From Monday, October 19 through Thursday, October 22, the Boston College pro-life club sponsored Respect Life Week, a series of events aimed at increasing awareness of abortion on campus and raising money for various causes in order to assist pregnant women. The club hosted a variety of speakers throughout the week, including the head of A Woman’s Concern, a nearby pregnancy resource center, and a representative from Project Rachel, a program specializing in post-abortive healing.
The week began with a display of an unborn child’s development over the course of a pregnancy. Posters were arranged in the Dustbowl, along with tables set up to provide brochures and information to curious passers-by. On the second day, three hundred sixty crosses were planted into the ground of the campus green, each symbolizing ten women and unborn children hurt by abortion each day. The “Cemetery of the Innocents” Display drew the ire of a number of protesters, who lined up a few feet away to hold signs and voice their disagreement with the Pro-Life Club and the Catholic Church.
Though the reactions of many to the events of the week suggested significant opposition to the pro-life cause, there existed some support among the student body. For instance, Matt Dunn, A&S ’11 praised the week, saying “it is important to learn about what happens with respect to choosing to have sexual intercourse, and what results, and how people’s lives change from having children or having an abortion and how both have dire consequences.” Some passing by the events also expressed their approval and their support for making known publicly the harmful effects of abortion on individuals and society as a whole.
If Boston College’s Catholic identity is to be maintained, it is indeed necessary that the Church’s opposition to abortion continue to exert a visible influence on campus. If BC students are so strongly encouraged to be “men and women for others,” there is no reason such an exhortation should push pregnant women and the unborn into the background. Yet often, it seems that many at BC are willing to allow this to happen. Despite the urgency of the issue of abortion and the good efforts of the pro-life club, the rhetoric around campus is consistently characterized by the vague, circuitous idea of “social justice.” This language, while well-intended by many, ultimately does away with the true, Catholic notion of social activism, and undermines the importance of the pro-life movement.
Typical activism at BC and many other Catholic schools is unfortunately pervaded by teleological error. Man is taken to be his own last end, rather than as a creature destined to union with his Creator. Consequently, true blessedness would consist not in union with God, as the Church would teach, but rather in an earthly “paradise” where poverty and suffering are eradicated. There is nothing wrong with meeting the needs of the poor, or working for a just social structure that provides for them and reduces their difficulties. Many wonderful, holy individuals throughout the Church’s history have done just that. However, all of them saw this aim as something secondary and subservient to man’s ultimate end or telos, which is met with not here, but in the next life in the beatific vision.
In the modern Church, however, many reverse the two ends, and transforming society becomes the goal of Christianity, as opposed to Faith-inspired social transformation being a means to make society conform more fully to Catholic teaching. A truly Catholic renewal of society would aim to do away with everything opposed to truth, goodness, and beauty, and assert the preeminence of the moral good in perfecting the human person. This is because authentic social transformation sees spiritual rather than material poverty as the real enemy, keeping intact the Christian notion of God as man’s last end, and the only true source of happiness and freedom. As Pope Pius XI puts it so perfectly in the encyclical Quas Primas, “When once men recognize, both in private and public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace, and harmony.”
For this reason, Catholic activism would never undermine the importance of helping the poor, but rather, would emphasize the end of providing such assistance. We care for the poor because Christ commanded us to do so, and because meeting the basic needs of others provides them with an easier opportunity to attain, by grace, to their supernatural end. Catholic activism also would absolutely never allow the issue of abortion to be glossed over, when the current legal status of such an awful crime deprives unborn children of their most basic right to life, and permits doctors and pregnant mothers to blatantly violate the natural law. For a Catholic university which so greatly emphasizes the idea of being “men and women for others” and creating a just social order, it is essential to emphasize more forcefully the Kingship of Christ over every aspect and dimension of Boston College.