I have often wondered and perhaps others have too what I would have done if I had not been called to the Priesthood. Sometimes I have concluded that I would have probably lived and died on welfare! But recently, I have come to the tentative conclusion that I might have “made it” as a book salesman. For the past month or so I have been very successful in selling a book at banquets, pro-life meetings, teachers’ days of reconciliation, to the Knights of Columbus and after Church services. Whether it is my salesmanship or the subject of the book itself that attracts people, I am not sure. But they just line up with their money in their hands and buy. The title of the book is A Matter of Conscience, by Anne Packer. Anne Packer is the wife of David Packer, the police officer who put his job on the line by refusing to guard the Morgentaler abortuary on April 8th, 1987.
Three Witnesses to the Truth
Perhaps I can take some credit for the selling of the book because of the way I present it. I give three examples of men who have stood firmly for the truth as they aw it and risked everything, their jobs and even their lives. I believe that deep down in every one of us, there is a hero or a heroine, who wants to give everything for a noble cause. But some never get the opportunity, while others fail to grasp through cowardice or a false sense of values, “I’d like to do it but it would cost too much.” The world is full of lost heroes.
The first “Witness to Truth” I mention is Thomas More. In 1553, this most admired of Englishmen stood before a huge crowd that had gathered to see him die. Beside him stood the “headsman” axe in hand, and before him was the block on which he would lay his head. Looking out on the crowd his last words were these, “I die, the king’s good servant. But God’s first.” These words express eloquently the principle upon which multitudes of men and women have sacrificed their lives, languished in prison and lost their livelihood. And the principle needs to be resurrected today and imprinted in the minds of our young people who are so bombarded with the idea of being successful in the world that they often succumb to it – even at the cost of their souls!
My second “Witness to Truth” is a young Austrian farmer named Franz Jaegerstatter. In 1943, he refused to join Hitler’s army, because, in his own words, “Nazism is an immoral philosophy, Hitler is an immoral man, and this is an immoral war.” He was beheaded as a traitor to his country. At that time he was a fool; today he is a hero. Attitudes change but not principles! Franz was prepared to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But he would not render to Caesar the things that are God’s 0- even at the price of his life!
The Third Witness
My third witness is, of course, David Packer. He is a quiet unassuming man. He borders on taciturnity and has a drooping mustache which gives the impression of lack of decision. By this style of dress, he would never be mistaken for a Saville Row model. If you were to line up twenty police officers before me and say, “Pick out the one who had the courage to defy the Toronto Police Force on a matter of principle,” I imagine I would guess David as number 18 – if not number 21! And yet, I consider David Packer as one of the finest characters I have ever met. He is a perfect example of how appearances can deceive. He is such a genuine human being that he does not need any of the paint and varnish which we so often apply to ourselves to give the impression that we are better than we really are. David Packer just IS!
A Matter of Conscience is the simple, unadorned story of a man who never sought greatness but “had it thrust upon him.” Anne relates – in unhistrionic language – the tale of how she and David first met in an English hospital. She had come over from the States already qualified as a nurse – to study mid-wifery. She was born in Brooklyn, New York. She was what might be termed “a big town girl.” David was a “small town boy.” At the time he met Anne, David was studying Languages at Cambridge University and paying his fees by working as an orderly at the hospital in which Anne was training. And so, the big town girl met the small town boy and they fell in love. It sometimes happened you know! She tells how each of them accidentally and separately met abortion “close up.” In David’s case it was by being told by another orderly how he had been carrying a “garbage bag” to the incinerator and felt something moving inside. In a panic he threw it into the incinerator and ran. David was horrified by the story.
In Anne’s case, she was looking for another nurse on a different floor. She opened a door and there beheld the result of the day’s work. In her own words, “There were tiny bodies all over the place. There must have been nine or ten babies who had been aborted that day. And many of the babies looked as if they were fully developed. I stopped cold and found myself slowly backing out of the room, unable to tear my eyes away from the horror that was lying on the counters, the sink and the floor.
Both of them were sickened by their experience, but did not feel that it lay within their competence to do anything about it. But the horror of abortion remained sunk in their psyches and would surface in the years ahead. As Anne puts it, more graphically than I could, “Somewhere inside, that episode planted a seed of horror in me and while I wasn’t willing to get actively involved in the issue, I began to want to get as far away from it as possible.
The Future’s Not Ours to See
When David and Anne married, it was impossible for him to continue his studies. He joined the police force in London and they eventually emigrated to Canada to be near Anne’s parents and David was accepted in the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force. That was then years ago, and he has had a successful if uneventful career until fairly recently. That he is a “god cop” is evident from the following facts. He has received ten awards for good police work. These awards refer to “exceptional arrests and investigative follow-up,” excellent police work,” and “professionalism.” This latter award was received only a few moths before he was charged with “insubordination.”
An Award for Bravery
David’s most auspicious award was for bravery. The story is worth relating. One day, some four years ago, David and another officer were called to a burning apartment. They crawled inside and rescued a Vietnamese woman who was a deaf mute. By rocking her arms she indicated that her baby was still inside. David rushed back and at the risk of his life, brought the baby out. The baby had stopped breathing. David performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the infant recovered and is in good health today. Anne says in her book, that David did not even mention the incident when he returned home. She did not hear about it till six months later, when he was to receive an award and a plaque for his action. David was very embarrassed. He felt that he had simply been doing his duty as a policeman and did not deserve special attention. He did not attend the awards ceremony, which somewhat embarrassed the police authorities. Personally, I think I would have attended – but I’m not David Packer. The point I wish to bring out is this. The same officer, who three years before was awarded for saving a baby’s life at the risk of his own, is now dismissed from the police force because he refused, in his own words, “to guard a house in which babies were being killed.” How illogical, how stupid and how inhuman officialdom can become!
Previous Duty at the Abortuary
During the police court case it was stated that David Packer had been on duty outside the “Clinic” on four occasions previous to his refusal to go there on April 8th, 1987. Why had he changed his position? Here are the facts. On three of those occasions David had been on night duty when nothing was happening. It was the fourth day which disturbed his conscience. He tells how he sat for hours outside the abortuary watching women and girls going inside and coming out some hours later. David knew that murder most foul had been committed!
The argument in the court implied, “If it was all right the first time, why not the second?” I think the answer is obvious. We are all against crime in theory. It is often only when we see a crime that we resolve never to be involved in it in any way. I believe that if most people saw an abortion being performed, they would be actively – as opposed to merely passively – pro-life. Often our consciences need a jolt to put them into action and that is what happened to David Packer. Before leaving the abortuary that afternoon, he resolved that he would never again guard that “house of death” where babies were being killed. That resolution remained silently within his conscience until the fatal day some months later when he had to make a definite decision. And he made it in these words to his superior officer, “With respect Sir, I cannot guard a house in which babies are being killed.” In principle, those words are an echo of “I die, the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
That is all I shall tell you about the book. If you haven’t yet read it, it is time you did! Don’t pass it on to your friends. Get them to buy one. Canada needs more David Packers!