On November 20, 1979, the late Bishop Paul Leonard Hagerty of the Catholic Diocese in the Bahamas in a pastoral letter spoke the following prophetic words: “I would be truly derelict in my duty as a Roman Catholic Bishop of the Bahamas if I did not remind all Catholics of what is to us a self-evident fact, namely, that a nation which destroys its own most helpless and defenseless citizens can claim no protection from acts of violence and terrorism from other irresponsible sources. Indeed, when we thus blatantly fly in the face of God himself, we must realize that by doing so we choose to withdraw ourselves and our country from the merciful protection of his Divine Spirit.” These prophetic words are chilling in the context of our rapidly deteriorating and decadent society.
The Bishop at the time was instructing his faithful on the horror and abomination of the act of abortion, which was since 1973, when he first forcefully addressed the matter, showing an alarming increase in the Bahamas.
In 1989, the Bahamas Christian Council announced through the then outgoing President, Bishop Albert H. Hepburn, its unequivocal condemnation of this heinous crime which sniffs out the lives of almost over thousand babies a year in our small country. I saluted Bishop Hepburn then, and totally supported his stand for the preservation of human life. I further underscored his words: “Yes, we need somebody to work to keep those babies alive. It was essential over the years for them to be alive and it is essential now.”
With so many little infants being so unceremoniously, cruelly, and in a barbaric manner ripped from their mothers’ womb before they can see the light of day, it is no wonder the regard for human life and dignity has sunken to such an abysmal state in our land. As Bishop Leonard stated again in 1979: “The relaxing of moral and civil laws against abortion represents a retrogression - a step backwards in man’s respect for his fellow men and therefore, a step backwards in human progress. For a handful of people (referring to the United States Supreme Court’s decision on abortion) to take upon themselves the right to decide who lives and who dies in any country must be revolting to anyone who believes in protecting the lives of the defenseless.”
The baby in the womb is no less a human being with inalienable rights, the primary one which is to be protected for nine months within the confines and security of the mother’s body. Listen to what St. Luke tell us of the visit of Mary pregnant with Jesus to her cousin Elizabeth within whom John the Baptist had recently been conceived: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby leapt in my womb for joy.” Note, she says ‘baby’ and not ‘fetus.’
In our country, every legal avenue is extensively and exhaustively explored seeking some way to grant reprieve for a convict condemned to be legally hanged, yet certain physicians, who have sworn by the Hippocratic oath to uphold and preserve life, supersede even the law of God and abort without hesitation the right to life of those whose only crime was to be conceived in their mothers’ wombs. With respect to the right to do with one’s body as one wishes, Bishop Leonard reflects: “To agree that a woman has right to do as she wishes with her own body is one thing - to say that she can attack or kill the life of another person is quite another matter. History has always condemned Herod for taking the lives of the Holy Innocent children of Bethlehem. It seems an even greater crime to kill the unborn, who are helpless to defend their right to live, who cannot even cry out in protest.”
The Bishop on that same letter in 1979 drew reference to a very significant conference which was held in Washington DC in October, 1967, to consider the question: “When does human life begin?” This conference brought together renowned authorities from around the world in the field of medicine, law, ethics and social sciences. The medical group was represented proportionately as to academic discipline, race and religion. The conclusion of the group which is almost unanimous (19 to 1) states: “The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of the sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage, and the birth of the infant at which we could say that this was not a human life.” (‘BLASTOCYST’ is shortly after fertilization). They continued: “The changes occurring between implantation, a six week embryo, a six month fetus, a one week old child or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation.”
Again on the basis of the foregoing statement, Bishop Leonard reflected: “To my knowledge there has not been a more qualified body of scientists, before or since this meeting, who as a group have so thoroughly discussed and come to a conclusion on this subject, and their verdict was that there is no scientific evidence whatever to disprove the basic human lesson we learned from our forebears in the Bahamas and elsewhere, namely, that human life begins at the moment of conception.”
The Second Vatican Council unequivocally states: “Life, from its conception, is to be guarded with the greatest care. Abortion and infanticide are horrible crimes.” It is interesting to note that the proponents of abortion, when referring to an unborn child will label it ‘baby’ when the infant is desired, but will speak of it a ‘fetus,’ if it is unwanted.
Bishop Leonard highlights the parental role when he says: “Another thought that perhaps does not come to us too readily is the fact that at the instant when a human person is formed in the fertilized ovum, the father of the sperm and the mother of the ovum become truly parents of another human being and, therefore, have the obligations and the responsibilities of parents in looking after and caring for this new person entrusted to them.”
In making direct reference to the Bible and what God teaches us about human life, the Bishop stated in his letter: “In dealing with the topic of abortion and of life in the womb, it is most interesting to find in Holy Scripture many references to the magnificent wonders and mysteries of the creation and development of each human person expressed simply and eloquently. In Psalm 139:13-15, we find ourselves praying, ‘It is you who created my inmost self and put me together in my mother’s womb. For all these mysteries, I thank you, for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works. You know me through and through from having watched my bones take shape when I was being formed in secret, knitted together in my mother’s womb.”’
The Bishop continues: “In the second Book of Maccabees 7:20-29 we find a similar message and inspiration. The mother of the seven sons who were being executed by Antiochus Epiphares is especially admirable and noteworthy, for she watched the death of all her sons in a single day and endured it resolutely because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of her sons in the language of their ancestors with noble conviction: ‘I do not know how you appeared in my womb. It was not I who endowed you with breath and life. I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world ordaining the process of man’s birth, presiding over the origin of all things...”’
And he adds yet another powerful verse from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes concerning the mystery of the beginning of human life: “Just as you do not know the way of the wind or the mysteries of a woman with child, no more can you know the work of God, who is beyond it all.”
It is indeed edifying to reflect upon the personal response to the mystery of life as stated very simply by Bishop Leonard: “With all the advances that have taken place in scientific studies of God’s truth since the revelations in Holy Scripture, many times it has been remarked how strange it is that the precise moment of each human person’s entrance into and exit from life in this world remains somewhat locked away in mystery. These two moments are so important, the moment when he becomes a human being and the exact moment of his death, that they seem to be ‘locked away’ in the knowledge of God. They are like precious jewels which seem to be specially protected by our heavenly father.”
Who are mere human physicians then to relegate unto themselves the authority over life and death? It is even more disturbing when one realizes that their acts of abortion are not performed for any social benefit since no good can ever emanate form such crimes. These indefensible actions are purely for the convenience of the mothers or others, and for the financial aggrandizement of the performers. I am told that there is a certain doctor in Nassau who has had the audacity to declare a particular day of the week ‘Abortion special day’. This despicable action is perpetrated in the context of a so called Christian nation where cathedrals rise up daily to the ‘glory of God.’
We are not that naive not to appreciate the fact that too many babies are being conceived to many ill-prepared individuals in our small nation. We share the concern as did Bishop Leonard back in 1979 when he looked at the rapidly deteriorating social condition of our society: “As we face the grave problems confronting us in the Bahamas today”, he said, “it should be our unalterable and determined policy to look for solutions, and not on scapegoats on whom to put the blame. All church leaders and all civic leaders must come together and plan and work together to support the struggle for better living conditions for the disadvantaged, for a more wholesome flavor to the whole of human life in our country. We must work together to seek solutions to the evils of prostitution, teenage pregnancies, pornography, and drug and alcohol abuse, and support and agencies and any measures that will reduce the numbers of murders and rapes and road deaths and any other form of violence.”
The Bishop continued, “but as I have said before, and must repeat again, the most daring of evils which has crept into our country is the terrible evil of abortion. Whatever may be the grave problems posed by the alarming increase in teenage pregnancies and however good may be the intentions of the protagonists of abortion, it does not change the objective evil of the act. Evil actions, even when done with good intentions, have disastrous effects, both for individuals and for society.”
A wrong means can never be justified even for a right end. If the means is evil than the end will also be evil. For as long as one infant in the womb is aborted with the silent consent of the nation so long will the blood of the innocent, helpless and defenseless ones be on all our hands. As with Pilate, no amount of washing will thus remove the collective, societal guilt. We are in control.
About the Author:
Mr. Joseph Darville is a native of Long Island, Bahamas and a resident of Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Teacher [English, French] at St. Augustine’s College in Nassau.
Teacher [French] Senior School Coordinator and Guidance Counselor a Queen’s College in Nassau.
Past Vice-President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers
He is a founding member and past President of the Bahamas Counselor’s
Past President of the Grand Bahama Mental Health Association
Past Vice President of the Caribbean Federation of Mental Health
Founding member and Chairman of Operation Hope, [volunteer drug prevention, education & rehabilitation program]
Co-Chairman of the Bahamas National Drug Council
Founding member and Past -President of Grand Bahama Human Rights Association
Founding member of the Caribbean Human Rights Network
Administrative Vice-President of the Freeport YMCA for three years
He is an Advanced Master/Teacher in Reiki training, a natural energy healing method, as well as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation.
Presently, he is Director of Workforce Development at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. He has received many awards for outstanding service and achievement in teaching, communication, and citizenship.
Joseph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org