Thursday, May 10, 2007

Scary pictures

Imagine you're a college professor, and you're putting together a lecture on the Holocaust. You decide to add some visuals, so you gather some video of the crematoria, the emaciated corpses, the human-skin lampshades. Then you get a call. "Those pictures are excessively violent and gruesome. Showing those atrocities will just turn people off. You're not helping to heal the souls of those who did the killing."

What would you say to that? After you picked your jaw up off the floor, that is?

Well, LifeSite News reports on something pretty darned similar today. It says the Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, has withdrawn his support from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, which makes no apology for showing the gruesome, bloody truth about abortion to Canadian college students, in particular through their new Genocide Awareness Project. Here's what Bishop Henry says:

In no way may these pictures be construed as healing, nor can the project be described as ‘tough love’ and I am not in favour of this kind of pedagogy. It is not good news and in my opinion does more harm than good to the pro-life cause.

"In no way may these pictures be construed as healing...". Perhaps not, if by healing you mean pretending that your abortion was no big deal. Those pictures are going to make women who have chosen abortion, and men who encouraged and pressured them in that direction, very uncomfortable. It might even make them horrified enough to repent. And aren't we always being told that the bottom line is always the salvation of souls?

No, I'd say those CCBR pictures are very healing indeed, in a way that Catholics used to be encouraged to understand.

Our church once understood that we are way too eager to downplay the gravity of our sins, and to forget what they cost. So the Church used to tell us to meditate on the terrible things our Savior had to endure to secure our salvation, the things Mel Gibson got into trouble for depicting so honestly in The Passion of the Christ. The death of Jesus wasn't to be glossed over by the brief credal declaration "was crucified, died, and was buried." We were encouraged to think hard about the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, all the hideous details of first-century crucifixion -- not out of any relish for those details, but because it was a way to break through our defenses of self-justification, and because no sane person could think about them for five minutes without falling prostrate before the God who would subject Himself to them for our sake. Which is exactly what the Church is about: bringing people to that painful, saving moment when they come face to face with the price of sin, and with the incomprehensible Love that paid that price for us.

"It is not good news..."

Then neither was the crucifixion, Your Excellency. Shall we just take those sad chapters right out of the Gospels, then, so we can go straight from the Last Supper to Easter without those unfortunate incidents in between?

Seriously, from the Calgary diocese website, it looks like Bishop Henry often has his priorities pretty straight, and at least his diocese has a good track record of supporting pro-life groups. This time, though, he's made the wrong decision. I hope CCBR is back in his good graces very soon.