From the election-time boogeyman of the “hidden agenda” to novels like The Handmaid’s Tale, the left-wing of the Canadian imagination preoccupies itself with the production of alarmist prophecies. Self-anointed seers repeat a ritual unmasking of supposed culturally conservative conspiracies, and expose the concealed seeds of a coming Christian despotism. This nightmare scenario is like the paranoid fantasy of a patient who is actually sick. Something is rotten in the state of Canada, but it is not a rising tide of socially conservative tyrants.
While the face of the conservative menace constantly changes, the fantastical plot of these stories remains unchanged: first go social programs; then civil liberties are stamped out. These, however, are always a mere prelude to the same crescendo: the abolition of legal abortion. This prohibition always lurks in the shadows of such fantasies because it is the dark, ugly truth which cannot be defended on its own terms or seen at all in the clear light of day. When socially liberal pundits call forth specters of totalitarianism to scare the public, they must dream themselves something more terrifying than the terrible truth of abortion.
Legal abortion is the undiagnosed ailment of our culture: it is the dark root of these imagined oppressions, the ugly truth which such stories are meant to
occlude. Indeed, it is much easier to impute nefarious intentions to the opponents of legal abortion than to consider the act itself. For the mind involuntarily recoils from the lie that abortion is a clean, inconsequential, victimless procedure that leaves women with healthy bodies and untroubled consciences. In order to tolerate the abomination of abortion, the social liberal imagination produces imagined enemies as a mental defense which prevents them from directly facing such an indefensible lie.
But while such imagined terrors might prevent the horror of abortion from coming to mind, they cannot conceal its disastrous effects. Legal infanticide has a corrosive effect on our entire culture; it is, indeed, an evil that debases everything it touches. And, because our culture has occluded the horrible cause of its illness, it suffers from effects which it cannot understand.
For instance, our “consumerist lifestyle” is blamed for alleged environmental problems, but only because the moral arenas of our age are ecological and economic; an irreverent and casual attitude to the profound mysteries of life – and the destructive practice of abortion which eliminates its consequences – is never mentioned. Similarly, well-meaning activists try to convince us we are producing too much, but do not seem to notice that we are reproducing too little. The felt need for “preservation” of animal habitats and ecological systems is not extended to our species.
In earlier historical moments the West has been accused of “cultural imperialism” and even, in some cases, “cultural genocide.” These, however, are not the evils of our moment; through legalized abortion, our culture is currently inflicting a slow, sterile suicide upon itself through what might be called “cultural infanticide.” We are allowing the elimination of the very people that would inherit the things we love and, in doing so, we guarantee that our way of life will not survive. Indeed, the ubiquity of relativism and multiculturalism among our cultural elites is the result of insecurity of a culture that knows it will not last.
In 1994, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Mother Teresa of Calcutta diagnosed the dilemma of the West when she asserted that “abortion, which often follows from contraception, brings a people to be spiritually poor, and that is the worst poverty and the most difficult to overcome.” The poverty from which the West suffers is immaterial, and our culture feels it instinctively. But, rather than facing the terrible cause of our sickness directly, it invents invisible opponents to explain away the all too visible symptoms of our deprivation.
Thus, instead of eradicating the evil of abortion, our culture is succumbing to its own illness, believing in the very delusions which its sickness produces. But, in the words of St. Basil: “Evil is opposed, not only to the good, but to itself.” Given time, the self-inflicted evil of abortion will eliminate the very illusions that have been produced to protect it. When the last phantasm fades, and our culture sees the poverty to which it has so willfully consigned itself, Mother Teresa’s words will become the treasury of a spiritually destitute people, truer at that time than when they were first spoken. Until that day, we repeat her words to any that will listen; “he who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mk 4:9).