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Call to Greatness

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January 2010

In times of struggle God has given us outstanding military leaders. They have been men of vision and boldness, courage and conviction, men who had the nerve to risk their lives to defeat our enemies. We are forever indebted to the likes of Washington, Jackson, Pershing, Patton, Doolittle, McArthur, Eisenhower . . .

And John Buford. A cavalry scout, Buford stood atop a ridge from where he saw thousands of Confederate soldiers headed towards Gettysburg. He knew that thousands more would be close behind. With his unit greatly outnumbered, Buford could have fled. Instead he and his men held the ridge, Buford himself wounded, until reinforcements arrived. He changed the course of the battle. Quite likely, our country survived because Buford understood the value of high ground.

There is a term that’s rarely used anymore to describe the Church on earth: Church Militant. It sounds of war, of the need to be constantly prepared for battle against an enemy. That’s precisely what it’s all about. We the living are the Church Militant, called to battle Satan, the prince of evil and greatest enemy of our Church, for the hearts and souls of all. We don’t hear much of him anymore either. In our desire for peace at all costs, we have dropped our guard. And Satan has advanced on all sides. He, too, understands the value of high ground.

Within days we will mark the 39th anniversary of legalized abortion. This year we will mourn the 50 millionth intentionally killed unborn baby. These were babies sent by God Himself, killed before ever seeing the light of day. It has happen on our watch, the watch of a divinely instituted Church called to be militant. If we are to stop the slaughter, we had better be honest enough to admit our problem.

At every level of our Church in the U.S., we have lost our nerve. Sad to say, our bishops’ leadership has been weak and inconsistent. They are occasionally heard but rarely seen in the fight. A shepherd is called to stand in front of the flock. Through messages like Faithful Citizenship, they have offered a confusing smorgasbord of views that have allowed Catholics to vote in ways that are not faithful. The bishops have been getting stronger of late, but many souls and much ground has been lost.

By no means is our problem limited to them. Theologians wax about the difference between a fetus and a person, as if either term means a hill of beans to God. Catholic institutions of higher education have surrendered their Catholic identity. Notre Dame invited the most pro-abortion president in history to be honored on campus. It arrested Catholics who set foot on campus to protest. Want to feel heartsick? Watch the arrest at Notre Dame of an 80-year old priest carrying a cross.

We ourselves can be weak where the unborn are concerned. Clergy and laity alike refer to the fighters for the unborn as “anti-abortionists,” not pro-lifers. It’s ironic given that the pro-life movement grew out of the defense of the unborn. It’s misguided given that abortion supporters coined the “anti” term to negatively spin the defense of unborn life. In one parish, a pastor recently announced the creation of a respect-life committee. Not wanting to overemphasize the “issue” of abortion, he listed poverty, injustice, war, capital punishment, racism, sexism, inclusiveness, immigration, violence, and human dignity as others. Abortion didn’t make the cut. But the unborn are not an “issue.” They are God’s greatest creations. And their lives touch every issue he listed.

Particularly in the last election cycle, we have heard Catholics say that we should accept the legality of abortion and just work to change hearts to prevent further abortions. Would any of us have told black slaves that we wouldn’t work to free them but would try to encourage others not to buy slaves? But then, none of us has ever listened to an unborn baby beg for life. When racial segregation was legal, many Catholics worked the political fields to stop it. But today many Catholics reject that approach as to abortion.

Why do we think and act as we do when it comes to abortion? Why do we say that we are personally opposed to abortion, “but”? It’s because if we really allowed ourselves to feel the plight of the unborn, we would feel compelled to act on their behalf. And that requires personal risk and sacrifice, things we are often afraid to do. Yet the Christ Who came to rescue us from the same Satan we are now fighting was all about risk and sacrifice. The peace He came to bring could only come through conflict. In the fight against evil there was no other way. Nor is there another way for us. A soldier cannot retake lost ground without exposing himself to great personal risk. So when we pray for an end to abortion, do we pray for our own courage to fight it?

After listening to renowned preacher Dr. Phineas Gurley, Abraham Lincoln said that his sermon lacked the most important part: a call to greatness. That is our call. We are called to become Christ-like in defense of the unborn. That doesn’t mean we just try to get along, confusing our sense of peace with His. It means that we sacrifice ourselves for them. We stand up and speak up. And in this election year, it means we vote for the unborn. For some, breaking ranks with their voting history is plenty risky and comes at great personal sacrifice. But our defense of the unborn demands nothing less.

We, the Church Militant, stand on the high ground. We are called to greatness: to end legal abortion. We have the power. One question remains. Do we have the nerve?

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they are raising their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2010. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments? Visit us at

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