Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Requiescat in pace
Back in the 1980's, when my convictions about the dignity of the human person were still in the formative stages, I saw something that finally tipped the scales for me. It convinced me that I could no longer remain a fence-sitter regarding the issue of abortion, especially. Not that I would ever have described myself as "pro-choice." I was adopted as an infant, in 1958, and I couldn't help wondering what would have become of me if I had been born just 15 years later, after Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land. The issue simply was not at the forefront of my thinking.
Then one day in late 1984 or early '85 I was watching television and happened to see a story about Dr. Nathanson's new documentary film, The Silent Scream, which caught on videotape a sonogram-guided early-term abortion. Sonogram technology at the time was rather primitive by today's standards, yet it clearly showed the pre-born infant fighting for its life against the suction device that was about to take its life. It was convicting, to say the least, and it one of the key catalysts that propelled me into the pro-life movement. A year or two later I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Nathanson speak at a North Carolina Right to Life (NCRTL) gathering in Greensboro. At the time he had made no public repudiation, as far as I knew, of his atheism, but his remarks indicated that he was heading in that direction.
It would be another decade or more before he entered the Catholic Church, but in a way that event itself was a hint of what was to come for him, and eventually for me. The NCRTL meeting was held in a Catholic Church, and it dawned on me at the time that Catholic Christians were not only the foot soldiers of the pro-life movement; they were also the major source of its rational underpinnings. Little did I know at the time that Dr. Nathanson, a Jewish atheist, and a WASP like me would both end up "coming home" to the same place, the Catholic Church, in large part because of the consistent witness of the Church on the life issue.
See the story on Life Site News for more about his funeral Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Monday, presided over by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. It contains a link to the excellent homily preached by Fr. Gerald Murray.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.
(Eternal rest grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.)