Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
The decision to legalize abortion ratified the erroneous conviction that imposing death on an innocent and helpless human being is a legitimate solution to a problem. The result has been a lack of respect and reverence for human life under every aspect, and has produced a society in which courtesy and common human concern have diminished dramatically.
The late Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J., wrote a study that puts this drift into a wider perspective of truth and freedom. Its title is The Drama of Atheist Humanism. A striking chapter in the book is an analysis of a chapter in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. In that novel, Dostoyevsky tells us about Aloyosha, a young monk in a Russian monastery who comes to visit his older brother Ivan who is in jail, accused of the murder of their father. Ivan tells Aloyosha that he has written a poem about the Grand Inquisitor and proceeds to tell him about it.
The setting of the poem is Seville, in the sixteenth century. Jesus comes to visit his people; some recognize him and call out to him for help and healing and he responds. Then, on the steps of the Cathedral, Jesus encounters the bier of a young girl of seven who is being carried out for burial. The crowd begs him to raise her and he does. Watching from the other side of the street is the Cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, a tall ascetic man of ninety years who finally orders Jesus’ arrest.
That night, the Inquisitor visits Jesus in jail and describes for him Jesus’ error in presuming that human beings want to be free. He illustrates this mistake by pointing to the temptation in the desert when Jesus refuses the devil’s solicitations to multiply bread, hurl himself off the temple parapet, and finally reverence Satan himself. The Inquisitor and those in league with him consider themselves martyrs and heroes for taking upon themselves the “burden” of freedom and relieving human beings of this awful challenge: humans do not want to be free, they want to be safe. Finally, the Inquisitor, having finished his charges against Jesus, opens the cell door. Jesus rises, and still without a word, kisses him and leaves.
The March for Life directly challenges the Grand Inquisitor’s position by appealing to human freedom and compassion in the name, ultimately, of the reality of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The March embodies truth’s call to freedom that is meant to permeate the market place. It is a witness to the truth that can make human beings free.