Reflection on LIFE ~ Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

22 Jan 2022 Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn

Lost Innocence and Courage in a World Changed
1 Cor 1:3-9
…grace of God enriched you with all discourse and knowledge.
Christ will keep you firm to the end ….;
Lk 1: 39-56
“the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

God’s outcomes are God’s. Courage admits lost innocence that we have different thoughts, that thinking itself has changed and what is called thinking has changed. Courage stands for the sanctity of life and to call out those who have vacuumed out the recognition that everyone knows. Religiously speaking, it is still possible to see that Christ has done something for us by becoming Incarnate and dying on the Cross and His Resurrection out of love not because of sin. Courage reclaims Christ as Savior and Redeemer. John Locke reduces Him to being an example.
Truth wins because it is truth. “We have rights because we have duties.”[1] St. John Henry Newman could not be clearer. Look deeper. On the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn, all who believe in the rights of the unborn, without exception, remember forward with calm, courage, hope and joyously, the sanctity of life. The remnant remembers the need in modernity for a “thick form” of reason, science and morality to rebuild what Christianity can be. Christianity’s innocence is gone. To many, Christianity has been neutralized, left to a remnant, too often with artifacts that satisfy aesthetic appeal. To be Christian is reduced to decoration.
The deeply charged issue of life was opened up long before the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973. It rests upon us, clearly a remnant of Christianity, to carry forward the argument for the sanctity of life to be articulated with ever greater clarity because the “gift” of modernity enables us to understand life in the womb like never before. Cheerers at the gift of greater scientific recognition are met with weepers who refuse to accept what everyone knows about life and is verified by scientific truth. Opposition to belief and to reason persists. The failure is to admit what everyone knows, the unborn have a right to life. Fortunately, not only Christians believe that God is the giver of life.
The initial attractiveness of systems of thought in the formerly Christian and now secularized western world are rooted in the desire for self-affirmation. “My conscience is absolutely supreme as the norm of truth in practice.” Such a mindset tolerates God to the degree that God is like me, shares my experience, especially of suffering and passion, rejection and abandonment. Once my experience is identical with this, I too am holy, I am God, because there is no radical difference between being finite and infinite. My conscience is auto-justified. The exact opposite is the intellectual and affective humility of the contemplation of Mary, of her pondering all in her heart, her willingness to stand at the foot of the Cross. Every person in and out of the womb is incommunicable existence.
On 22 January, let’s turn to Judge Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis: Exercising Your Faith in an Age of Uncertainty.[2] His readable account of what the U. S. Constitution says about religion and religious liberty and how the U. S. Supreme Court interpreted it, what they got right and where the justices erred is a must for all who believe in life. I join Judge Starr in his courageous critique of President Biden:[3]

a stalwart defender of religious liberty for virtually his entire career,
dramatically changed his tune during the course of the 2020 campaign. …
Even though he is a practicing Catholic,
Biden vigorously attacked the Little Sisters of the Poor
for their conscience-based objection to providing
the venerable order’s employees with contraception services.

Judge Starr concludes that President Biden has reinvented himself and now looms as a potentially dangerous enemy of religious liberty.[4] However, not all is bleak to Judge Starr.

Notwithstanding the ever-growing menace of hostile secularism,
seemingly embraced in his latter years by the nation’s new 46th president,
with Justice Amy Coney Barret’s ascension to the High Court bench,
the future of religious liberty in America
—protected in our constitutional republic by the Supreme Court of the United States—
now seems ever more secure.

Thoughts? Trust your own thinking! I recognize, as never before in my life, that our innocence is gone. Courage is needed in the face of hostile secularism. Judge Starr analyzes the judicial effect of secularism from his own personal involvement. Without saying it, Judge Starr’s Religious Liberty in Crisis recognizes the modern condition and the need for the Christian tradition in the United States to remember prior responses. History includes the sacredness of life. History attests to carrying prior responses forward as part of protecting those rights and innate appeal to take a more active role in advancing the cause of liberty. His approach is compelling in recognition that we seem cast into a stormy sea. “Stay sober and alert” (I Pet 5:8). Judge Starr’s constitutional analysis aligns with Newman’s historical-theological analysis. Both Judge Starr and St. John Henry Newman exemplify “do well what God calls you to do in the time God gives and to leave the rest to God.” Lament lost innocence but act with courage. That is cause for jubilation!
On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn, 22 January 2022, I inaugurate brief reflections historical and theological, “remembering forward.” Memory[5] recalls what needs to be recalled and puts aside for another day what is not of use. However the Christian past may have been valorized, is not the lived historical response to a God of the future as well as the past. God who we trust and count on in all of our individual and communal trials is God who surprises us. Tradition, tradio, as “handing on” fortifies, recharges, and charges us to deal with what is to come with courage and hope. It surmounts the forgetting that seems the adopted code of modernity with a forgetting sanctioned by the Holy Spirit and what I have happily discovered, “remembering forward” licensed by the Holy Spirit.

Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium,
et tui amoris in eis ignem accende:
qui per diversitatem linguarum cunctarum,
gentes in unitate fidei congregasti

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.
You, even in the diversity of languages,
have gathered them in the unity of the faith.

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conv. Univ. of Notre Dame, Remembering Forward.


[1] J. H. Newman, “Letter to Norfolk” (1874-1875). E. Ondrako, Freedom Within the Church: Newman and Gladstone (Syracuse University: Diss. 1994.
[2] Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis (New York: Encounter Books, 2021).
[3] Starr, 177.
[4] Starr, 177-178.
[5] C. O’Regan, “Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Beauty of Forgetting” in Church Life Journal, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame (24 August 2020).

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
January 22, 2022

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