Everything we do in life is controlled by law. Law governs our lives from the moment we are conceived, and the law governs the probate of our estate after our death, and law controls everything between conception and death.
Law can be good. Law can be bad. Law can be a vehicle for virtue. Law can be a vehicle for vice.
For society to function in a harmonious manner, the law of God and the law of man must coincide. History is replete with examples where the law of God and the law of man have gone in different directions. Make no doubt about it! When the law of God and the law of man are in conflict, the law of God is going to prevail.
We live in an era of history where the assertion of rights has taken great prominence. There is an essential truth which we must understand. No one has the right to do something which is wrong.
There are two horrific examples in American history where the law of God and the law of man have been in conflict. In each of these cases practices which are clearly wrong were legalized. The first is slavery. The second is abortion.
The Dred Scott decision did not end the slavery debate. Slavery was legal, but it would never be moral. The case paved the way for the Civil War which began in 1861 in which a half million Americans lost their lives. A great deal of innocent blood was shed during the Civil War.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment ended for all time the slavery question. The Fourteenth Amendment states, “No state shall abridge the privileges of immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”
In 1973, 116 years after the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, held that pre-born people are not included in the definition of person as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the right to privacy encompasses a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
Seven justices voted to legalize abortion. Two justices dissented. Strangely, nowhere in the constitution does the word privacy exist.
More than 49 million babies have been legally aborted in the United States since 1973. At the present time we are aborting 4,000 babies a day and one and a half million babies a year. Approximately one third of all children conceived in the United States are aborted. These are strange statistics for a country that guarantees equal protection under the law for all persons.
Unfortunately, because of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal. But, like slavery, it is not moral and it never will be. The Dred Scott decision did not end the battle over slavery. The Roe v. Wade decision did not end the battle over abortion.
The Supreme Court committed the same mistake in each case. They allowed false persuasions to abrogate the fundamental rights of entire classes of people.
In Dred Scott the court allowed interests of slave owners to dominate black people. In Roe v. Wade, the court allowed the interests of abortionists to dominate pre-born people.
In Dred Scott the court allowed black people to be viewed as property and to be condemned to slavery. Roe v. Wade allowed the pre-born to be viewed as non-persons and to be condemned to death.
In the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II addressed the dignity and incomparable value of every human person and the dishonor to the Creator by whatever is opposed to life itself. He says that laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are completely lacking in judicial authority, and there is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws, instead there is a clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.
Monsignor James P. Farmer is pastor of St. Ursula’s church in Parkville and spiritual director to the archdiocesan respect life committee. This column was excerpted from his homily at the Red Mass Oct. 23.