Is marching enough?
Given the subject, it always seemed a bit happy.
The March for Life, now entering its 49th year, kicks off with a Christian rock concert – praise and worship played to the tune of an acoustic guitar while a bunch of heart-shaped balloons reading ‘Love Them Both’ bounce to the rhythm of their holder to the crowd in front of the stage. after a prayer-cum-Pep-Talk, acknowledging the legal slaughter of about one-sixth of its population by the United States, joins the entire rally in an eager rendition of “God Bless America.”
Signs matching the balloons are also scattered among the protesters. Another places a cartoon panda above the “Save the Baby Humans” exhortation. A disheveled twenty-something brags about a homemade poster: “Who gave Roe v. calf the aux?” (What?) Others carry more straightforward slogans: “Abortion is Murder” and its variations. A few eccentrics – most of the demonstrators look down as they pass – dare to show the battered and bloodied corpses of the liberation victims. There are Gadsden flags and Trump flags and the occasional stars and stripes. The white and gold of the Vatican is well represented.
Counterpoint: An old man on a sidewalk as we approach the US Capitol yells into a megaphone (gasping breath between each word): “Anti– Pope Francis is not Catholic”, over and over again. Another geezer hosts a concert and stuffs the words “pro-life” into the lyrics of his low-budget repertoire — “Sweet Caroline,” “Stand By Me,” “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” — sans a lot of finesse and tips in a huge bucket that’s already embarrassingly full.
A couple gets it. The man: “Abolish the billionaires, save the children.” The woman: “End capitalism, end abortion.”
Between these images there is singing and prayer, and familiar faces – surprisingly easy to spot in a crowd of so many thousands – are greeted with smiles and friendly conversation. Chaperones feud with eager hordes of high schoolers who at least seem happy not to be in class that day.
In a way, that is correct. Genuine human joy is a perfectly valid means of combating a misanthropic death cult. And there’s legitimate conversation about the practical benefit of the happy warrior approach. Even in the face of the gravest atrocities in human history, strategic calculations must be made. However, we don’t have to look far back in our own history to see another method employed by the pro-life movement.
It was 1970 – three years before the Supreme Court turned the tide on the sanctity of life in this United States. L. Brent Bozell Jr., Editor-in-Chief of triumph (the most shameless Catholic magazine ever published in America) led the charge. The Sons of Thunder, a pro-life organization founded at the University of Dallas, provided a contingent dressed in signature Carlist red berets and khakis. The group had gathered for a memorial service at St. Stephen Martyr on Pennsylvania Ave — a then nine-year-old building with bizarre vaulting and pristine white inside, a cross between a longhouse and a dying coral reef. One modern atrocity for another.
After Mass, protesters marched with papal banners and processional crosses to George Washington University Hospital — one of five abortion facilities then operating in the city. The steady advance of Moloch’s cause over the previous few years had convinced them that “words—discussion, debate, persuasion, the traditional political tools—were not enough,” as one participant later wrote triumph. What was required, as young mother Mary Jo Lawrence put it at the rally, was that men “stand before the abortionist’s knife and the judge’s gavel and say no! to the murderers.”
Bozell and co. entered the slaughterhouse through a side door — a security guard armed with Mace had blocked the front — and requested an audience with the hospital administration, to which they had sent letters demanding that abortion be stopped at the facility. Although the administrator was ready to receive them, a group of overzealous DC police officers rushed in and began beating the peaceful activists – apparently for no reason – pushing the crowd back against a glass door (which shattered) and Bozell’s forehead with a baton pitch.
All who entered the facility were arrested and charges were brought to justify the act: breaking open the glass door police pushed them through, assaulting the officers who actually assaulted them. As each man was carted out of the building in handcuffs, he shouted to the crowd: “Viva Christo Rey!‘ (Long live Christ the King!) and the crowd returned it. It had become the refrain of the day for the Christians gathered there, “Unknown but now theirs – three hundred Americans who go to church on Sundays and pay their taxes and mind their own business are now shouting in a downtown public park.” of the capitalViva Christo Rey! Neither they nor the city can remain unchanged.”
The next day that Washington Post would report: “The phrase was a mystery to the police, who believed it to be Latin. “I don’t know what it was,” said one official, “but it didn’t sound good.”
A year later in triumph, Bozell reflected on the episode and its implications. Unjust imprisonment hadn’t exactly softened his position:
It is not possible in America today to think seriously about being a Christian, much less about carrying out a public Christian apostolate, without also considering the possibility of imprisonment or other discouragements, lesser or greater severity, which the state can throw out to serious Christianity.
Still, he felt discretion was the better part of bravery:
The rule of thumb is given to the individual Christian who has reasonable doubts that he has a duty of conscience to risk imprisonment. The rule is: don’t. A true command of conscience is unmistakably imperative and belongs only to a man in the simple company of God. He has to heed it. But obeying a dubious order isn’t just presumptuous: it means stepping out of a battle where it might be needed (the lone prison bird isn’t long remembered) to make a more effective demonstration.
But that meant neither withdrawal nor even detachment. In a press conference held after his release on bail, Bozell issued a harsh prophecy: “America will have to reckon with its Christians whether it likes it or not.”
The night before this year’s March for Life, some of these Christians gathered to pray in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Outside, in the dark and unnoticed by those praying, a group called Catholics for Choice projected sacrilegious propaganda onto the front of the church’s bell tower. One prognosis was that “one in four abortion patients is Catholic”—a sort of erratic argument, as if to suggest that the moral fabric of the universe was up for a vote.
Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington – hardly a right-wing prelate – issued a vigorous rebuke:
The true voice of the Church was heard just last night at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. There the people prayed and offered the Eucharist, asking God to restore a true reverence for all human life. Those whose antics projected words onto the outside of the church building showed by these pranks that they really stand outside the church, and they did so at night – John 13:30.
(The verse quoted is from Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ: “Now when he had received the morsel, he went out immediately. And it was night.”)
Despair is a sin, and any Christian who gave up that struggle would answer to his Maker for it. But half a century and 60 million lives after Brent Bozell was tried and convicted on charges of defending the unborn child, it’s hard to shake the sense that America has reckoned with their Christians and won.
60 million. For those of us familiar with the subject, the character becomes so familiar that it almost gives up its ability to shock. But it’s really disastrous. It is certain that those who would desecrate the Church of Christ with exhortations to kill – Catholics of choice and their fellow travelers – bear some culpability for this enduring horror.
But could it also be true that those who have accepted this as the price of peace; who have shied away from the prospect of imprisonment or other “discouragements … to serious Christianity”; who insisted words, working in the system, come what may – could we have blood on our hands too? A high price, 60 million.
The cost perhaps of choosing “Sweet Caroline” versus “Viva Christo Rey!“
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