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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Respecting Life in All Its Forms

In today’s issue of The Heights, Boston College’s student newspaper, Mr. Jon Sege, a member of the Global Justice Project (GJP), wrote an opinion column exploring the relationship between the university’s Catholic tradition and the GJP’s decision recently to protest the presence on campus of recruiters from the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), a private company that contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. The crux of Mr. Sege’s argument has to do with what he claims is the incongruity of allowing such recruiters on campus but denying access to abortion advocates.

While Mr. Sege has offered an eloquent and thought-provoking analysis of the implications of the right to life, his logic is nevertheless flawed in indicting abortion clinics and the U.S. military in the same breath.

The fact is that every one of the more than 1,000,000 children who were killed by abortion last year in the United States was an entirely innocent life, and as such, every one of their deaths was homicide. Hence, the practitioners of those homicides are morally culpable.

The U.S. military, on the other hand, derives the legitimate and moral authority from the lawful and sovereign government of the United States to defend the same. When they kill enemy combatants, they do so rightfully. Every fetus is innocent; the average enemy combatant is not. When innocent lives are lost in warfare, it is nevertheless a tragic injustice, and I have never yet met a soldier who contended otherwise. This is why the willful killing of innocent bystanders is punishable as homicide under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

When that loss of innocent life is, however, an unfortunate accident in the course of legitimate warfare, such moral culpability is not incurred, just as when someone dies in an auto accident that was truly an accident. We must also recognize that the enemy combatants we face in Iraq and Afghanistan often hide themselves among innocent people and use innocent civilians as “human shields”; hence, if anyone is to be held culpable for the deaths of innocents in such situations, it should be the cowardly enemy combatants, not the U.S. military.

Finally, while I am gladdened to see that Mr. Sege has recognized that Boston College’s Catholic tradition places a premium on the respect for all human life, I must unfortunately note that many members of the Global Justice Project do not share his views. One can often find links to Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups in their annual Freshman Disorientation Packet (go to page 32 and look under “women's liberation and women's rights”), and I have personally met GJP members who participate both in protests against the likes of Raytheon and JWAC, and in events put on by the Women’s Health Initiative that promote access to contraception and abortion. There was a time several years ago when the GJP and Boston College’s pro-life organizations were united in a Partnership for Life; I call on both sides to attempt to renew this partnership, to stand together in a commitment to promote life, and to make an unequivocal statement that we will not stand blithely by while the sanctity of innocent human life is violated, whether in the abortion clinic or on the streets of Baghdad.

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