Bernard Nathanson and Whittaker Chambers—from the funeral homily for Dr. Nathanson by The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. [February 28, 2011, St. Patrick‟s Cathedral, New York]

Dr. Nathanson reminds me of another great witness against evil and in favor of the truth in the twentieth century, Whittaker Chambers. I read somewhere that Betty Friedan thought the same thing, but I am sure for different reasons.

Chambers renounced his membership in the Communist party and spoke out against those who were part of a conspiracy to harm our nation through espionage for the Soviet Union. He confessed to being a Soviet spy. He was vilified. He suffered. He stood firm. He spoke the truth.

The introduction to his book Witness is a “Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children.” This quotation from the foreword captures Dr. Nathanson‟s courageous witness on behalf of innocent human beings menaced by abortion: “A man is not primarily a witness against something. That is only incidental to the fact that he is a witness for something. A witness, in the sense that I am using the word, is a man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences.” (p. 5)

Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a fearless advocate of the self-evident truth that it is a grave injustice to kill people before they are born. The unjust decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton mandating legalized abortion in our country cry out for the counter-witness of those who will not abide this injustice. Heroism is called for. True heroism is never easy and is only possible through God‟s grace. We acknowledge today our gratitude to a true hero who would not abide such grave injustice in our land. In doing so, we too recognize the Hand of God in the life of Dr. Nathanson.

Chambers wrote of himself in that foreword to his book: “But a man may also be an involuntary witness. I do not know any way to explain why God‟s grace touches a man who seems unworthy of it. But neither do I know any other way to explain how a man like myself – tarnished by life, unprepossessing, not brave – could prevail so far against the powers of the world arrayed almost solidly against him, to destroy him and defeat his truth. In this sense, I am an involuntary witness to God’s grace and to the fortifying power of faith.” (p. 6)

Only God knows whether Dr. Nathanson was a voluntary or involuntary witness against abortion and for life. But it is clear that he was truly courageous. He rejected what he knew to be evil, and then spoke out. In his humility he, like Chambers, recognized that God’s grace is made ever more manifest when He chooses unexpected apostles.

Chambers tells a haunting story in his book which gives us, I think, an insight into Dr. Nathanson’s rejection of abortion. He writes: “The daughter of a former German diplomat in Moscow was trying to explain to me why her father, who, as an enlightened modern man had been extremely pro-Communist, had become an implacable anti-Communist. But she loved her father and the irrationality of his defection embarrassed her. ‘He was immensely pro Soviet,’ she said, ‘and then –you will laugh at me – but you must not laugh at my father’ – and then- one night – in Moscow he heard screams. That’s all. Simply one night he heard screams.‟

“A child of Reason and the 20th century, she knew that there is a logic of the mind. She did not know that the soul has a logic that may be more compelling than the mind’s. She did not know at all that she had swept away the logic of the mind, the logic of history, the logic of politics, the myth of the 20th century, with five annihilating words: one night he heard screams.”(pp. 13-14)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s