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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Fr. Mark Hodges

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NY court lets woman refuse vaccine made with aborted baby tissue

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

NEW YORK, September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An Orthodox Christian woman has won the right to refuse a vaccine developed using aborted babies' tissue, based on her religious beliefs.

The vaccine is for measles/mumps/rubella and is required by New York City law for all schoolchildren. It was developed from fetal tissue procured from abortions, hence the moral dilemma for practicing Christians.

The woman, who remains anonymous, said her Christian beliefs against abortion compel her to have nothing to do with vaccines made using aborted fetal tissue.

"Abortion is clearly a mortal sin and is [an] abhorrent act to any Christian," the New York mom said in her petition for exemption, according to the New York Post. "The vaccine manufacturers' use of aborted fetal cells in its products and research means that I cannot associate with them or support them financially (by buying their products), for such support would make me complicit to their sin."

New York State Department of Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia concluded in the woman's favor, explaining, "The weight of the evidence supports petitioner's contentions that her opposition to the MMR vaccine stems from sincerely held religious beliefs."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Christianity has always opposed abortion, from the time of the New Testament.  The Bible teaches that from conception, the womb holds a human person, calling pregnancy "to be with child" (Isaiah 7:14). Many biblical individuals are explicitly described as called or known from the womb, such as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-5), Isaiah (Isaiah 44:2;  49:1), Job (Job 10:8-12), Paul (Gal. 1:15), and John the Baptist (Lk. 1:15). The New Testament also condemns abortifacients (Galatians 5:20;  Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, 22:15).

Other early Church documents condemning abortion include the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Apocalypse of Peter, St. Athenagoras's writings, the letters of St. Clement of Alexandria, the Apostolic Constitutions, Tertullian, Hippolytus's Apostolic Traditions. Additionally, every early Church council says likewise. 

Every ancient Christian leader unequivocally wrote that abortion, without exception, is against Christian belief and practice. Those who wrote extensively on the topic include St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, St. John the Faster, and the sixth worldwide Great Ecumenical Council (691).

This conviction continues to the present day. The Congress of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America stated, "The Orthodox Church has a definite, formal, and intended attitude toward abortion. It condemns all procedures purporting to abort the embryo or fetus, whether by surgical or medical means. The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder, that is, the premeditated termination of the life of a human being.  Decisions of the Supreme Court and state legislatures by which abortion is allowed, with or without restrictions, should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life."

Thus, New York admitted that the woman's beliefs were in line with her religion.  Nevertheless, pro-abortionists say the First Amendment's assurance of the free exercise of religion should not include parents choosing whether to vaccinate their children.

Pro-abortionists sharply criticized the decision. "If we allow people to opt-out of vaccination, it puts other people's children at risk," says Sharon Levin of the pro-abortion National Women's Law Center.  "I think this decision is just one can in a crate of a can of worms that have been opened since the Hobby Lobby decision."

Levin was referring to Hobby Lobby's legal attempt to opt out of Obamacare's mandatory abortion/sterilization/contraception coverage, which violated the family-owned and operated corporation's religious convictions.

Yahoo Health writer Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reports that undercover Planned Parenthood videos "have pushed questions regarding fetal tissue-based biomedical research to the forefront."

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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‘It’s absurd’: Rand Paul blasts Kim Davis’ jailing over gay ‘marriage’

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By Ben Johnson

ASHLAND, KY, September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has been arrested and taken to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples this afternoon. After repeatedly refusing to give such a license to gays and lesbians, a federal judge found her in contempt of court and sentenced her to jail time rather than assessing a fine. 

As she was escorted out of the courtroom to jail, homosexuals began chanting, "Love won! Love won!" 

As the scene played out, her U.S. senator, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, said the decision was unwarranted, violated religious liberty, and would further polarize the country on the issue of same-sex "marriage."

"I think it's absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty," Sen. Paul, R-KY, told CNN. "If you want to convince people that same-sex 'marriage' is something that's acceptable I would say try to persuade people" instead of using state force.

He also warned such heavy-handed tactics would backfire on LGBT activists. "If we're going to use the federal government, and we're going to get involved in every state and locality, you know what's going to happen? It's going to harden people's resolve on this issue," Paul added. "There's going to be no open-mindedness on this."

"I think it's a real mistake to be doing this," he said.

He said if state force continued to be exerted against Christian believers, "I think what's going to happen as a result of this is states and localities are just going to opt out of the marriage business completely."  

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning - a George W. Bush appointee and the son of former moderate Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky - had ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples but was repeatedly rebuffed.

"The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order," Judge Bunning said in issuing the arrest order. "If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that's what potentially causes problems."

Bunning ordered Davis imprisoned, rather than imposing a fine, because he said her fellow believers would take up a collection and pay her fine. 

Similar tactics were applied when Christians who refused to participate in same-sex "marriages" tried to raise funds via crowdfunding platforms.

Paul's rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination - Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio - have also voiced their support for the now-incarcerated Davis. 

"We should seek a balance between government's responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions," Rubio said yesterday. "There should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office."

But her opponents say they demand nothing unreasonable of her. ACLU attorney Heather Weaver said, "Its not making someone a martyr to ask someone to do their job and follow the law."

Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina have agreed that clerks who have deeply held religious beliefs must enforce the law. Christie underscored his resistance to finding any accommodation for public officials.

The prospect of jail does not frighten Davis, a born again Christian, who says iron bars cannot separate her from the Savior Who dwells in her heart, nor does prison compare to the punishment that she believes awaits should she participate in legitimizing sin.

"I've weighed the cost and I'm prepared to go to jail," Davis told Fox News yesterday. "This is a Heaven-or-Hell issue for me and for every other Christian that believes. This is a fight worth fighting."

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Hundreds of thousands of people join the 'Manif pour tous' march in Paris supporting natural family in 2014.
Gabriele Kuby

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Alarmed report details Sexual Left’s agenda to defeat surging European family movement

Gabriele Kuby
By Gabriele Kuby

September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The world-wide operating Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is the intellectual activist centre of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which presently governs Germany in a coalition with the Christian Democratic Party under Chancellor Angela Merkel. As their publications and conferences reflect, the FES pushes for same-sex “marriage,“ reproductive rights, biotechnology, sexual diversity, gender equality, and sexual education. It also publishes reports with the intention of “naming and shaming” individuals, organizations, parties, and networks which work on behalf of life and the family.

The FES’s latest publication takes an international approach, describing anti-gender activists and actions in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Titled Gender as Symbolic Glue: The position and role of conservative and far-right parties in the anti-gender mobilizations in Europethe report was published by something called the Foundation for European Progressive Studies – “with the financial support of the European Parliament” and the Budapest branch of the FES.

The authors are alarmed over the growing resistance to ‘gender politics’ seen at the grass-roots level (e.g. La Manif pour tous movement in France and Demo für alle in Germany) and expressed in referendums held in several countries across Europe. In addition, they cite the opposition of political parties at the local and European levels, and the ‘anti-gender’ declarations of Bishop’s Conferences. What is seen as a dangerous development by the sexual left is really a testimony to the success of the pro-life and pro-family movement in Europe. The authors say:

Anti-gender movements want to claim that gender equality is an ‘ideology’, and introduce the misleading terms ‘gender ideology’ or ‘gender theory’ which distort the achievements of gender equality … This phenomenon has negative consequences for the legislation on gender equality.

The Symbolic Glue report then provides “policy recommendations for the progressive side to stand up against fundamentalist political activism.”

The individual country reports on the “reactionary backlash” against gender politics in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia give a good overview of the situation in each country and the positions of the conservative and right-wing parties. In contrast to previous publications from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which tried to defame and stigmatize conservative individuals as right-wing radicals, bigots, and family-fundamentalists, the Symbolic Glue report largely refrains from such slanderous language. In fact, the authors sound worried that conservative activists are acquiring dominance in public debates, and are influencing party politics and legislation by: 

  • coining the terms “gender-ideology” and “genderism”;
  • giving “scientific” evidence against “gender ideology”;
  • mobilizing at the grass-roots level through “fear-managing language”;
  • making use of “authoritarian themes” such as the polemic against the French schoolbook Tous à poil (All naked);
  • creating “moral panic” that “allows socialist officials to be accused of … jeopardising the future of society”;
  • re-articulating “parent-power” or parental involvement in “promoting the parents as actors of the restoration of authority and traditional values at school”;
  • the “gradual subordination of educational institutions to Christian conservative worldview, carried out by local authorities in cooperation with the Catholic Church and religion-based organisations”;
  • utilizing “hate-speech towards Gender Studies” (as an academic subject) and relying on “freedom fighter rhetoric”;
  • pointing to the EU as a “cultural coloniser”;
  • leading successful constitutional referendums for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Symbolic Glue also analyses the deficiencies of the sexual left. It is difficult to say whether this self-critical stance is a tactical device to arouse sympathy and motivate people to engage in the anti-anti-gender battle, or whether it is really dawning on the authors that anti-gender movements can have “grave consequences not only to women’s and LGBT rights but to the emancipatory promise of the Left altogether.”

The sexual left, according to the authors’ own evaluation, seems to be missing ‘symbolic glue’. They see:

  • “difficulties of building an ideological response to conservatives”;
  • “lack of public campaign against the anti-gender discourse”;
  • “the inability to articulate a progressive agenda in the concrete experience of “ordinary people”;
  • the counter-reactions of leftist parties to the anti-gender mobilisation being “one step behind those of extra-parliamentary forces”.

The ultimate intention of the authors is to cure “progressives” of these deficiencies. But it is good that they also let conservatives know how they want to achieve this. 

Indeed, it is difficult to convince “ordinary people” of the notion of gender theory, and that the traditional identity of man and woman are restrictions on human freedom that must be overcome by voluntarily choosing one’s gender identity according to one’s feelings. Since the authors supply no definition for the concept of gender identity, we have to refer to the Preamble of The Yogyakarta Principlessince it is one of the rare places where a definition is given:

‘Gender identity’ … [refers] to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

The solution to the incompatibility of gender theory with common sense – rooted in nature – is apparently to drop the concept of gender entirely. "Using the concept of gender as a technical category in the long run can be more self-destructive than useful while encountering this new political challenge." The progressives intend to move away from a “framework of identity politics” and reclaim the “real leftist values, using the language of solidarity” by “creating a counter-language, which reflects the emotional-fear language of the rightists.” Furthermore, “Instead of putting the emphasis on ‘human nature’ or ‘traditional values’, progressive actors have to take advantage of other aspects of ‘common sense’:  us/them distribution of power and wealth. Defining political antagonism is a pathway to hegemony.” The authors recognize that the opposition is composed of hard to control grass-roots movements and, therefore, advise progressive actors and left-wing parties to “strongly connect to grassroots [sic] organisations, local and individual initiatives.”

Furthermore, the public is to be provided “with concrete information about gender studies and policies through academic conferences, articles and statements from gender experts.” But in addition to conferences and a public dialogue between feminists and Catholics in order to “ridicule the anti-gender campaign”, an “e-learning course on … gender equality”, developed in Slovakia, is recommended as “best practice”, targeting administration staff, students, and the general public.

The authors of the Symbolic Glue report also sound somewhat startled to see a “paradigm change in science as we know it.” They describe the science they know as the “post-modern turn of modernity … where science became a moral and normative category acknowledging the positionality of the knower. This approach also questions the subject-object division and brings in new symbols, new myths and redefinitions.”

It is worth noting that with the exception of Andrea Petö who wrote the Epilogue, the report’s authors are all young women who belong to the “millennial” generation born around 1980. Several of them are in the process of obtaining a Ph.D., so their academic formation took place during the last ten years. This is precisely the period during which “gender studies” was established as an academic subject at the universities. (In German-speaking countries there are more than 200 professors for “gender” or “queer studies”, nearly all of them women.) “Gender studies” was and is a wide open door for female careers and a booming market for jobs.

These young women only know a “science” which is subordinated to the aim of effecting a political change in society – and academics is seen as an instrument for serving the cause of feminist and LGBT-interests. This so-called “science” has completely severed the academic commitment to the search for truth – which is – or was – the moving force behind the unfolding of European culture.

In general, Gender as symbolic glue, which was published by a foundation with a certain scientific claim, does not show the slightest intention of dealing with arguments on their merit; it just wants to pillory the enemy. Twenty-three individuals – perceived as enemies of the sexual left – are presented in an “Index” at the end of the book. (Wasn’t there an aversion to Catholic “indices” among enlightened liberals?)

In the end, the report says more about the weaknesses of the gender identity movement than about its opponents. The young authors must feel that their ‘intellectual house’ is built on sand, otherwise they wouldn’t express such worried dismay over the opposition they are facing. After all, international institutions like the UN and the EU – with their sub-agencies like the Fundamental Rights Agency and European Institute for Gender Equality – and national governments, with the superpower U.S. leading the way, as well as global corporations like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, and global NGOs like IPPF and ILGA, to name but a few, all with billions of dollars at their disposal, are on the side of the gender identity activists in this cultural war.

So why are these young women worried about the opposition of twenty-three people and a few comparatively tiny organisations with extremely small budgets? The answer is simple: Because they feel that the truth is on their side.

Gabriele Kuby is a sociologist, international speaker, and author of Die Gender-Revolution – Relativismus in Aktion, 2006, and Die globale sexuelle Revolution – Zerstörung der Freiheit im Namen der Freiheit, 2012. Both books have been translated into several languages and are referred to in the Symbolic Glue report. Die globale sexuelle Revolution will be published in the U.S. by Angelico Press in the fall of 2015.

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