We Live Among Barbarians

By: Msgr. Richard C. Antall, originally published in Crisis Magazine, Nov 9, 2023

The vote to enshrine abortion in Ohio should be a revelation to us: we live among barbarians who do not care about human life in the womb.

Ohio’s Issue One, which enshrines abortion on demand—and up to nine months of pregnancy—has won. We know that it was an unequal struggle: the proponents of abortion outspent the opponents of this extremist abortion amendment by 3 to 1. Much of that money has been from out of state. The millionaires and celebrities who have intervened have been abortion advocates à outrance, and in our culture money and fame have deleterious influence in the population. 

It is noteworthy that The Plain Dealer, the newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, first published a shorthand summary of its editorial opinion on various referenda and said to “Vote No” on Issue One. Within a week, the newspaper clarified that it had been a copy error: they meant only that they had no position on the issue. This was belied by the reporting, but it is curious to think the professional writers would make a mistake so stupid. They really didn’t distinguish between “no opinion” and “vote no?” I think the woke mob got to them. Either way, it shows the pathetic state of intellectual culture in the city newspaper.

The vote should be a revelation to us: we live among barbarians who do not care about human life in the womb. In the Bible, there was worship of the evil god Moloch, to whom the firstborn of the Canaanites was ritually sacrificed in fire. Modern-day worshippers of Moloch propose abortion as something compassionate, and they get sentimental about destroying human life in the womb, even if that life is viable or capable of living outside the mother. 

There was an old Latin saying that ius est ars boni et aequi. That means “law is the art of the good and the just.” In the case of Issue One, that has been turned on its head. Law has become the instrument of evil and injustice. Mr. Bumble, in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, when confronted with a legal dictum contrary to common sense, said, “Then the law is an ass, an idiot.” What provokes laughter in Dickens cannot do so in our situation. A society that enacts an unjust law is unjust. God will punish us for that injustice. An old Spanish saying has it: Dios tarda pero no olvida. The meaning is God takes His time but does not forget.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said about the Fugitive Slave Law that it was a filthy law that tarnished the fame of the United States. The victory for Issue One is like that. To echo Emerson, it is: 

the darkest passage in our history. It showed how prosperity has hurt us, and that we could not be shocked by crime. It showed that the old religion and the sense of right had faded and gone out; that while we reckoned ourselves a highly cultivated nation, our bellies had run away with our brains.

He said that the essence of 

courtesy, of religion, of love is to prefer another, to postpone oneself, to protect another from oneself. That is the distinction of the [good], to defend the weak and redress the injured, as it is of the savage and brutal to usurp and use others…The end for which man is made is not crime in any forms, and a man cannot steal without incurring the penalties of the thief. A man who commits a crime defeats the end of his existence. He was created for benefit, and he exists for harm…The habit of oppression cuts out the moral eyes, and, though the intellect goes on simulating the moral as before, its sanity is gradually destroyed. 

In his famous essay Self-Reliance, Emerson comments on the opposition an unjust law demands of us. He said, 

Paradise is under the shadow of swords;…divine sentiments which are always soliciting us are breathed into us from on high and are an offset to a Universe of suffering and crime; that self-reliance, the height and perfection of man, is reliance on God. The insight of the religious sentiment will disclose to him unexpected aids in the nature of things. The Persian Saadi said, “Beware of hurting the orphan. When the orphan sets a-crying, the throne of the Almighty is rocked from side to side.”

And God hears the cry of the unborn, the silent scream, and is aware of all the remorse and recrimination abortion causes in the life of those with the misfortune to choose it. The abolitionist called upon those who opposed slavery to be strong: 

He only who is able to stand alone is qualified for society. And that I understand to be the end for which a soul exists in this world—to be himself the counterbalance of all falsehood and all wrong. “The army of unright is encamped from pole to pole, but the road of victory is known to the just.”

He predicted that the fight would be long. But he asserted, “Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely…The national spirit in the country is so drowsy, preoccupied with interest, deaf to principle.” His words are cruelly apposite to our situation. He calls for renewed strength, and he even sees some glimmer of good in that “at last we are disenchanted and shall have no more false hopes.” 

We can say with him that our eyes are open to the blatant paganism of our culture. There is no ambiguity. The democratic process has been corrupted by vested interests and the overwhelming ignorance of the electors. The barbarians are not at the gates but in the seats of power. That should inspire on our part a more committed resistance.  

Abortion is a crime, and all who voted for this amendment made themselves accomplices to a crime against humanity. They cannot plead ignorance in this case; the teaching of the Church was crystal clear. “Your sin is now the shame of Ohio.” May God forgive them, but that implies true repentance, and much harm has been done.

More than ever, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us; and May God bless us.

Monsignor Antall is pastor of Holy Name Parish in the Diocese of Cleveland. He is the author of The X-Mass Files (Atmosphere Press, 2021), and The Wedding (Lambing Press, 2019).