Interior Life 2 May, 2007

In a much-celebrated recent talk published in First Things, Archbishop Chaput of Denver remarks that “Americans now face the same growing spiritual illness that J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, Christopher Dawson, Romano Guardini, and C.S. Lewis all wrote about in the last century. It’s a loss of hope and purpose that comes from the loss of an interior life and a living faith. It’s a loss that we can only make bearable by creating a culture of material comfort that feeds—and feeds off of—personal selfishness.”

How do we address that loss of an interior life? In a recent document (Sacramentum Caritatis), Pope Benedict recommends a “mystagogical approach to catechesis, which would lead the faithful to understand more deeply the mysteries being celebrated.” Mystagogy is one of the sections you will find on this web-site, and it is not unrelated to the talks the Pope has also given recently on Clement of Alexandria and Origen, both of whom helped the Church discover the interior meaning of Scripture and of Christian existence in the light of faith. But reading documents is one thing, praying another. We have to give more time to prayer if we are to rediscover our interior life.

There is another kind of “interior life”, too, which the Church is concerned to protect, and that is life of the unborn child. October marks the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act that opened the door to 7 million abortions in the UK (600 a day). This includes abortion of fully-developed children in the womb if they are classed as “disabled”. The same act also paved the way for the destruction and cloning of more than a million embryos. Meanwhile the abortion toll in the US is something like 1.3 million each year.

In the 1990s in Scotland and in Pennsylvania, USA, initiatives were started to reduce the number of abortions by providing pregnant women with the necessary support and resources to enable them to keep their children (in the former it was a Church initiative, in the latter state-funded, and other states have followed this example). Such programmes are successful and humane – why can’t they be more widely available, encouraged, and funded?

In England we are used to hearing about crises in the NHS (National Health Service). Recently there was one crisis that many of us were delighted to hear about – caused by more and more doctors refusing to perform abortions. What needs to happen now is more to help the women who are seeking those abortions in the first place. Help not to find an abortionist but to have the child and, if necessary, to find a couple willing to adopt it.

The loss of our interior life of prayer, the destruction of life inside the womb, the culture of death all around us – all of this has deep roots. It is part of the devil’s job to keep us too busy to think about the causes, and to take steps to address them.

week five

The law of England stubbornly refuses to recognize the unborn child as a legal person. This was perhaps forgivable 50 or 100 years ago when so much less was known about life before birth. But now that we can look through the ‘window on the womb’ and watch children grow, such thumbs, stretch limbs, now that we know about genetics and the continuity of human life from fertilization onwards, it is forgivable no longer. It is now so evident that birth is simply an incident in a developing human life – a change of environment, not of moral status – that it can only be a matter of time before the law, if it is not to continue to be an ass, has to confer legal personhood on the unborn human being.” – Prof. Jack Scarisbrick (founder of LIFE).