“I hate picketing”
Join the club, so do I! Through all the years of my conscious life, I have looked askance at picketers. Rallies are different. Whenever I saw a crowd of a few thousand people something or defending something, I often felt I could join them and get lost in the throng. But 10 or 20 people walking up and down with placards drove me to the other side of the street with the unspoken question, “what are those nuts protesting about anyhow?”
If I had been told 10 or 12 years ago that I would be seen walking up and down holding a placard, together with a score of other people, I would have said, “Not on your life. I’m not made that way.” My attitude was, “I’ll talk about a cause. But don’t ask me to walk up and down with a placard.”
Then came the Morgentaler abortuary. In a busy street in Metro Toronto, a doctor (who, by his profession, is pledged to save lives and heal) sets up “business” in an ordinary house. And his “business” is the killing of innocent human beings, unborn babies.
When the picketing began – I can’t even remember who organized it – I felt that, like British Justice, I should be “seen,” just to let it be known which side I am on. So I went to the “Clinic” on Harbord Street and made sure that I was “seen.” But I did not take up a placard. I talked to the people and shook hands with them – like a politician before an election. I encouraged them and they told me that it was good to see a priest there. I tried to look modest but I did not take up a placard. After all, I’m a priest and priests are not expected to do things like that!
The people on the picket were a very mixed group. There were old people and young people; men and women, girls and boys; a young mother with a two-month old baby; a handicapped youth.
There were also four or fie police officers guarding the “Clinic.” I couldn’t help feeling sad looking at these fine young men who are probably fathers of babies themselves. They had joined the force to “protect the people.” And here they are protecting the people who are killing the people – and getting paid for it.
Didn’t Shakespeare say, “Oh! Judgment thou hath fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason?” Of course, their argument would be that they are simply doing their job and obeying orders. It doesn’t sound a bad argument – especially if a man has a wife and family – but I wondered what I would do if my Bishop ordered me to go to a church and preach against the Gospel.
A performing bear?
Then up came a lady with a sweet smile and she said, “Father, would you mind holding my placard? I want to get a cup of coffee.” Oh boy! That was when I found myself walking round and round holding a placard which said, “Babies are people too.” I felt like a performing bear (choose your own animal) in a circus and hoped that none of my friends would pass by and see me. After all, I am a priest you know!
It is a busy street and traffic is relatively heavy. Some drivers blew their horns and gave us the “thumbs up” sign, which was encouraging. But a few deliberately slowed down and used names and language which are not found in the best dictionaries and which The Interim would not print.
Fools for Christ
So, here I am – not as often as other people – picketing the abortuary. Walking round and round, saying the Rosary and feeling like a fool. But, wait a minute. Didn’t St. Paul say something about being “Fools for Christ?” Yes, he did and that’s the answer.
If I were an atheist or an agnostic, I would not be here. If I didn’t believe in a God who made every human being in His own image and likeness, I wouldn’t see any difference between a baby and a baboon. And even if I believed in God but didn’t know or didn’t believe that He died on a cross for every one of these unborn babies, I wouldn’t see that they had any special value – at least not enough to make me picket in their defence.
To get back to St. Paul, I’m almost certain that it was he who also said, “Caritas Christi urget nos.” That might be loosely translated thus, “The love of Christ makes us get off our butts and do something.” It sure does.
It made me get off my butt and do something I never thought anything would make me do – walk round in a circle holding a placard and feeling like a picketing panda!