This book review appears in the February 2003 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly
Abortion and Martrydom
Edited by Aidan Nichols, O.P.
Gracewing, Leominster, 2002
UK ISBN 085244543
Paperback, pp164 £9.99
It seems to me that one of the reasons for the conspiracy of silence and denial which surrounds the subject of abortion, is the pain of the realisation of what has happened. This book signifies a way to healing for anyone who has been involved in abortion.
How does it do this? Firstly, it does not deny the tremendous evil that has been done: the gravity of depriving totally helpless and innocent human beings of their lives. It is never possible to start the process of physical healing unless an accurate diagnosis has been made to act upon. This holds also for spiritual and moral illnesses. Secondly, it points the way for the Church to declare how the all-saving, powerful mercy of Christ can reach these unborn children, and through them, those who killed them.
In the late Summer of 1999, a group of theologians gathered at Solesmes Abbey in France to discuss the theological developments necessary to raise to the altars all children killed by abortion by declaring them companion martyrs to the Holy Innocents. It is of the Faith that all Revelation was complete in Jesus Christ, 'Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.' (Catechism of the Catholic Church n 66) It was his search for where authentic development of doctrine could be found which led John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church.
The contributions of the theologians, presented in this book as a collection of essays setting arguments totally in accord with the teaching of the Church, debates the necessary understanding of Revelation required for aborted children to be claimed by the Church, and Christ's complete victory over evil made manifest in them. The theologians can, and should, debate the arguments. Indeed, on receiving the texts and Statement of the meeting, Cardinal Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, indicated his desire that this should be so in the case of the children (p 3). But in the final analysis it is the Magisterium of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ, which has the authority, given by Christ, to decide what is doctrine. (Dei Verbum n 12). So what are the necessary developments of doctrine discussed? They are (i) a definition of the time of ensoulment of the embryo (ii) the necessity of baptism, and (iii) how are these children martyrs? To me, the arguments in favour of declaring the aborted children martyrs are compelling.
The Holy Father seems to foresee that this victory for the children and the Church will come about, since he has said to those facing the pain of abortion 'You will be able to ask forgiveness of your child, who is now living in the Lord' (Evangelium Vitae n 99).