Panel discussion on life issues draws crowd to St. Mary

GREENVILLE — Joe Hewes drove 50 miles to St. Mary Church on the evening of Oct. 14 to hear a panel discussion on life issues. Hewes is retired and goes to Mass four days a week.

“I figure I’ve heard over 3,000 homilies in the past 17 years, and I have never heard one about abortion,” Hewes said.

Father Jay Scott Newman, who sat on the panel with two pro-life physicians, did not seem surprised.

“It’s a tragedy,” Father Newman said, “but Catholics should know that the mind of the church is clear.”

That was elucidated further by Eric Norton, a family practice doctor from Spartanburg. First, however, Dr. Norton revealed some bleak statistics.

“The abortion industry, especially Planned Parenthood, is responsible for 1.3 to 1.5 million abortions every year in the United States. There have been 35 million surgical abortions in this country alone since Roe. v. Wade,” Norton said. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand.

He defined abortion as “the deliberate killing of an unborn human being while it’s still in the mother’s womb.” He said that partial-birth abortion, a late-term procedure that involves drawing the fetus part-way through the birth canal to crush its head, is setting a dangerous precedent.

“The link between abortion and infanticide is grisly but not inconceivable any more,” Norton said. “About 90 percent of induced or surgical abortions today are for birth control purposes, but unlike war or capital punishment, abortion is never an option for Catholics.”

He said that the prevailing attitude today is to prevent problems by preventing people; both abortion and artificial contraception spring from the same root selfishness. He said support for both has become commonplace.

“John Kerry, a Catholic, voted six times to favor partial-birth abortions,” he said.

Mark A. O’Rourke, an oncologist, spoke about stem-cell research, and Father Newman spoke about same-sex unions before a general question-and-answer period concluded the presentation.

Dr. O’Rourke said that killing embryonic human beings to harvest stem cells is using immoral means to achieve good, an attitude that is analogous to using slaves to harvest crops.

“We are not against science; we are not against the good things that stem-cell research can do. Stem cells can come from adult tissue, and you don’t have to kill a human being to get them,” Dr. O’Rourke said.

Father Newman argued against homosexual marriage as an injustice, rather than as a religious or spiritual transgression. The St. Mary’s pastor said that marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of society.

“The state recognizes but does not create marriage, the natural state of affairs. Our civilization depends on marriage because of the possibility of children,” the priest said. “Is it unjust of the state to give privileges to the union of a man and a woman and not to other friendships? To do that involves a choice, but not an unjust choice.”

He said that legalizing same-sex marriages is beyond the competence of any government and called the idea “a bridge too far.” He said that such activism from judges or legislatures is an act of judicial arrogance.

The life issues panel discussion, which drew about 150 people, was sponsored by the parish Culture of Life Committee.