When Campaign Life Coalition brought Charles Rice of the Notre Dame Law Faculty to Toronto on April 20, it set up a very demanding schedule for him. He was asked to speak to a group of clergymen at noon, to a group of lawyers and doctors later in the afternoon, and to a large mixed audience in the evening. All three of the talks he gave were clear, cogent, and humorous, and the repines to them was enthusiastic.
He began from a natural law position.
The natural law is simply the way things work: a rock sinks, a bird flies and grass grows because it is their nature to do so. Beyond this, there is a natural moral law, regulating human conduct; it reflects man’s essential moral nature, which is the same for all and does not change.
This law still governs our behaviour, even though the Enlightenment philosophy which has gained ascendancy in the last three centuries rejects the idea of an external moral authority and make the individual human being the arbiter of truth.
Society has seen the growth of secularism, meaning the religion has become privatized – regarded as a personal eccentricity, not a basis for public policy – and relativism has become accepted – meaning that the search for truth is regarded as futile since no one can know anything for certain.
Among the consequences have been the acceptance of the contraceptive ethos and of abortion.
If sex has nothing to do with babies, why defend marriage?
Why oppose premarital sex?
If there is no objective right or wrong, how can you argue that it would be unnatural for George and Sam to get a marriage license?
Moral law protects people
But is we accept the idea of a natural law, Rice continued, we are required to treat all human beings as persons. Paradoxically, he said, over the last fifteen years in the U.S. and the last ten in Canada, some people in the pro-life movement have spent their energy in validating the opposition’s contention that this is not true at all. They have accepted the possibility of pro-death legislation and, therefore, have put into the public mind the idea that life is negotiable.
Dr. Rice’s position is that society cannot accept laws saying that the state can validate the killing of some human beings. The only way of limiting abortion is by developing a public conviction that life is sacred.
Many people will respond with incredulity to hard-line, inflexible position.
‘Don’t you want to save some lives?’ they will ask, for example, by not allowing abortion for a minor without parental consent.
But, says Rice, we are not involved in a numbers game. What is necessary for the pro-life movement and for the Church is to consistently say ‘No!’ to compromise. Our question can never be, “Which children should we allow to be murdered?”
In human terms, Rice admitted, the cause seems hopeless, because of addiction to contraception and loss of the knowledge of God. Our obligation, however, is to recognize that abortion is diabolic, and assault on life and on God, and to oppose it as best we can. We must realize that we cannot do the work of opposing it by ourselves. Our obligation is to say and do the right thing, and then let God take care of it.
Even though he expressed the view that, because of the present climate of opinion, the fight against abortion, in strictly human terms, is virtually impossible to win, Professor Rice proved to be an excellent and eloquent defender of the rights of the unborn child.
He managed to enliven a serious message with many humorous sallies. One of the best was the followed quip: “God is not dead. He is not even tired.”