Our festering sins

On July 5, Pope Francis certified a miraculous cure had been done through the intercession of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen: James Fulton Engstrom, who was born without a pulse. His mother, Bonnie Engstrom, had been praying through the archbishop’s intercession throughout her pregnancy, so she prayed during the 61 minutes that her newborn did not breathe that his life would be spared. Right as the medical personnel were about to pronounce James dead, he took his first breath. 

Experts have determined that only a miracle could explain James’ survival  — a miracle that Archbishop Sheen sought from God in Heaven. As such, Pope Francis has given the “green light” to preparations for this American Catholic televangelist to be declared “blessed.”

Archbishop Sheen was keenly aware of his need to bring souls to Christ — and a large part of that work involved getting people to realize their need for repentance, their need to turn away from sin and live the Gospel.

In a talk readily available on YouTube, entitled “Abortion: The Approach of Midnight,” Archbishop Sheen discussed how an erroneous idea of freedom — that it means doing whatever you want, without any limits — led to the anti-life world in which we live now.

“Once that philosophy is proclaimed, that the Ego is supreme, there are no limits, then abortion follows. I wonder when we ever got into this position of denying limits?” The archbishop, who had begun the talk by referencing a prior appearance that he had had at UCLA, where some of the students disagreed with him about limits, then expressed a thought seemingly more relevant today than it was in the 1970s. “I wonder why our young people are so concerned with their identity? Thirty and 40 years ago [Executive editor’s note: that would be in the 1930s and 1940s] nobody had the problem of identity. Why not? Because we recognized boundaries, limits. How do you know the limits, for example, of the identity of the State of Illinois? By its boundary lines. How do you know the identity of a basketball court? By its foul lines. How do we know our own identity? By limits, by boundaries.” 

Then Archbishop Sheen made a connection between two features of American history. He said, “And I think we lost all of these [boundaries] at 8:15 in the morning, Aug. 6, 1945, when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. That bomb blotted out boundaries of life and death, civilian and the military, and trust among nations. And so, abortion from that point on is defended on the ground that one may do whatever he pleases.”

Catherine and Michael Pakaluk, writing in the National Catholic Register on Aug. 7, 2005, made a similar argument in a column entitled “Effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Still Being Felt.” The Pakaluks argued that one may see a direct line from the atomic bomb to abortion. They open with a truth of morality. “When someone commits a grave sin, such as adultery or murder, but never confesses or even acknowledges it, the sin festers. Things begin to go wrong in his life, and he does not understand why. His character slowly becomes corrupted. He loses his former ideals and goals. He finds he is unable to escape a constant, gnawing unhappiness.”

The Pakaluks then discussed how that is true also for groups, be they Ancient Israel, or corporations, or countries today. “It is common for Catholics to look at American culture today, with its ‘moral anarchy,’ and wonder when things began to go wrong. Usually the ’60s are blamed, and yet there was no noteworthy cause then. Could our moral anarchy, perhaps, have its origins in something even prior to that decade? This August [Executive editor’s note: remember, this is from 2005] marks the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We propose that Catholics reflect seriously on whether those bombings amount to a serious, unacknowledged national ‘sin,’ one that has contributed to the corruption of the national character. Could our current moral malaise be traceable — at least in part — to these great, dishonorable acts?”

We have already discussed in another edition of The Anchor some years ago this possible connection, while also noting that one cannot judge President Truman as if he knew everything we know now. May God have mercy on his soul — and on all of the innocent people who were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, we today are much more aware of the evils of abortion than were people 46 years ago, when the Supreme Court legalized it throughout our country. In the meantime many abortionists and abortion supporters, including “Jane Roe” herself (her real name was Norma McCorvey), recanted of their support for abortion and became Pro-Life activists. Unfortunately, many Catholic politicians have moved in the opposite direction and have embraced more and more radical positions — now advocating for government funding of abortion (repealing the Hyde Amendment) and for passage of the Roe Act, which would legalize abortion for minors without parental or judicial consent, abortions up to the ninth month, and permit medical personnel to do nothing if a baby accidentally survived an abortion.

In a society such as this, it is also no surprise that children can be left in conditions in our border area which would require any diocesan employee or volunteer to call the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if we were to come across a similar situation here. As part of the Safe Environments program for all diocesan employees or volunteers who encounter minors, we all are instructed to contact DCF and other authorities if we find a child who is the victim of neglect. The children at the holding facilities at the border are certainly enduring such neglect. However, our atom bomb/abortion/”do whatever you want” mentality says that nothing is wrong, nothing should be done. 

The Pakaluks quote Admiral William Leahy, who was chief of staff to President Truman: “I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

The United States can stabilize its border without doing that. In their article from 14 years ago, the Pakaluks issued a challenge to Catholics and all Americans. “America is in fact suffering from an unacknowledged sin — one that will continue to fester, undermining our moral idealism, until we bring it out into the open, acknowledge it, and do penance and reparation.” This is still true today.


© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts