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This morning I read about someone who lost her job because a manager discovered she had previously worked in an abortion clinic.

As you know (if you’re a regular reader of my articles), I shun any involvement in the process of abortion procurement as I consider it complicity in evil.  This is a basic Catholic approach to sin, nothing that should surprise or offend anyone.

However, this doesn’t preclude me having compassion for those who are or have been involved in the abortion procurement process.  Even if  we weren’t commanded to love our neighbours, it’s a straightforward matter of imagining what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I’ve done this from an early age (often to my parents’ annoyance as I switched to whichever point of view was least represented in an argument and made them feel like they were living in an episode of Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals).

Of course, just because it’s easy to understand how people sin – because I sin too and sin is sometimes fun (and often easier than doing the right thing) – doesn’t mean condoning it or excusing it.  And it doesn’t mean pretending the sinner wasn’t responsible or didn’t have any choice.  After all, I can understand the pressures of a father desperate to feed his children who steals, but he has nevertheless taken what does not belong to him and in so doing possibly taken food from someone else’s child.  That said, once the thief has repented of his wrongdoing and accepted his punishment, it is only then that we can consider mercifully commuting his sentence.  It is only after he has turned his back on his crime that we can wipe the slate clean.

Sadly, Catholics and other Christians, in a misguided effort to be compassionate, get badly muddled.  Instead of being charitable and forgiving past mistakes (as should have happened with the former abortion clinic worker), they focus their compassion instead of applying it to all and sundry, committing the same error that the thief did when thinking he could justify his theft.  They confuse explanations with excuses by taking the reasons women have abortions, using them as justification, and in effect denying women their moral agency.  They talk about how women don’t have real choice when it comes to abortion and how our “culture” is to blame.  In so doing, they leave a vacuum of responsibility that ends up being filled by everyone and no one.

In short, we create a new culture, but it’s not a culture of life.  It’s a culture of shifting responsibility and diminution of forgiveness.  If you’re not culpable for an action, then you don’t need forgiveness, God’s or anyone else’s.  If it’s not your fault, either it was an accident or it was someone else’s fault.  That isn’t a culture of life; that’s a culture of sweeping things under the carpet.

But how does this relate to the woman who lost her job because of her “past”?  Well, it seems to me (from experience) that the same people who are too scared to be seen as “judging” are the same people who justify treating others unjustly because of their shady past.  They won’t talk about abortion as wrongdoing (and will even peddle the lie that women “fall victim to abortion”) while gossiping about someone’s past sins and defaming their reputation.  They commit character assassination with remarks about how this “bad boy” is untrustworthy.  (And it usually is a male, though not always, as criticism of women is largely off-limits in this age of feminism.) 

Of course, if women fall victim to abortion (and they do in places like China it must be noted), then who committed these heinous crimes against women?  One option is the abortionists and their colleagues, and (if we’re not going to be selective in our compassion) that means recognising that we’re talking about men and women who may have had restricted choice about working in this area – men and women with children to feed in a precarious job market, for example.  Another option is to suggest women are ignorant fools, but men are too, and (wilful) ignorance is no excuse.  Finally, one can deny agency (the no real choice argument), but that’s just a way of saying “the devil made me do it”.

What I’m saying is pretty obvious: we must have compassion for all men.  (And, yes, that does include women – it’s inherently inclusive and does not need to be made inclusive by feminists who are paranoid about misogyny.)  And that compassion not only should not get in the way of repentance but also encourage a complete and truthful admission of responsibility.  There is nothing compassionate about saying “there’s nothing to forgive – it wasn’t your fault” when someone craves forgiveness and the healing of a rift.

No doubt I will be “shot” as the “messenger” for saying this yet again, but I’d rather that than remain silent in the face of injustice.  However, I would like to finish with some salutary advice paraphrased from Fr Peter Carota.  We are all wronged, more so as time passes, and must be careful not to confuse revenge with justice.

Remain humble.  We are all capable of sinning gravely at any time.  Pride goes before a fall.  When people gossip about your past and hold it against you, remember you deserve the calumny they are spreading and worse.  This is the ongoing consequence of our past wrongdoing.  The past cannot be undone.  It is out of your hands.

By all means, set the record straight, but do not allow another person’s wrongdoing to tempt you into wrongdoing of your own.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Be careful you do not have a plank in your eye.

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