We are pleased to announce the results of the 2010-2011 Father Ted Colleton Scholarship contest. As has been the case in the past, the quality of candidates and their writing abilities have made the decision difficult. We extend our congratulations to all participants (more than 60) and to the three winning candidates. This years essay theme was: Dishonest language leads to dishonest debate and bad laws.
Life is sacred, but our language, debate, and laws disagree
Human life: it is the bond that connects over six billion persons worldwide. It is a sacred gift with which each being created in the image of God has been blessed. It is as miraculous as it is mysterious, and yet we as a society and larger human population have reduced it to something ordinary, something insignificant, and something unimpressive: a mere commodity. We have created self-imposed and severely disordered misconceptions of what life is in order to suit our own often short-sighted desires, and have, in doing so, desacralized the very thing which makes us so unique, extraordinary, and blessed a species. One set apart from all others, created by God to live in His fellowship as a people He loved enough to send His only begotten Son to dwell among. Yet in our moral amnesia and preoccupation with our own lives, we forget just how important we humans are, not only as individuals but moreover as a global people, united in our common humanity, our common life. We mask this importance through our technical determinations of when life begins, and hinder the protection of all people from infancy in the womb until natural death, through language which irrationally limits said importance. Any language, therefore, which detracts from the value of human life, is inherently and obstinately contrary to the truth. Dishonest language regarding the origin of life, the beginnings of autonomous personhood, and the differentiation of the human from any other biological organism has led to a societal debate on abortion which is unproductive, malevolent, and itself untruthful, and legislation similar in manner results as a consequence thereof, to the detriment of millions of unborn.
Disregard for life – the most fundamental of all human rights – manifests itself most vehemently and most disastrously through abortion. The definition of “human life” has been the stumbling block preventing all progress for the just protection of individuals from the moment of conception, when personhood truly begins. Attempts have been made to ascertain a point in time between conception and birth at which life truly begins, but these have all been in vain as no definite point of origin exists beyond conception. In Canada, the treatment of life has been the direst for the child in the womb. Ours is the only Western nation free of effective laws governing, restricting, and preventing the annihilation of innocent babes, and our federal government has placed it in the hands of the respective provinces and their hospitals as to when procedures terminating prenatal life can occur. It is dishonest to believe that life could begin at any point other than the very outset of human existence because logically it is unreasonable to deduce anything else. Biologically, a child is equipped with all the genetic material it shall require for the rest of its life at conception. It will not have to pass an aptitude test, nor complete a practical exam, nor even answer a skill-testing question: it is a human and will be a human forevermore. It is not only completely absurd to think conception predates commencement of human life from an ethical, moral, or religious standpoint, but furthermore science can be utilized as to reinforce the importance of human existence from the formation of a new Homo sapiens sapiens organism. Dishonest language not only interferes with the issue of abortion in terms of defining human life, it also affects our perception of abortion and life issues in general, further contributing to the disposal of innocents.
Matters of life, primarily abortion, are often erroneously seen as one-dimensional issues. They are often categorized as exclusively “Catholic,” or a matter of belief, or something of personal preference like a favourite colour or song. This trivializing classification of abortion as something concerning few, or as limited to a particular group or gender is completely false. Threats to human life are not Catholic, Protestant, Norwegian, Bengalese, male, or female issues. They are human issues, and they affect each and every one of us in a profound way because it is ultimately a human – not primarily a Catholic, Protestant, Norwegian, or Bengalese – being massacred before birth. Whenever the life of a person is jeopardized or violated, our life is jeopardized and violated. Whenever a life is devalued, the human spirit is degraded in each body within which it resides. We are united by our humanity, and that humanity demands universal respect regardless of personal identity. It demands dignity, and anything less is unconscionable. It deserves love, kindness, and justice not disregard, contempt, and belittlement. To deny the importance of life from the moment of conception is to deny one’s own existence. It is to state that when one was in the womb, one was not worthy of the continuity of being, contradicting one’s own survival. It is to degrade not only life prior to birth, but life overall, for postnatal life cannot ensue without an equally sacred prenatal existence.
Because of the immense dishonesty of the language utilized in the “abortion debate,” no one, Liberal or Conservative, seems to have even the slightest inclination to alter the abysmal status of life issues in this country. Legislatively, the government ceaselessly denies the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Abortion has been allowed because of individuals who through deliberate attempts to maliciously persuade, have created propaganda and fallacy, and incited debate littered with inane inaccuracies and illogical conclusions, producing immoral policy and unjust laws. These denigrate the human person, neglect the sanctity of life, and are indifferent towards the irrevocable and comprehensive dignity that each human being deserves. Ultimately, dishonest language leads not only to dishonest debate and bad laws, but to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn.
We as human people are not only created by God, but our creation occurs purposefully and in great and incomprehensible love. This is why human life is precious, and it is time our attitudes, language, and ideals reflect that awesome truth, and our laws uphold and protect it as a result.
1st prize winner Julian Paparella attends Catholic Central High School in London, Ont.s.
A thorn by any other name
Margaret Atwood once said that “a word after a word after a word is power.” Words have the power to captivate and sway the hearts of men, for good as well as for evil. Jesus taught mankind that to have life, one must walk in the truth. Falsehood leads only to death and destruction. This is only too evident in the current debate surrounding abortion, where dishonest language in debate has led to immoral laws. Refusal to acknowledge the fetus as a human being has allowed pro-abortion activists to justify this crime and has absolved governments of the responsibility to protect the unborn child. Similarly, attempts to turn the focus from the child to the mother and to classify abortion as a “woman’s right” have masked the plea of the unborn child and his or her right to life.
Perhaps the most widely debated notion in the abortion issue is the status of the fetus and whether or not it is a human person, though it is widely agreed that a fetus is in fact a human being. From conception onward, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” This teaching is also supported scientifically: the zygote – the initial living cell which is formed when a sperm cell and ovum combine – has all the genetic information necessary for every characteristic of that human person within the human genome. This means that the main difference between zygote, fetus, child and adult is simply their level of development; neither is less of a person, and each is fully human. As stated by Pope John Paul II in February of 2002, “The distinction sometimes made in certain official documents between a human being and a human person to then apply the right to life and physical integrity only to people who are already born is an artificial distinction without scientific or philosophical foundation.”
The Catholic Church upholds that the “inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority” and that “the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.” However, because of the difference in a single word, the unborn child in Canada is deemed unworthy of rights, and therefore undeserving of life. Following the example of Pierre Trudeau who once stated that “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation,” the Canadian government has left the issue of abortion in limbo since their last failed attempt to ban abortion in 1991. Canada currently has no effective law either prohibiting or permitting abortion, but what does this actually mean for the rights of the fetus?
Although not legally declared as such in plain language, the unborn in Canada are clearly not legally considered human persons. This is evident by the fact that Canada has abortion clinics funded by taxpayer dollars and no punishment is being enforced on those involved in the slaying of countless children. The failure of Canadian law to recognize an unborn child as a human person has allowed the rights of millions to be denied. Just as past failures to recognize blacks, Jews and even children with birth defects as people led to the massacre of millions, so too now has the refusal to recognize the personhood of the unborn child legitimized the murder of innocents.
In the current world-wide debate surrounding abortion, those who support abortion have dubbed themselves “pro-choice.” This particular wording has a positive connotation which disguises the truth of what it means to support this unspeakable act. The “choice” being advocated for is that of the mother to decide the fate of her own body. It is true that a woman has the right and God-given freedom to control her body; she executes this freedom in deciding to have sexual relations or not. However, once a child has been conceived, the body in question is no longer that of the woman, but that of an entirely separate human person. It is precisely here that the language must be made clear. The “choice” spoken of no longer belongs to the mother, but to the child in the womb. Regrettably, dishonest language has disguised the choice to murder as a woman’s choice to control her own body. The child’s choice has been overlooked and his freedom denied. Based on this deceitful argument, abortion is legal today in nearly every country. Indeed, because of the inaccurate and misleading use of the term “pro-choice,” those who support abortion are actually being allowed to support the murder defenceless children, which is not a right of any man or woman, but an irresponsible and selfish exercise of freedom.
Words are indeed power. It is by the misuse of this power that abortion has become a widely accepted practice, both at a personal and legal level.
Pro-abortion advocates inaccurately claim abortion as the right of a woman to control her “own body” while the law in many countries passively condones the murder of children who are not technically deemed people. The lies of the world have led to death, destruction and slavery. Jesus makes it clear that only the truth will set man free. Indeed, only when the world is ready to embrace the truth will there be justice and life for all.
3rd prize winner Stefania Lista of Maple, Ont., attends Cardinal Carter Academy of the Arts in Toronto.