion attitudes associated with fertility, but in proportional terms—which is what matters for cultural change—the gap is widening.”

“Fertility has declined for both pro-choice and pro-life groups over the past 30 years, but fertility has declined far less markedly for pro-life individuals,” they added. “Whereas pro-[life] individuals born before 1940 were only having about 1.2 children per one child born to a pro-choice parent, this ratio has grown to over 1.5 for those born in the mid to late 1970s. This pattern suggests that future cohorts may place an even stronger demographic drag on the liberalization of abortion attitudes.”

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A declaration that PP is an 'enemy of the Church' would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication. American Life League
Lisa Bourne

New campaign asks Pope Francis to declare Planned Parenthood an ‘enemy of the Church’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

The Catholic pro-life organization American Life League (ALL) is launching a campaign calling for the Catholic Church to declare Planned Parenthood an “enemy of the Church.”

Using prayer and education, ALL’s Defend the Family campaign seeks to expose the nation’s largest abortion provider for contribution to the destruction of human lives, as well as the family. 

The campaign, said Jim Sedlack, vice-president of ALL, is quite simply “a way of calling attention to the fact that this is a very bad organization.”

“Planned Parenthood is attacking the family, either by killing preborn children or by robbing the souls of the older children,” he said. 

A declaration that PP is an “enemy of the Church” would mean that Catholics who work with, advocate for, or support Planned Parenthood, incur automatic excommunication.

Such a declaration would not be unprecedented. Popes in the past have identified and condemned organizations that posed a grave threat to the Church, most recently Pope Pius XII in 1949 with Communism and Pope Clement XII in 1738 with Freemasonry.

While specifics would depend on the wording of the Papal pronouncement, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews if the Holy Father makes the declaration there would be no mistaking its intent.

“When the pope makes the declaration it becomes crystal clear,” Sedlak said. “There’ll be no shades of gray, it’ll be black and white, it’ll be clear to the world.”

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'Now is the time'

There are still people who are not fully aware of the extent of the societal damage inflicted by Planned Parenthood, said Sedlak, including members of the Church hierarchy. He said it’s important to emphasize the truth of what the abortion giant does.

“That’s why we’re focusing on the enemy,” said Sedlak. “When people really stop and focus on Planned Parenthood, they realize it’s the enemy.”

ALL cites Planned Parenthood’s targeting of children to sexualize them as a major cause of the destruction of the family and a fundamental reason for the Defend the Family campaign.

“They really push for getting young people into lives of sexual sin,” Sedlak said. “Young people who aren’t pulled into sexual activity do not provide a cent of income to Planned Parenthood, but young people who are pulled in provide millions of dollars to the Planned Parenthood empire.”

ALL compiled a comprehensive report on Planned Parenthood titled, “The Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood,” as part of the Defend the Family campaign.

“The document builds the case,” said Sedlak. “Why Planned Parenthood, why now is the time.”

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that for its part Planned Parenthood has always recognized that its greatest enemy is the Catholic Church, even working to have the Church lose its status at the UN.

“They fight anybody who wants to take sex away from the kids in any way possible,” Sedlak said. “That’s one reason why Planned Parenthood is the sex mafia.”

And when Sedlak uses the term “mafia,” he means it literally, pointing out that the Holy Father condemned the mafia in his June 21, 2014, homily in Calabria, Italy, denouncing its, “Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

“Planned Parenthood kills far more people than the mafia,” Sedlak said.

Also underscoring the need for the Vatican to act on declaring Planned Parenthood an enemy of the Church, is the convening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October in Rome, which will lead into the general synod in 2015.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that these, along with the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, are events that ALL will rally around to raise awareness of the Defend the Family campaign.

Preliminary response to the campaign has been very positive, he said.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that the “Vatican can help save souls from Planned Parenthood” report was so well received upon initial presentation to Vatican officials, that ALL was asked to translate it into three more languages.

“The support we’ve gotten from talking to bishops has been overwhelming,” Sedlak said.

Prayer is priority #1

The Defend the Family campaign consists first and foremost of prayer, Sedlak told LifeSiteNews.

“Our approach is that we need prayer support,” he said. “The only way that we’re going to succeed is through prayer to the Blessed Mother; the only way it will succeed is if God wants it to succeed.”

Participants are asked to say regular prayers after Mass, to offer prayers for the pope and to initiate communication with local bishops about the dangers that Planned Parenthood poses to the faithful.

Sedlak also added that The Defend the Family campaign is for everyone, not just Catholics.

He said pro-life supporters of all faith traditions are invited to contact ALL for assistance in encouraging their religious denomination or church leader to declare Planned Parenthood an enemy.

In addition to prayers for the campaign, ALL is asking people to sign and submit ALL’s Declaration of Encouragement to the Holy Father, enroll in the Spiritual Bouquet for the Holy Father and to share ALL resources on Planned Parenthood.

Information, links and resources are available on the campaign website, defendthefamily.org.

Sedlak told LifeSiteNews that ALL is giving the success of the Defend the Family campaign up to God.

“This is all happening in God’s time, and so far he’s been blessing us mightily,” Sedlak said. “And we’re going to go wherever God takes us.”

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