The Emerald’s Trial

Photo by Patrick Metzdorf on Unsplash

In his 1996 classic, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill makes a bold claim — without Ireland, Western civilization as we now know it would never exist. In part, Cahill’s thesis is true. Scholars traditionally mark the collapse of the Roman Empire (at least in the West) as happening in 476 A.D., when the Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed by the Germanic soldier-turned-king-of-Italy, Odoacer. However, even prior to 476, the Roman Empire was shrinking. Its once-legendary army was now mostly comprised of Germanic mercenaries. Barbarian hordes invaded Roman territories. The true wealth of the Roman Empire was in the East, in Constantinople; as for the West, the “Eternal City” was subject to urban and moral decay.

Ireland was the exception. While the traditional centers of learning and culture on the European mainland were being ransacked by barbarian invaders, it was the Irish — and in particular, Irish monks — who saved literacy. Within the walls of their monasteries, Irish monks kept ancient texts, copying both pagan and Christian manuscripts by hand. Not only did they preserve learning & the arts, but the Christian communities in Ireland taught valuable farming techniques to the Germanic nomadic tribes. Irish monks prayed, worked, and lived hidden lives, dedicating their time and efforts to preserving civilized culture. Irish monks and missionaries traveled from coast to coast and even across the sea to evangelize people, sharing the light of truth to those suffering in darkness.

Ireland saved Western civilization once. Can they do it again?

On Friday, May 25th, Irish voters will cast their ballots and decide whether the Eight Amendment of Ireland’ Constitution — the one which outlawed abortion — should be saved, or repealed. Throughout social media, you will find hashtags such as, #SaveThe8th, #RepealThe8th, #GetYourRosariesOffMyOvaries, and other ones stemming from the various campaigns at work. For the pro-abortion crowd, Ireland is way behind the times. Whereas the majority of Western countries have legalized abortion by now, Ireland’s Eighth Amendment — passed with an overwhelming majority in 1983 — is seen as an infringement upon women’s “reproductive rights”, forcing women to travel to other countries (such as the U.K.) to get their abortions. For the pro-life crowd, Ireland’s historical resistance to legalizing abortion will ensure the safety of human life, for the Eighth Amendment acknowledges “the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.” However, the pro-life crowd knows well that the very fact that the Eighth Amendment is up for debate is a “sign of the times” — namely, that Ireland is no longer a “Christian” nation. Ireland, like the majority of once-Christian European countries, is now turning its back on its baptism.

The debate on the Eighth Amendment hasn’t been without drama. Thousands of Irish citizens have publicly demonstrated their opposition to the proposed Amendment repeal. Some Irish couples have gone to the media, in tears, to discuss how Ireland’s restrictive abortion policy has forced them to travel to other countries. #Repealthe8th voters have torn down pro-life posters which were lawfully put up in Kildare. On social media, Irish women post threads which view the 8th Amendment as a threat to women’s health. Katie Ascough, the president of University College Dublin’s Student Union, was impeached by her own peers because of her pro-life views. Irish celebrities, such as Bono, Liam Neeson, Sinéad O’Connor, and even Jeremy Irons — who played the scandalous Pope Alexander VI in Showtime’s The Borgias — have come out in support of the “pro-choice” movement.

If Ireland is going to truly be a “progressive” nation and a model for the rest of the world to follow, then it’s simple: the Eighth Amendment, which defends “the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”, must be defended at all costs. There is no alternative.

Photo by Astemir Almov on Unsplash

The foundation of all civilization is human life. The very word, ‘civilization’, comes from the mid-1700’s, and is of French origin; in typical Enlightenment fashion, the word was used as a way to discuss “the act or process of bringing out of a savage or uneducated state.” The word was coined to distinguish a well-ordered society from barbarism. The idea behind the word was this — there are well-functioning ways to order society. There are laws, a system of rights and duties, responsibilities, and moral expectations for human flourishing. For example, the Irish Benedictine monks who “saved” Western civilization did so, not because they clung to old books written by dead philosophers; rather, their very way of life (ora et labora: “pray and work”, the motto of the Benedictine Order) was structured in a way which allowed for human growth and development. While the barbarians were raping & pillaging their way through historic Rome, these monks woke up in the middle of the night to pray, considered work to be an essential part of humanity, and were trained in the art of hospitality, education, and culture. The Irish monks were, by its very definition, the cultivators of ‘civilization’.

In modern times, the word ‘civilization’ is thrown around loosely. Civilization is seen as an ambiguous term referring to humanity’s shared existence. Gone is the notion of there being any requirements or necessary qualities to determine civilization. It is all but assumed that, as long as there are two or more human beings, there is ‘civilization’. But that cannot be further from the truth. The Irish are credited with “saving Western civilization” precisely because they saved those things which were good, true, and beautiful. The barbarians were rightly considered ‘uncivilized’, because the structure of their society lacked any cohesion. To modern-day ears, this is offensive. “How dare you say that those Germanic barbarians were not civilized?” Well, that’s a larger conversation, to be sure. But what we know is that, based on the Enlightenment definition of ‘civilization’, they were not. And for better or for worse (I typically argue the latter), modern man continues to sleep in bed with Enlightenment principles, and so this definition is inescapable. Etymology is important — you cannot spell ‘civilization’ without ‘civil’, and no society which murders the unborn can truly be considered civil.

The Absurdity of Abortion

Photo by Julie Johnson on Unsplash

Abortion, by its very definition, is the deliberate destruction of human life. Abortion destroys human life in a mother’s womb, a place which has been designed over time as a deliberately safe space. A mother’s womb is not a torture chamber. For evolution advocates out there, we see how human species evolve for their betterment. Thus, a mother’s womb is intended, by nature, to be a place of safety, nourishment, and protection for the unborn human life within it. Abortion attempts to destroy the natural design, by destroying the life which the womb was designed to protect. The process of abortion and the instruments used do severe damage to the body, even when abortion is performed in pill form. The lie that abortion is somehow “progress” is fundamentally anti-science and anti-human.

Pro-abortion advocates often say, “That’s not a human! It’s a clump of cells!” My question is this — the fertilized egg, which later becomes an embryo, then a fetus, a fetus which later becomes a pro-abortion protester screaming on the streets of Dublin , etc. — when does this ‘thing’ become human? Has there ever been a man and woman who, after having sexual relations resulting in a pregnancy, expected anything to come out of the womb besides a human being? When a male dog has sex with a female dog and the female dog becomes pregnant, will the female dog ever give birth to… an elephant? It may seem like a silly point to make, but the idea that the zygote is anything but a human-being-with-potential is a fantasy peddled by those who need to discredit the humanness of the zygote in order to clear their guilty consciences.

At the moment of conception, a new life is formed. There is no other point where we can say our life begins. Twenty-three chromosomes from both parents combine to create a unique individual human being and everything about that new person is coded into their DNA from that first cell. “[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being.”

— Keith L. Moore, “Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology”, 7th edition (Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008) p. 2.

Does a zygote become ‘human’ with the introduction of a heartbeat? If a heartbeat is considered an essential element to human life, then we have no business using defibrillation to jump-start the heart of someone in cardiac arrest, because the fact that the heart isn’t beating means that the patient is simply no longer human. Does a “clump of cells” become human once it is able to solve mathematical equations? In that case, we might as well discard every single student who fails remedial math. The “clump of cells” argument is often used to invalidate the principle of human life by arguing the absurd — that somehow, there is something in a fully-developed human which makes him or her ‘human’, a ‘something’ which apparently cannot be found in an embryo or fetus. If we reduce that ‘something’ to a sentient function, then we are “ableists”. According to this logic, anyone who is dis-abled is no longer human.

Pro-abortion arguments usually employ the language of “rights”. “My body, my choice!” they yell. And yet, at the root of this rights-language is an obvious contradiction. A person certainly has the right to his or her own body. And thus abortion — the direct termination of a human life — makes absolutely no sense, at least to those who care about “human rights”. Within a mother’s womb is a human who is in the process of developing his or her human body. Abortion advocates talk so much about the woman’s “right to choose” but rarely discuss the right of the fetus to choose his or her own fate for his or her own body. Pro-abortion advocates will then say, “Well yes, but that fetus depends on the mother for survival!”, to which I then say, who the hell doesn’t in the minutes, hours, and days following birth? My grandfather depends on his caretaker to cook meals and thus feed him; does that mean that she has the “right” to choose whether he lives or dies?

The human person, by his or her very existence, is endowed with an inherent dignity which no one may violate. All of society, and ultimately, all of civilization rests upon this fact — humans are not tools, objects for another’s gain, nor are they expendable for a “greater good”. The pro-life stance is the humanist stance, the one which defends the intrinsic importance of the human person within society. A society which privileges the State over the individual is a deformed society, for humans do not exist for the State, but rather the State exists for humans. There is nothing “progressive” about savage murder of the most vulnerable. Every human life is precious and worthy of respect. I find it ironic that the same people who (rightfully) argue against racism, sexism, and xenophobia on the basis of “respect for persons” oftentimes do not extend that same urgency of respect towards those persons depending on their mothers for survival. The “progress” which Ireland’s #RepealThe8th crowd claims is a farce because it undermines the very nature of civilization — the dignity of human life.

You notice I haven’t mentioned the word “God” at all in this piece. Any references to religion have only referred to its socio-cultural place within Irish society. This is because a person can determine that abortion is wrong through secular philosophy & natural human reasoning. As a result, it comes as no surprise that there are a number of pro-life advocates who are atheist, agnostic, or simply apathetic towards religion. This isn’t to discredit those who are both pro-life & religious. I bring this up only to show that the #RepealThe8th crowd with their “Get Your Rosaries Off my Ovaries” bumper stickers are foolish for thinking opposition to abortion is a religious issue. It’s not. It’s a human rights issue.

I get it. Ireland is like the angsty teen. With Christianity being the dominant narrative throughout Ireland’s history, many Irish abortion-supporters want to rebel against God as a teen rebels against his parents, slamming the door shut, turning off the lights, and listening to Marilyn Manson. Irish culture and Christianity were seen as inseparable for over 1,500 years. Perhaps Ireland is going through its awkward growing pains. Oftentimes, the pro-abortion crowd will point to the Catholic Church in Ireland and its atrocious abuses and subsequent cover-up. Indeed, it seems as if a dark history and sinful past has made these Irish spurn the Church and its teachings regarding the sanctity of all human life. However, if the pro-abortion crowd is serious about its integrity, it would do well to examine also the dark history, abuse, and sinful past of the abortion industry.

Ireland is on the eve of a very important vote. Admittedly, Ireland came late to the progressive block party, legalizing divorce in 1995, same-sex “marriage” in 2015, and now trying to legalize abortion, 83 years after Iceland — Europe’s first offender — did so. Do the Irish decide to abandon truth in order to ‘fit in’ with the liberal European crowd? Or, will Ireland decide to do what Ireland has always done best — save civilization from the barbaric, uncivilized hordes of liberal Europe?

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Doctoral student in theology, seeking the true, good, and beautiful.

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John Monaco

John Monaco

Doctoral student in theology, seeking the true, good, and beautiful.

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