Today marks one of the ten Holy Days of Obligation in the Catholic Church: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. At the end of her life her body was assumed directly into Heaven -- a testament to what will happen at the end of the world for everyone who will be counted among the blessed in Heaven. This feast is the most significant and the most ancient of those dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.
The Gospel from the day’s Mass is Luke 1:41-50, which describes the meeting of the Blessed Virgin and her cousin St. Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard the voice of Mary, the child leapt in her womb, she was filled with the Holy Ghost, and she declared, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (these words form part of the Hail Mary).
The part about the child leaping in Elizabeth’s womb reminded me of a recent conversation with a friend who does not understand why Catholics object to NFP and birth control. One problem with the latter, I pointed out, is that artificial birth control can act as an abortifacient.
My friend just about hit the roof when I said that. An abortifacient, after all, causes an abortion by bringing about the death of the zygote, embryo, blastocyst, or fetus after conception has occurred.
Note that the point is not that contraceptives directly kill an embryo. Rather, contraceptives suppress ovulation, but they do not entirely eliminate it – that is why there is occasionally breakthrough ovulation, which can result in a fertilized egg.
An additional effect of the oral contraceptives is that they prevent a fertilized ovum from implanting on the uterine wall – and when that happens, the ovum dies. It is this fact of an ovum not being able to implant itself because of the effects of the contraceptive that constitutes the abortion.
Some researchers maintain that because the contraceptive only prevents implantation and does not directly kill the fertilized egg, that therefore “abortion” is the wrong term to describe this operation. But that’s like saying that if I withhold food and water from you I haven’t killed you, you just died from malnutrition. At best that’s delusional.
U.S. Law, for the record, marks the beginning of pregnancy at implantation, and not at fertilization. Such are the sad times we live in that plenty of healthcare providers are willing to promote that devious notion.
To each doctrine a particular morality corresponds. The same Mary who concluded her time on earth with her bodily assumption into Heaven began her sojourn by being immaculately conceived: from the first moment of her existence she was preserved from original sin, and it clearly follows that all of us also began to exist as human beings from the first moment of our existence.
When the scientists and lawmakers let us down for political or financial gain, it’s good to know that we have the dogmas of Holy Mother Church to remind us of what’s true and reliable.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesu.