Gold shovels a dark symbol for Planned Parenthood
I am a husband and father. I know a few things about family and faith. I think I have a decent grasp of the English language. I have a fair acquaintance with Scripture, although I should know more. I like to regard myself as someone with common sense and a cradle Catholic's appreciation of right and wrong.
But on a rainy, shrouded May 22, dozens of people gathered inside First Unitarian Universalist Church on South Claiborne Avenue and talked about truth, beauty and life.
All I could see – besides the five shallow tubs of black garden soil in front of the sanctuary and the gold-painted shovels used symbolically to break ground on Planned Parenthood's mammoth abortion facility three blocks away – were darkness, evil and death.
Rabbi Edward Cohn of Temple Sinai, a faith leader who has worked tirelessly to enhance interfaith relations in the New Orleans area, quoted the psalmist by proclaiming: "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? I can only equate it to the cognitive dissonance triggered in your brain and your heart when someone you respect and want to believe is telling you passionately and unequivocally that black is white.
This is 2013, not 1984, but I felt transported into an Orwellian universe, where the Ministry of Truth dispenses truthspeak.
"Dear friends, what a joy and honor it is to be part of this celebration today," Rabbi Cohn said. "As the psalm says, it's not where you start, but where you finish. Today, we're off to a most exciting start.
"Of course, we're all mindful of the controversy and the ugly confusion which this wonderful facility engenders in some few, though very vocal, souls. Planned Parenthood and this new building's purpose and life-saving service are victims, really, of misinformation and sometimes downright malevolent voices, which encourage community hysteria and manufacture knowingly misinformation."
Let's get one thing clear. There are many health services that Planned Parenthood currently provides to women at its Magazine Street location that would be considered health "care." But it does not perform abortions in that clinic – as it plans to do at its sparkling "state-of-the-art" new regional abortion facility.
How amazing, then, are these indisputable statistics: in nearly 48 minutes of rejoicing and being glad in the Lord's day, Planned Parenthood trotted out nine speakers who talked about saving women from sexually transmitted diseases and from cancer through affordable screenings – all laudable goals of healing medicine – while devoting exactly 31 seconds to addressing, indirectly, the malevolent consequences of abortion.
"For women who are facing the complex and personal decision of whether to end a pregnancy, we will be here for them because we believe that decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, in consultation with her doctor," said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
If abortion represents only a tiny portion of Planned Parenthood's services – the organization minimizes the practice in every public pronouncement – then why would it need to change its "service" plan in New Orleans by offering abortion at its new facility? Well, there's a little thing called truth. Linton somehow neglected to inform her audience that Planned Parenthood in the U.S. performed 145 abortions for every one adoption referral in 2011.
Business is business.
For me, the most disheartening thing was to hear Rabbi Cohn paint a caricature of the pro-life community as "voices of fear and rebuke." He said some of the voices are "authored in good faith, frankly, by people who I dearly respect. But in this project and on this subject and its purpose, we could not find ourselves in more stark disagreement."
After recounting the story from the 11th chapter of the Book of Numbers, where Moses tells his followers to stop worrying about Eldad and Medad prophesying and perhaps becoming competitors to his authority, Rabbi Cohn said the same situation is playing out 3,500 years later.
"No one has a monopoly on truth, especially in a free society in the 21st century," Rabbi Cohn said. "No one – no church, no synagogue, no mosque, no archbishop, no rabbi, no imam – bespeaks the official faith of the United States of America. Thank God that's so.
"For we have in this country no approved theology, no approved creed which defines how and what we citizens must think or how we must act upon these highly personal issues of conscience or of the mysteries of faith – the birth or even the career of the human soul. Each faith, at its most, may teach its own adherents, but there is no one who speaks for the citizens of this nation. There is absolutely no monopoly on truth, and no one has cornered divine revelation, and the highest court of the land has affirmed that fact."
Just one question for Rabbi Cohn: What if the 50 million unborn infants destroyed in the last 40 years, courtesy of the highest court of the land, were actually human lives?
Truth? What is truth? What about "Thou shalt not kill"? What about another Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah (1:5): "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you."
Sorry. This was the day that humans had made, and this was no time to rejoice.
When I saw the gold shovels, I thought of only one thing: the grave-digging has only just begun.
But I'm no theologian.