How a movie in a catechism class motivated me to support abortion

In the spring of 1997, my sister and I attended catechism classes at our parish of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim.

Once a week, we joined 20 other teenagers in the basement of a huge church to listen to lectures on morality, Catholic principles, and how to model our coming adult life in the way of Jesus Christ.

I learned about the evils of the Armenian Genocide, about the importance of always telling the truth. And one afternoon it was about abortion.

Our instructors emphasized that the procedure is a moral sin that is unacceptable under any circumstances – not even for rape, incest, or to protect the health of the mother. The sanctity of life, they preached, was something we Catholics must uphold at all times.

Then the light went out. We were going to watch a movie.

The documentary began with a close-up of a woman’s vagina, her legs bound with stirrups. You could not see her face, nor the face of the doctor, whose hands entered the frame with forceps and cutting tools as he inserted them into the woman’s uterus.

Blood gushed out like a river. The doctor scratched, pulled and pricked. Finally, the dead fetus fell out. The opening credits rolled. It was quiet in the basement of the church.

This was my introduction to the abortion debate.

The documentary was at least half an hour long. There was no narration, no context, just clip after clip of graphic shots that finally ended in a dismembered fetus, the camera moving closer and closer until everyone was staring at his lifeless face. At this point, most of my classmates were in tears.

I was angry.

I grew up thinking that abortion is immoral, that anyone who gets it will burn in hell. But I immediately saw the film for what it was: propaganda.

Our elders taught us other moral issues as well, but abortion was the one they put the most effort into, the only topic that required a full course and a movie.

There were no disputes, no nuances. The teachers simply wanted to give us complacency so that we would forever hate abortion and its practitioners. But it didn’t work for me.

The short film, and my subsequent anger, has not left me all these decades later. This is something I’m especially thinking about in connection with the US Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Roe. Wade and the constitutional protection of abortion.

Four of the judges in the majority – Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Amy Coney Barrett and Brett M. Cavanaugh – are Catholics, and Neil M. Gorsuch was raised in the faith. Sonia Sotomayor, a Catholic, voted along with two other Liberals in court to leave Rowe against. Wade.

The remaining Catholic on the court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote a concurring opinion supporting Mississippi’s pending abortion ban, but lamenting Roe’s repeal as “a major push to the legal system.”

These are the judges of the majority, whose religion abortion rights activists will blame and who anti-abortionists will hail as their moral compass.

The faithful Catholic cannot get around what our church teaches about abortion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the official doctrine of the Vatican, calls for excommunication for anyone who has one, as it states that life begins at conception. Pope Francis, hated by many conservative Catholics for his ostensibly leftist views, allows priests to forgive anyone who has had an abortion, but still calls it “murder” and denounces it as part of the “disposable culture” that haunts the modern world.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, in his capacity as President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, co-sponsored a statement praising the collapse of the Roe v. Low case. Wade and applauding the anti-abortionists for “their work for life.” [that] reflects all that is good in our democracy.”

Yet much of what has been considered Catholicism in the United States since my catechism reflects the very scum culture that Pope Francis denounces.

Protester holding a sign with the inscription "Thank God for abortion"

Hundreds of people took to the streets to rally for abortion rights in downtown Los Angeles on May 3.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

As a rookie reporter in the 2000s whose first big scoop was on the Catholic Church sexual harassment scandal, I sighed at how quickly the bishops dismissed reports of priestly harassment, even though secret church records proved that the abuse happened from the start. church leaders know. I winced when lay Catholics called these victims money-hungry liars.

I vomited when ostensible Catholic politicians vehemently opposed abortion, but at the same time fully supported the death penalty, which, according to Catholic teaching, is “unacceptable” in all cases. I rolled my eyes when bishops in the United States, including Gomez, exploded “revival” culture and threatened to withhold communion from Catholic politicians such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Biden, who support abortion rights even when bishops are almost do nothing to fight. other life-destroying social ills such as racism and poverty.

And I wondered how things could be different if conservative Catholics and other Christians weren’t so obsessed with Roe vs. Rowe. Wade for the past 49 years.

I still consider myself a Catholic, although I currently only attend mass at funerals. Abortion is a tragedy on many levels, yet too many people focus only on the procedure itself and not on the person being subjected to it. That is why I support all those who have an abortion, because I do not impose a choice on them, but this is a personal decision that they must make without fear for their freedom.

Also, when it comes to condemning evil, Jesus Christ spoke out more against rich people, hypocrites, and xenophobes than against abortion (hint: never).

I wonder how much better American society would be if my catechism teachers devoted this terrible day to other topics. If anti-abortion activists showed films and distributed literature about lynchings, about the tragedy of migrants dying while trying to cross the US-Mexico border. About children harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley or stuck in abusive families, about mothers who had to raise their children on their own.

However, this will never happen, because it is much easier to fight for the unborn than to protect the living.