"The fugitive has not been found!" the commandant Karl Fritsch screamed. "Ten of you will die for him in the starvation bunker." The prisoners trembled in terror. A few days in this bunker without food and water, and a man's intestines dried up and his brain turned to fire.
The ten were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance. He couldn't help a cry of anguish. "My poor wife!" he sobbed. "My poor children! What will they do?"
When he uttered this cry of dismay, Maximilian stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, "I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children."
Astounded, the Nazi commandant asked, "What does this Polish pig want?"
Father [St. Maximilian] Kolbe pointed with his hand to the condemned Franciszek Gajowniczek and repeated "I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children."
Observers believed in horror that the commandant would be angered and would refuse the request, or would order the death of both men. The commandant remained silent for a moment. What his thoughts were on being confronted by this brave priest we have no idea. Amazingly, however, he acceded to the request. Apparently, the the Nazis had more use for a young worker than for an old one, and was happy to make the exchange. Franciszek Gajowniczek was returned to the ranks, and the priest took his place.
Kolbe was thrown down the stairs of Building 13 along with the other victims and simply left there to starve. One by one, the men died of hunger and thirst. Maximilian Kolbe encouraged the others with prayers, psalms, and meditations on the Passion of Christ. After two weeks, only four were alive. The cell was needed for more victims, and the camp executioner, a common criminal called Bock, came in and injected a lethal dose of cabolic acid into the left arm of each of the four dying men. Kolbe was the only one still fully conscious and with a prayer on his lips, the last prisoner, Father Kolbe, raised his arm for the executioner. His wait was over ...
So it was that Father Maximilian Kolbe was executed on August 14, 1941, at the age of forty-seven years, a martyr of charity. His body was removed to the crematorium, and without dignity or ceremony was disposed of, like hundreds of thousands who had gone before him, and hundreds of thousands more who would follow.
(Jewish Virtual Library: Maximilian Kolbe: 1894-1941)
How far we have come in our moral progress in Western Civilization (led by the sterling, shining example of "give me your poor" America: bastion of liberty, freedom, and personal rights). What was considered one of the most heinous tortures and executions by the Nazis (and their imprisoned victims) -- starvation and hunger, till death -- is now widely regarded as a "humane, compassionate, painless death with dignity"; indeed, a precious "right." Our legal system would have done the Nazis proud.
Imagine if the Nuremburg Trials were held today. The majority of our own Supreme Court could consistently argue the Nazi criminals' case on the basis of the highest, most respectable legal precedent, and the pro-death, anti-child, anti-life logic that has held sway in our beloved country for more than 30 years now (with more than 48 million legally-slaughtered babies as a result: far exceeding the Nazi body piles and burned human remains: by some eight times).
Rather than hanging the horrific war criminals like Goering, perhaps (ah, the virtue of hindsight) he should have been offered the "humane, painless, dignified" death of dehydration and starvation . . . "If only" . . . But alas, we are a much more progressive and caring people now than we were then. Goering killed himself by lethal injection, as it turned out. Today, many thousands of bleeding-logic, heartless, morally clueless liberal "doctors" would have gladly volunteered to do it for him.
Perhaps Terri Schiavo can be regarded as a martyr (I'm writing before her death, but there looks to be no hope left, on this Holy Thursday, after six days of no food and water)? St. Maximilian Kolbe did, of course, volunteer for his heroic death. Terri was not given even that choice. Her loving, committed husband decided it for her (after having been granted a million dollars in a previous court finding after agreeing under oath to take care of her with the money for a presumed full life of perhaps "70 years").
But of course we also know (on her dear husband's word) that this is how Terri would want to die (coincidentally just as the Jews and Catholics and other unfortunates in the Nazi camps did), so (granting his report, which every court system seems to think unquestionable), she has volunteered for the death that has been the main cause of the canonization of Fr. Kolbe.
What does this travesty of justice and absolute moral outrage tell us about our country and ourselves? I place the blame squarely on the Catholic Church, first and foremost, secondarily on other committed Christian groups, and thirdly, on our morally upright, decent non-believer friends. After all, I believe the famous saying from Edmund Burke: "evil triumphs when good men do nothing."
We are blessed with legal abortion largely because the Catholic Church was so weak in 1973, and was suffering through a huge liberal crisis on the level of the priests and many laypeople (not in its dogma, which has not changed). Such a huge societal shift would have been inconceivable just ten years earlier, when Catholicism had achieved the height of its power and influence, and we had our first Catholic President (albeit a personally nominal one).
But 1973 was an entirely different time. The Church was weak, so the secularist juggernaut (fully in the throes of both the sexual revolution and feminism) acted, and here we are, 48 million citizens (all 32 years old and younger) fewer, and in a wonderful society (almost a Utopia) where we are further blessed with events like high school massacres, and so forth.
Not that other Christians were not to blame, too. Many other groups and influential Christian individuals had caved on abortion, or were actually sanctioning it in individual "hard cases." But "to whom much is given, much is required." The Catholic Church (ironically, given American religious history) was the largest single Christian group in America (and the world).
Yet where were the priests and bishops and influential, important, high-placed Catholic laypeople leading massive, unprecedented public rallies in disapproval (then and now)? Where was the mass protest and civil disobedience? After all, there was much precedent, before and after. The abolitionists caused quite a stir before the Civil war. Their cause was just (though not always their tactics).
As recently as eight years earlier, there had been huge, entirely justifiable and necessary peaceful civil rights rallies and marches and civil disobedience, led by Dr. Martin Luther King (with many Catholics and other Christian activists participating). These included the breaking of unjust laws. Four years earlier, there had been huge (legal) protest rallies in Washington, D.C. over the Vietnam War.
That tragic conflict took only a puny 56,000 lives: a mere two-weeks' worth of work in our legal abortuaries (please excuse my sarcasm: I trust that my very serious point of comparison will be understood). But I guess when big healthy people die, it is much more a cause for alarm and protest than when little and unhealthy and defenseless people do (at least the soldier in Vietnam had a machine gun at his disposal, to fight back).
Why is it, then, that something so clearly wrong and outrageous and contrary to all Christian morality as abortion was not also so protested (then and now)? I think we need to ask ourselves that and take a good, long look in the mirror. Virtually all of us are moral cowards, unwilling to undergo the slightest suffering for the sake of the Church, God, or the most obvious of injustices and suffering of others (up to and including death).
We have all basically sat idly by (like Germans in the 30s) as our nation has sunk to depths that would be the envy of the Nazis and "Uncle Joe" Stalin himself (who once starved 10 million Ukrainians: 10 million Terri Schiavos: maybe this is why the liberal press in America uttered nary a whimper in protest: they were ahead of their time, and were compassionate far more than they knew; better to starve than die in the then-inevitable World War II, right?).
We keep reaching new milestones of butchery, savagery, and barbarism: beyond the ancient Romans, beyond the Nazis and the Communists . . . first legal abortion came in 1973. It then became legal to dismember a ten-week old preborn child, with all its organs in place, a beating heart, and brainwaves, and all the DNA that it would ever need. The next major milestone of the Culture of Death, as I see it, came in 1989, with the Supreme Court Webster case, dealing with abortion. Do you remember that one? After Robert Bork had been denied a seat on the Court after a ridiculous, slanderous Kangaroo Trial in the Senate, Anthony Kennedy got the seat instead. He had been a conservative judge, and was a Catholic. He seemed like a decent choice at the time.
But he voted against life in 1989 when that case came up. There was actually a real opportunity for Roe v. Wade to be overturned then. It failed because (one could argue) the Catholic justice Kennedy voted against it. So did Sandra Day O'Connor (Episcopalian, and a Reagan appointee). Kennedy was key in that development because he eventually became a "swing vote". In 1973, Harry Blackmun wrote the Roe ruling. He was a Methodist. The only two dissenters at the time were William Rehnquist (Lutheran) and Byron White (Episcopalian). See Religious Affiliation of All U.S. Supreme Court Justices.
Along with Chief Justice Rehnquist, the two most conservative justices presently are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, both Catholics. It seems to come down to us Catholics, any way you look at it. That's why I say we are most responsible for the New Savagery that we find ourselves in, in America.
So 1989 was a milestone. The chance to overturn Roe and institute any reasonable limits on abortion-on-demand at all was lost. If one Catholic justice had stayed true to his previous legal and moral principles, it may have turned out differently. That was 16 years after legal abortion began. Here we are sixteen years later, passing another pro-death milestone: now a woman is being starved to death in the name of compassion, mercy, and the "right to die with dignity."
And everyone is watching and letting it happen. Her (devout Catholic) parents want to care for her; so do a brother and a sister. They will pay for her care. But an estranged husband, who is living in adultery, with two children, wanted her to die, so his will has reigned supreme (much as any mother can kill her child today, and the husband or grandparents have no say whatsoever). This is the culture of death.
And guess who again played a central role in this travesty and moral and legal lunacy? Anthony Kennedy. He was the Justice who reviewed the desperate appeals from Terri's parents. Great work, Justice Kennedy (and any other Justice who concurred)! I'd like to listen when you explain this to your Maker one day. Let's see how far your sophisticated legal reasoning will get you then (God being not nearly as gullible and sheep-like as the American people). Note: I'm not saying these judges are condemned to hell; but rather, that all our sins will be judged, in any event: for the saved as well as the damned.
The other notable milestones were the advent of "partial-birth abortion," where a full-term child is delivered up to the neck, and then a "doctor" sticks scissors in the back of its neck and sucks its brains out (all because the mother doesn't "want" the child; whereas one million couples waiting to adopt would be more than happy to take the child, and even let the little boy or girl live!). Majorities in the Senate during the Clinton administration refused to outlaw this butchery of the most inhumane, monstrous sort.
After that came the assisted suicide movement, spearheaded by the ghoulish "Dr. Kevorkian," from my own state of Michigan, who killed 30 or so people. At least my state (the land of Carl Levin and John Conyers) had sense enough to convict him and put him in jail. And soon we'll have wholesale harvesting of aborted babies for stem cell research (and no doubt mere commercial reasons, too). Coming up in the next 20 or so years (virtually inevitably, if nothing changes), will be active infanticide of born handicapped children, and euthanasia of older handicapped people, whose worth is decided based on what they can do for society, not because they are made in the image of God and possess an eternal soul.
These instances will be, of course, against the will of the people involved, just as in Terri Schiavo's case. This is perhaps the most frightening development at all. We need only look at Nazi Germany and current "progressive" countries like the Netherlands (formerly a strongly Christian country, much like our own: one which heroically resisted the Nazis). But we know that men won't learn from the past, and so are doomed to repeat it.
Personally, I saw some hope to end the madness of the Culture of Death in 1988, when the Operation Rescue movement exploded nationally. It seemed to be a movement much like the civil rights movement. It involved civil disobedience and biblical obedience. I took part in it (some 24 rescues, and five arrests). That could have been the beginning of what needs to happen. But alas, it petered out within a year and a half because of unwillingness to suffer consequences for doing what is right. Our opponents starting playing hardball and passing laws equating rescuers with organized criminals, and that was the end.
Even then, we could have easily prevailed by adding more bodies (i.e., live ones) to the front lines. What would the police and courts have done? They could have been brought to a standstill in a week. We tied up the courts and jails just with our rescues and some 50-100 arrests. They simply couldn't handle it. The jails didn't have any room. That's why I only spent a night in jail, after being sentenced to a week. Christians and other "good people" could accomplish this goal if we would only get off our butts and stand up and be counted (literally). But we're too afraid, compromised, and cowardly.
I would participate in such a mass movement again, in a second. But I can hardly go out and get arrested and go to jail for a year when I have a wife and four children to provide for. If we had 100,000 people out of the committed Catholics, Protestant, Orthodox, and pro-life non-believers in this country stand up to this outrage, that would be an utter non-issue (strength and safety in numbers) and it would be over in a week or a month (the whole thing: abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, assisted suicide . . . ). There would be no choice (no pun intended). Perverse, corrupt, ungodly laws wouldn't be able to do a damned thing about that sort of massive protest.
But we sit idly by and watch. What does it take to wake us up? People being machine-gunned in the streets? Children being seized and raised by the state? Routine murder of people after they hit 80 (like that movie, Logan's Run, at age 30)? How much more will we sit and watch? Sure, we vote for pro-lifers, and try to live our own lives the right way as Christians. We preach to ourselves and pat ourselves on the back every Sunday. But what good has that accomplished, in terms of promoting the sanctity of life? The courts are running rampant, trampling historic legal principles of protection of life. We see how even President Bush and a majority of Congress were helpless against one liberal "judge" who holds a human being's life in his hands as if he were God Himself (may God have mercy on him at the Judgment too).
Law is obviously not working, and is clearly part of the present problem, because human law is often unjust and contrary to God. At such times massive peaceful, nonviolent societal protest and civil disobedience is necessary. History shows us that such dissent causes a change in the laws. I'm not talking anarchy, but moral and legal reform. I'm not against law per se (not at all), but against outrageous, immoral law. Christians are no more obliged to follow unjust laws than they were in Nero's time, where they had to take an oath to the emperor or be killed. We know what they chose. But will we Christians do that today? I highly doubt it. We're too comfortable and compromised and corrupted by the surrounding society.
Again, I ask: what will it take? Well, historically, it takes the shedding of blood and persecution to wake up sound-asleep Christians. That's why it struck me that Terri Schiavo is a virtual martyr. It could be that this is the event in God's Providence which will finally wake people up to reality and what lies ahead if we continue on this bloodthirsty path of death everywhere: to preborns, handicapped, brain-damaged, quadriplegics, elderly (in due course, conservatives, Christians, pro-lifers, non-feminists, those who deny homosexual "marriage"???); you name it, as this thing continues its diabolical course. Someone said, "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church."
Perhaps we are now entering what I call (to coin a phrase) The New Neronian Age of Martyrs. We've now witnessed the cold-blooded murder by the state of a grown woman, by dehydration and starvation. If more people start suffering and dying, maybe we'll wake up and a revival will occur, by God's grace (just as happened in the early Church). Otherwise, we're doomed as a nation; not only culturally and morally, but perhaps even physically. God will judge this nation. I argued that after 9-11, and took a lot of heat for it. All I said was, "why are we so alarmed and mournful at 3000 deaths, when 4000 have been happening daily in abortuaries for 28 years?" I wasn't being callous (I mourned with everyone else); I was simply making a point of moral consistency. If we could mourn those in the Towers, we ought to also mourn babies being slaughtered every day in many of our own neighborhoods.
Then I wondered aloud if this was possibly the beginning of the judgment of America. It's a perfectly reasonable and biblical question and possiblity. But few understood it at the time. Granted, my timing probably left a lot to be desired, but my moral and biblical point stood. How much more corrupt have we become since 9-11? Now we murder our own grown women. We don't even need madman terrorists to do it for us. The whole country is sitting there watching it! At least abortion is mostly hidden, so people can pretend it isn't happening, or isn't morally significant.
I don't want to live the last 30 or 40 years of my life (I'm 46) in a sewer. I don't want my children to live in a culture, when they are my age, which will be even more degenerate and corrupt and evil than our own age (if indeed it is even imaginable to sink lower than we have).
Having expressed myself in no uncertain terms on a very unpleasant topic (many thanks to you for reading this, especially if you have gotten this far, as you seem to have done :-), I would like to actually end on a positive note. The Christian never despairs, and retains faith, no matter what. God is in control, and if it is His Providence that Terri's murder starts a revival, then some good can come out of this outrageous travesty of justice and humanity. I can see at least five "positive things" (believe it or not) that Terri's murder and the Culture of Death may lead to:
1) When we look at Church history; even history in general, we see that after all the most corrupt ages, the next age was one of revival and renewal. We see this also in the Old Testament, in recounting the history of the Jews. This is what we have to live with as human beings. We're so blind that things have to get absolutely awful before we will wake up and start seeing connections between morality and the state of affairs of society and cultures and nations. My spiritual mentor, the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., a very saintly man, used to say that he thought the 21st century would be one of great revival, precisely because the 20th had been the bloodiest in history. So history shows. He was speaking "historically" as much as he was making an observation from faith and hope.
2) This present case excellently illustrates the fraudulent, farcical, morally insane nature of liberal, secularist "compassion." If dismemberment of 10-week old preborn children weren't enough to reveal that, then perhaps partial birth infanticide does, or the spectre of seeing a brain-damaged woman starving to death in agony, with her parents not even allowed (at gunpoint) to put an ice chip in her mouth. Some things cannot be rationalized away: not even by fallen, corrupt, sin-blinded human beings. When we think of such "compassion", we must always keep in mind, Terri starving (like St. Maximilian in Auschwitz) and the full-term baby's brain being sucked out by a "doctor." If those two things won't jar people into moral sanity, nothing (on an earthly plane) will. And that will at least provide some moral sanity and sense from these absolutely monstrous, hideous, ghastly, unspeakable acts of evil.
3) As mentioned earlier, if the time has come for persecution and martyrs, I say, let it come. Praise God! That has always been the cause of great Church growth and individual spiritual growth in the past. If we can't learn by God's great blessing and the Bible and Church guidance, then it will have to come the hard way: by suffering and blood. We're no better than the first century Christians. What makes us think we can escape all these things?
4) Such events lead to a stark contrast between good and evil: far more than apologetic or pastoral rhetoric and arguments or political talk of "culture wars" could ever do. A picture speaks a thousand words. This tends to lead to better Christians, because the ones who decide to be on the Christian side do so at more and more cost these days. And in that scenario there are fewer lukewarm Christians. There's no reason to be a Christian in such a hostile environment as we have today, unless one really means it, and is willing to live it out, not just talk. It's better to have a "darkness and light" society, with very clear opposing choices, than to have a uniformly "grey" world where everyone is pretty nice, and religiously nominal.
Though I would live in the America of the 40s or 50s in a second, if I had the choice (compared to this filled toilet that Americans and most in the developed countries are forced to live in today), in this respect, arguably things were much worse then. Christianity had become mundane and routine. It must be a radical thing, by its very nature, and times like ours tend to foster more commitment and passion in those who do choose to follow Christ (as the Christian philosopher Kierkegaard often argued, in warring against the nominal Lutheranism of his Danish society and time). And that's a very good thing, of course.
5) Lastly, as this senseless, ethically-bankrupt killing continues, it's good to remind ourselves in our mourning and understandable feelings of despair and helplessness, that it is those people who believe in this perverse and wanton killing, who actually do it! In other words, they are killing themselves off. They've already been doing it by abortion. Now they're devising other ways to knock themselves off. So (I speak tongue-in-cheek, with black humor) if liberals and secularists and left-wing ideologues want to kill themselves off and lessen their number, let them do it! If we must endure this moral lunacy, at least we can have the solace that Christian numbers will increase, while non-Christian or nominal Christian ones will decrease (with a corresponding improvement of society and socialo justice).
Demographics is destiny. If only Christians would have more children than secular society (which leads into a discussion of contraception and its ultimately anti-child mentality), then this culture could easily be re-captured in a generation or less. That's great news. But we have to do it. We have to have more children and raise them in the faith, to be dissidents against decadence (say that five times fast!). It's really quite simple. But human beings, unfortunately, often fail to grasp the simplest and most obvious realities, as the Terri Schiavo case sadly proves once again.