Moral Briefs – Chapter LXXIII – The Massacre of the Innocents

cover of the ebook 'Moral Briefs' by Father John Henry StapletonHerod, the Bloody, slew all under two. A modern Moloch, a creature of lust and blood, disguised often under the cloak of respectability, stalks through a Christian land denying the babe the right to be born at all, demanding that it be crushed as soon as conceived. There is murder and murder; but this is the most heartless, cowardly and brutal on the catalogue of crime.

It is bad enough to cut down an enemy, to shoot him in the back; but when it comes to slaying a victim as helpless as a babe, incapable of entering a protest, innocent of all wrong save that of existing; when even baptism is denied it, and thereby the sight of God for all eternity; when finally the victim is one’s own flesh and blood, the language of hell alone is capable of qualifying such deeds.

Do not say there is no injustice. Every innocent human being, at every stage of its existence, from the first to the last, born or unborn, has a natural and inalienable right to live, as long as nature’s laws operate in its favor. Being innocent it cannot forfeit that right. God is no exceptor of persons; a soul is a soul, whether it be the soul of a pontiff, a king or a sage, or the soul of the unborn babe of the last woman of the people. In every case, the right to live is exactly the same.

The circumstances, regular or irregular, of its coming into life, not being of its own making, do not affect the right in the least. It obeyed the law by which every man is created; it could not disobey, for the law is fatal. Its presence therefore, cannot be morally obnoxious, a crime on its part. Whether its presence is a joy or a shame, that depends solely on the free act of others than itself; and it is for them to enjoy the privilege or bear the disgrace and burden. That presence may occasion poverty, suffering, it may even endanger life; what if it does! Has a person in misfortune the right to strike down another who has had no part in making that misfortune?

Life does not begin at birth, but precedes it; prenatal life is truly life. That which is conceived, is; being, it lives as essentially as a full-grown man in the prime of life. Being the fruit of humanity it is human at every instant of its career; being human, it is a creature of God, has an immortal soul with the image of the Maker stamped thereon. And the veto of God, “Thou shalt not kill,” protects that life, or it has no meaning at all.

The psychological moment of incipient life, the instant marked by the infusion of soul into body, may furnish a problem of speculation for the savant; but even when certitude ends and doubt begins, the law of God fails not to protect. No man who doubts seriously that the act he is about to perform is a crime, and is free to act or not to act, is anything but a criminal, if he goes ahead notwithstanding and does the deed. If I send a bullet into a man’s head doubting whether or not he be dead, I commit murder by that act, and it matters not at all in point of fact whether said person were really dead or not before I made sure. In the matter, therefore, which concerns us here, doubt will not make killing justifiable. The law is: when in doubt, do not act.

Then, again, as far as guilt is concerned, it makes not a particle of difference whether results follow or not. Sin, you know, is an act of the will: the exterior deed completes, but does not make, the crime. If I do all in my power to effect a wrong and fail in the attempt through no fault of my own, I am just as guilty before God as if I perpetrated the crime in deed. It is more than a desire to commit sin, which is sinful; it is a specific sin in itself, and in this matter, it is murder pure and simple.

This applies with equal force to the agent who does the deed, to the principal who has it done or consents to its being done, to those who advise, encourage, urge or co-operate in any way therein, as well as to those who having authority to prevent, neglect to use it. The stain of blood is on the soul of every person to whom any degree of responsibility or complicity can be attached.

If every murderer in this enlightened Christian land of ours received the rope which is his or her due, according to the letter of the law, business would be brisk for quite a spell. It is a small town that has not its professional babe-slaughterer, who succeeds in evading the law even when he contrives to kill two at one time. He does not like to do it, but there is money in it, you know; and he pockets his unholy blood money without a squirm. Don’t prosecute him; if you db, he will make revelations that will startle the town.

As for the unnatural mother, it is best to leave her to listen in the dead of night to the appealing voice of her murdered babes before the tribunal of God’s infinite justice. Their blood calls for vengeance.