Dorothy Cummings McLean

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Crosses representing babies killed by abortion Students for Life of America / Facebook

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Catholic priests shouldn’t brag about refusing to memorialize the unborn

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy
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DAYTON, Ohio, September 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― A Redemptorist priest bragged earlier this month of having discouraged a pro-life man who wanted to create a memorial for the human lives lost to abortion.  

Fr. Satish Joseph of St. Helen’s Parish in Riverside, Ohio tweeted

A “Right to Life” guy just came to the parish seeking permission to put white crosses on the lawn for unborn babies. I said, “Sure. But I also want crosses for every detained immigrant child and every person killed by capital punishment.” The conversation ended very quickly.

Well, yes, I can imagine it did. The average Catholic who asks a Catholic priest to help protest the annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of unborn human lives does not expect to have to strike a bargain. 

Neither does he expect to be asked to erect crosses for living children, or to equate the killing of the innocent with the execution of convicted murderers. 

To add to the awkwardness, the “Right to Life” guy was probably a layman, and Fr. Joseph is a priest, with all the privileges that entails. Ultimate say over what is erected on the parish lawn is just the least of his powers. So I can easily imagine the unknown “Right to Life” guy backing off in confusion. But don’t forget to pay, pray, and obey there, buddy!

Twitter being Twitter, Fr. Joseph’s boast was met with both praise and blame. 

“I’m as pro-life as anyone, but it does break my heart how some Christians can be absolutely callous about other injustices,” said Jason Hallmark. 

“Capital punishment has been accepted by Apostles, Church Fathers and doctrine for 2000 years,” countered Sean Kennedy. “The state uses its legitimate authority to punish those who murdered innocent life. Abortion is always an intrinsic evil, the taking of an innocent life. There is a distinction.”  

“It's so typical,” said Rachel Dobbs of the “Right to Life” guy. “I encounter this often. Many can't see any other life issue than abortion.”

“Well aren't you just the little virtue signaler,” said Trevor J. Mann of the priest. “That you equate the these issues shows how ignorant of Catholic moral teachings so many leftist Catholics have become. The conversation would not have ended quickly with me, that's for sure.”

And so on. 

I was most struck by the arguments of those Tweeters who tried to calculate how many crosses would proportionally represent the 1,503 executions in the US since 1976 and how many for the estimated 2,000 detained immigrant children, given that there have been over 60 million abortions since Roe v. Wade

In fact, I hope the “Right to Life” guy comes back and does a deal with Fr. Joseph: he’ll put up a single cross for every 100,000 of each group. Thus, there would be a visually impressive 600 crosses for the unborn, a matchstick for the migrants, and three-quarters of a matchstick for the executed felons. It might put the size of the slaughter in perspective for Fr. Joseph.   

The cliché that “Right to Life” guys (and gals) are hard-hearted monomaniacs who “don’t care about the born” is so dull that it would not deserve mention had a Roman Catholic priest not insinuated it in his tweet. 

But it’s obvious that Fr. Joseph means his audience to assume the conversation “ended very quickly” not because the man was disappointed, confused, and unwilling to argue with a priest, but because he despises detained migrant children and dances on the graves of executed felons. Fr. Joseph doesn’t provide any evidence that this man loses all interest in his fellow human beings once they were born, but his fans were happy to believe it and tweeted piously about their frustration in getting fellow pro-lifers to care for the born. 

With friends like this, who needs pro-aborts? 

I am very interested in my fellow human beings, even those who have been born, so I have sent Fr. Joseph an email offering him a chance to make a statement to LifeSiteNews about his statement to Twitter. I have also discovered who was the most recent man to be executed in Fr. Joseph’s home state of Ohio. 

It was Robert Van Hook, 58, a man who had stabbed to death another man 33 years ago. His victim, David Self, was 25 when he was found “nearly disemboweled” in his own sitting-room. Both a cigarette and a paring knife – the murder weapon – were found in Self’s ravaged guts. Self had been expecting sex, not death, and Van Hook confessed to police that he had been robbing gay men since he was 15. 

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Van Hook was remorseful and hoped his execution would bring peace to his victim’s family. 

“Van Hook, weeping, told his victim’s brother, sister and brother-in-law he was ‘very sorry for taking your brother away from you,’” reads the report. “‘I'm no good,’ he said. ‘I hope you now have some peace.’”

I hope Van Hook does, too. The unexpurgated version of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the voluntary acceptance of the death penalty by the offender “takes on the value of expiation.” Van Hook seems to have accepted it, for he went to his death singing. May God have mercy on his soul, and I mean that with all my pro-life heart. 

But it is very unlikely that young David Self went singing to his death, which brings me again to the not-so-subtle distinction between the innocent and the guilty. One distinction is that the innocent are so much more likely to die before their time.  

Thus, I have a modest proposal for Fr. Joseph. Not only should he have 600 crosses erected for the 60 million unborn human lives snuffed out since Roe v. Wade, he should have eight or nine crosses put up for the approximate 800,000 to 900,000 Americans murdered after birth since then. He can have a whole matchstick for the executed felons. For the living migrant children, I suggest he plants an iris flower. It is, after all, a symbol of hope.  

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Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and regularly contributes to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.