PERSPECTIVE: Abortion issue asks the question, ‘How do we value life?’

In a society that Pope Emeritus Benedict once called a “culture of death,” the news of the Rev. Thomas Vander Woude’s recent appeal to the Facebook world was not only virtually life-giving but literally so.

Vander Woude intervened for an expecting couple whose child was recently diagnosed with Down syndrome.

The couple planned to abort the baby unless an adoptive couple was found by the end of the day.

After the church leader’s hurried post went out to the world, hundreds of compassionate responses flooded in — forcing the local parish to recruit extra staff to simply field phone calls.

May God increase the tribe of the Rev.Vander Woude and the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Va.

Seven years ago, during a baptism service, Pope Benedict XVI remarked, “In our times, we need to say ‘no’ to the largely dominant culture of death … We say ‘no’ to this culture to cultivate a culture of life.”

Pope Benedict understood an important principle.  The best way to say ‘no’ to something is to say ‘yes’ to something else.

Although 81 to 92 percent of expecting couples receiving a positive test for Down syndrome choose to abort their children, Father Vander Woude went against the grain of culture by seeking to practice today what Pope Benedict preached yesterday.

Instead of cursing the darkness of abortion, Vander Woude walked boldly into the light of life and found that there are many others there who are eager to walk with him.

While His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope-Emeritus, has retired to a life of prayer and solitude, his call to life lives on.

He often spoke against the “thing-ification” of mankind, urging society to eschew the tendency to reduce human beings to objects that are simply used and then cast off at will.

A thing usually has a certain value to us depending on our assessment of that thing.  If my assessment of a thing is low, the thing has little value to me.

If my assessment of a thing is high, I perceive the thing to have great value. My assessment consistently relates to my opinion of the thing’s capability to be pragmatically utilized.

Some may question the value or usefulness of a person with Down syndrome. Others may question the practicality of life in general. Some see life as merely a meaningless dash between two dates etched into a cold tombstone.

Years from now, we may learn what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story.”

The Rev. Vander Woude and his church will always live with the gratifying knowledge that they saved a life. The child will have been born and afforded the opportunity to live.

Adoptive parents will have raised the child. The child will have experienced the love of other family members and friends. The baby may never grow up to be the star quarterback of the football team. Colleges and universities may not clamor for his or her enrollment.

Academic credentialing may not follow after his or her printed name. Significant differences may not have been made in the world as a result of the life which was lived.

Regardless, a life will have been lived, and therein lies inherent value.

Dr. Todd E. Brady is vice president for University Ministries at Union University. Brady can be reached at tbrady@uu.edu.

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