Sometimes, in our more pessimistic moments (certainly in my more pessimistic moments), some of us concerned in one way or another with the ongoing battle against the culture of death have been tempted to see the culture of life as little more than a small pool of light spreading out from this great man's presence-like a medieval halo or, to take a more contemporary image, a New Age aura. The rest of the world scene, in certain moods, from certain angles, seems black enough, oppressive enough, formidable enough to make the spirit quail-at least when we contemplate it in our dark times, when psychologically it is 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
This is a way of backing into John Paul II's legendary reassurance "Be not afraid"-perhaps a pessimist's way, at least my way. Bear with the dark part, because we enter into the light eventually.
Sometimes in the pro-life camp, it seems we have to nourish our hopes on insufficient morsels of good news. The bad news seems hugely disproportionate in both gravity and scope. When we begin measuring "on the one hand ... on the other hand," the load weighing down the culture of death's hand is so much heavier that we end up staggering about like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
For instance: On the one hand, over a million American abortions are still performed each year; on the other hand, we continue to record a slight decrease from the glory days of the abortion holocaust, when upwards of a million and a half died yearly. On the one hand, partial-birth abortion remains alive and well (unlike the infants whose skulls are crushed by the procedure just as they are about to make it through to life); on the other hand, the rare survivors of late-term "ordinary" abortions are now legally required to receive care. On the one hand, mothers are able to selectively abort some of their unborn when they are expecting multiples, due to implanting of more than one fertilized egg, and fertility clinics are now in the business of selling off excess fertilized eggs to fetal tissue/cloning enterprises; on the other hand, a tenuous presidential ban on federal support for such research still holds.
And there's more: On the one hand, Oregon's legalized assisted suicide, the Terri Schiavo case, and hundreds or perhaps thousands of others that never become tabloid fodder because the families are not in conflict over pulling out the feeding tube and letting "Nature" take its course; on the other hand, legal recognition in much of the country (on the books at least) that food and water are basic care, even when they pass through a feeding tube. On the one hand, the breakdown of the family, unprecedentedly high illegitimacy rates, and the ongoing struggles of those children who successfully made it to birth against depression, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual exploitation, a degenerate media, epidemic levels of many sexually transmitted diseases; on the other hand, slightly decreasing teenage pregnancy rates and some cases of successful state resistance to the push for homosexual marriage.
Internationally, things are if anything even bleaker. To select some issues at random from both third world and first world nations, we see abortion for population control in countries like China; imploding populations in Europe and Japan; genocide, child slavery, and appalling numbers of deaths due to AIDS in Africa; Dutch "euthanasia" unilaterally undertaken by doctors; legal homosexual unions of varying sorts, including marriage, in several European nations (Spain is about to add its name to this list); human cloning in Korea, with scientists in other nations close behind-the diabolic litany of the culture of death goes on and on, and those opposing the whole overwhelming mess can feel like small children setting up sand walls to save their castles from the encroaching tide.
But if the present-day outlook appears so dark, consider the Nazi-dominated landscape that John Paul II came of age in, and the Communist-dominated one in which he spent the first 30-plus years of his priesthood. …