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Were You There

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April 2017

It’s like three pounds of tofu stuffed into a 260 cubic inch coconut shell. Not much to look at, but it’s the most powerful computer that will ever exist—and much more than that. Our brain plays a role in everything about us. It controls our breathing and heartbeat, movements and navigation, emotions, visual processing, balance and coordination, and our thoughts. Oh, yes, it also controls our memories.

Memory is what we need to organize our world. How it does so is only slowly coming to light. Ever wonder why some memories fade but others can last a lifetime? Why is it that we can vividly remember September 11, 2001, but we can’t remember where we put our glasses down last night? Scientists have discovered that the brain operates two different memory systems. One is our episodic memory, which processes the details of events. It works with the hormones triggered by our emotions to engrain them in our minds. So we’ll remember virtually forever where we first heard about 9/11. The other system is our scratch-pad memory, which has far less capacity and can be overridden by more recent information. It’s why husbands don’t remember their wives’ requests to buy bread. On the way to the grocery, they were listening to a ball game. Guess which note came off the scratch pad.

Very recently in Argentina, someone took a photo in front of a Catholic cathedral that may be remembered for a long time. A young woman, perhaps in her 20s, stood dressed in white with a blue veil over her head and shoulders, topped with a crown of flowers. She hung a rosary around her neck. She looked obviously pregnant. As a small crowd watched, a red liquid poured out from her dress and onto the street. Four “assistants” pulled from underneath the dress a bloodied, fake dismembered baby. The woman was smiling broadly, her right hand victoriously lifted in the air. She had just aborted Jesus. It has come to this.

We are more than halfway through our Lenten journey, a time during which remembering plays a significant role. Having focused on Jesus’ life and teachings during the first several Lenten weeks, we will soon be called to remember His passion and death, all that we may celebrate His Resurrection. As we read the Passion, we will be challenged to consider the roles we would have played in His suffering. And on the Friday we call “Good,” we will hear a question: were you there when they crucified my Lord? It’s a question that begets another one, equally troubling: if not, why not?

Jesus wasn’t aborted, this we know. Had it been otherwise, we would have no chance at salvation, for the Father had no other plan. But Jesus’ unjust death should turn our minds and hearts to the millions who in our culture have also been unjustly sacrificed. These are the unborn, each once created by the Father in His image and likeness. Each one bloodied beyond belief. Where were we when it all happened? And now, when it’s still happening?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Adoring crowds spread palm branches at the hooves of Jesus’ donkey and filled the air with loud “Hosannas!” But only a few people climbed Calvary to be with Him. Perhaps the crowds gave up on Jesus, figuring that the miracles were over. Maybe they were just too busy. How about us? Do we see the unborn as no-ones who can do nothing for us? Do we ever take the time to let the unborn touch our minds and hearts? Do we sense their suffering or grieve their loss? Are we too busy to pray for them, if only a simple prayer that an unborn baby might survive one more day? Or do we ignore them, believing ourselves guiltless because we personally didn’t abort anyone.

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Peter wasn’t. He was somewhere else, beside himself in grief because in his fear he denied his Lord. Fear is what brings most women to an abortion mill and makes them easy prey for those who kill for profit. Fear is often what keeps us quiet. Do we hide our beliefs to avoid controversy and ridicule? And is fear what’s keeping our parishes increasingly silent? Is it fear of less money in the collection basket? Fear of angry letters and words from parishioners? Whatever, while we remain safely hidden in our closed rooms, the death and destruction of the unborn continues.

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? Attitude reflects leadership. Our Church has always answered Jesus’ call to serve the poor, the suffering, and the marginalized. For centuries, it heavily depended on the charity of those more fortunate. Yet over the last few decades, Church funding has increasingly come from government. Since 2012, Catholic Relief Services has received $1.6 billion from government. But as often happens, with money comes problems. Millions have been given to organizations whose policies are directly contrary to Church teachings, particularly as to abortion and contraception. This creates the scandal that the Church supports the missions of organizations whose aims are contrary to life.

Worse, by accepting the funds, the Church becomes beholden to those who distribute them. Instead of calling out pro-abortion politicians for their ungodly positions, most Church leaders say nothing. It’s a don’t-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you mentality that sacrifices the unborn. There’s an ethics question: if three people are stranded in a lifeboat built for two, who gets tossed overboard? Jesus’ answer would be: No one; all die trying to save the others. He did. Sad to say, but as to the unborn, the Church in the U.S. may be reaching a different answer.

So far, over 58 million unborn have been slaughtered. Their mound might be as big as Calvary—if not bigger. Does it cause us to tremble, tremble, tremble? We can only hope.

Were you there when they crucified our Lord?


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 and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2017. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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