Friday, September 30, 2005

R.I.P. For a Pro-Life Philosopher

By Mitchell

Here's an excellent piece by Robert P. George at NRO on the death of the brilliant pro-life intellectual John M. Dolan, a professor here at the University of Minnesota. (HT: Amy)

You should read the whole article, a fine tribute to a great defender of life, but two passages stood out. The first:

Dolan's pro-life convictions were no more popular at the University of Minnesota than they would have been at any other prominent contemporary institution of higher learning in the era of Roe v. Wade, but the sheer power of his intellect elicited the respect (and, in some cases, fear) of his colleagues. He was prepared to take on all comers. Few came.

Which tells me that if you have the courage of your convictions, you shouldn't fear the consequences, for oftentimes (not always, but frequently) the other side is all bluster and intimidation, but they don't know what to do when someone refuses to back down.

And here's the second:

Returning to the practice of Catholicism later in his life, Dolan explained that his lapse from the faith had been caused by arrogance. (This self-accusation was jarring to those who knew him, for he was not an arrogant man.) "I thought I didn't need God," he told me in a quiet conversation one evening after I had delivered the inaugural Hymie Gordon Lecture in the Program in Human Rights and Medicine. "I had everything worked out, I thought I knew everything." (The truth is, he did know an astonishing amount. Here might be the place to mention that on top of all his other interests, he also studied meteorology.) Eventually, he came round to the conviction that all of us are dependent on the God who created us, sustains us, and loves us; he concluded that it was high time for him to get himself to confession and back to mass.

And that speaks to one of the weaknesses that we all confront, one that I constantly struggle with: the ego. I know best! I know best! It doesn't have to be arrogance in the way we often think of it; as George points out, Dolan was a modest man. Humility isn't necessarily the way we carry ourselves with others, but the way we carry ourselves with God. And the root of so much evil in the world, so much sin in our personal lives, can be traced back to that one single word: humility.

And humility is what is needed to carry the day with the Gospel of Life. The humility to realize that embryos are human life and worthy of respect even though they may not be life as we define it, that the unborn have the right to be born and don't derive their dignity simply from our own opinion of their "value," that euthenasia represents the arrogance of assuming that we can define the nebulous term "quality of life." The Founders understood that humility when they stated that certain rights came not from man-made government, but from the Creator.

I pray for humility daily, and often not very well. But I'll continue to do it, as should all of us. For our weakness is what allows us to accept the strength of Christ, which when you think about it is all we really need.

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