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The Silence of the Shepherd

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

As one side of our culture embraces a shocking level of disregard for the sanctity of human life to the point of advocating infanticide, the head of the institution that should be the bedrock defender of the most vulnerable among us, the Roman Catholic Church, seems mostly silent and absent from the fray. Jesus appointed Peter, and all of his successors, to be the leaders, the shepherds, of the Church. Where is the shepherd guarding his flock?


The culture of death that has become the modern Democratic Party is on full display in vivid living, or dying, color. Long gone are the days of Bill Clinton's oft-repeated pronouncement that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare.” In fact, it's been only 11 years since Hillary Clinton repeated that mantra in her 2008 presidential campaign. Now, it seems as if in some frenzied reaction to the presidency of Donald Trump, Democrats are rushing to state houses to pass legislation throwing open the doors wide to abortion on demand, preferably funded by taxpayers

Their embrace of death was helpfully articulated by the physician and governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, last week in his January 28 defense of a new bill sponsored by Virginia State Delegate Kathy Tran, which would have removed most of the current restrictions on abortion in the state, making them available all the way up to the moment of birth for virtually any reason.  Dr. Northam described the bill’s consequences on the most powerful news radio station in Washington, D.C. with a remarkable bedside manner that he might use to explain to a Virginia death row inmate why he simply cannot commute the man’s sentence, as much as it pains him. 

You see, explained Dr. Northam, if a mother has a living baby, which has arrived in the world less than perfect, she and her doctor can have a “discussion” about the baby’s fate. Of course, during this discussion period, the baby would be “kept comfortable” and, if it’s lucky, even be resuscitated “if that’s what the mother and family desired.” Dr. Northam left to the listeners’ imaginations how the rest of the scene would play out if the mom and doctor’s deliberations didn’t go the baby’s way. One shudders to think what would come next. (It should be noted here that Dr. Northam has received nearly $2 million in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood.)


But the bill didn’t just apply to babies who were severely disabled, although that’s bad enough, since they have as much human dignity as the rest of us. It would allow a mother to decide to abort a perfectly healthy baby up to the point it was entering the birth canal – that is, about to be born – if the mother decided that its birth could impair her  “mental health.” Does that mean make the mom sad?   Del Tran herself was obviously so ashamed of her own bill, that she had difficulty admitting its full implications when being questioned by fellow legislators about its specifics. (See her testimony at the 29 second mark.)

Thankfully, the Virginia bill was defeated in the state legislature, but only because Republicans still hold a majority. That was not the case in New York, where the legislature recently passed the Reproductive Health Act, a similarly radical bill which allows a woman to abort her child up to the moment of birth, if the mother chooses to based on “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.” (By “patient,” they mean the mother, not the infant.) Such squishy terms as “emotional, psychological, familial” effectively means that a woman may abort a nine-month old fetus for any reason she claims. Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a putative Catholic, eagerly signed the bill into law. This is abortion-on-demand. Now Rhode Island is about to pass a similar no-restrictions-on-abortion law, to be signed into law by another nominal Catholic governor.

Contemplation of this turn in our society brings to mind a movie. One of the most gripping cinematic performances ever filmed featured the inimitable Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in the psychological thriller, The Silence of the Lambs. Young, earnest, and bright, our protagonist is FBI Agent-in-Training Clarice Starling, played by Foster. She is assigned by the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit to plumb the mind of our antagonist, a brilliant former psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Hopkins. The FBI believes that, though imprisoned, Dr. Lecter is aware of the identity of a serial killer on the loose. It is Basic Agent Starling’s job to extract this identity from the shackled Dr. Lecter by questioning him in prison. 


Dr. Lecter, with deep powers of human insight, demands that Starling first reveal something painful and haunting from her past, in a sort of demonic quid pro quo. Desperate to save the life of the next killer’s victim, she relents and relates a story from her early childhood on her uncle’s sheep farm in Montana. She recalled when she was 10 being awakened in the night by screams in the distance. She gets up to explore, goes to the barn, and realizes the screams are of lambs about to be slaughtered. She sneaks to the lambs’ pen unseen and attempts to free the lambs by opening the gate. But they just stand there, helpless, not moving. Not knowing what to do, Clarice grabs one lamb and runs away, getting a few miles before being picked up by police. She is sent off to an orphanage and her rescued lamb is slaughtered. The memory haunts her for the rest of her life.

I am haunted by the words of Governor Ralph Northam. Dr. Ralph Northam. These little children are the lambs whose screams, or inability to scream, should haunt all of us, as should the words of a man who would so placidly describe his willingness to sign a piece of legislation that allows for the murder of human babies that a mother decides, for whatever reason, she doesn’t want. Even babies who have entered the world and are breathing.

This is madness. What have we become? And where is the Church?  

I had the wonderful opportunity to receive arguably the best classical secondary school education offered in America at Regis High School in New York City.  Regis is an all-scholarship Catholic high school founded and funded by a gift from a wealthy Manhattan socialite in the early 1900s, who wished to establish a tuition-free Catholic high school for promising young men from working class New York City. In beautiful Catholic tradition, the benefactress requested anonymity (and remains anonymous on the school’s website), but her remarkable gift continues to power this great institution. Admission to Regis, which is run by the Society of Jesus (aka, Jesuits), involves an intensive application process, entrance exam and multiple interviews. At the time I entered, the admission rate was something like ten percent. The school’s motto is Deo et Patriae – for God and country – and many of its alumni have exemplified that calling. Renowned infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health, is an alum. So is another doctor, Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland. So is best-selling author and documentarian, Dr. Jack Cashill. 


All of us at Regis were taught that our highest aspiration was to be what the Jesuits call “a man for others.” The Jesuits throughout their history have been among the best educators and contributors to human development in Western civilization. All of this is to say that I owe a deep debt of gratitude to and have great respect for the Church and the Jesuit Order in particular. They played such a strong part in my formation.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit. My question is: Where is this “man for others,” one who should be using his most powerful pulpit and position to condemn in the loudest, most unequivocal terms the evil which is gripping state legislators across America? He should be railing against this shocking rush to pass abortion-on-demand legislation in America. Yet it seems that the Pontiff’s “outrage” has been muted, at best. According to a fairly obscure website, Vatican News, Pope Francis’ “exhortations” on the topic consisted of anodyne comments made in a private meeting to the board of directors of an Italian pro-life group on February 3, in which he said, “Ahead of tomorrow’s Day for Life, I take this opportunity to appeal to all politicians, regardless of their faith convictions, to treat the defense of the lives of those who are about to be born and enter into society as the cornerstone of the common good.”

Is that it? No mention of a Catholic New York Governor taking his state a huge leap forward on the path of infant killing? No remarks about the shocking comments of the physician/governor of the state of Virginia advocating the murder of living, breathing babies on an examination table? I hear crickets in the mainstream media about any ire the pontiff might feel about these amazing developments occurring in the United States. 


Why is the Pope not flying into JFK, renting out Shea Stadium (or is it Citifield now?) and giving a fire and brimstone speech to America’s faithful about the horrific changes occurring in our society in the name of “reproductive health”? Does he not want to offend some “faith convictions”?

The United States is the greatest upholder of human liberty and dignity in the world and the American Catholic Church is the most vital source of donations to the global Church in funding its many crucial programs. Surely, the Holy Father recognizes the demonic path down which so much of America is being led? 

As much as it pains me, I see in Francis a naïve, shallow and feckless poseur, who at best, is the pontifical equivalent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, seizing on liberal political trends about which he knows nothing, such as so-called “climate change,” to win favor with a global leftist elite. At the same time, he elevates an adolescent-raping (of 11 and 13-year old boys) priest, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – the prelate so beloved by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who sent him around the planet as a quasi-US diplomat doing God knows what -- from rightful obscurity to among the most powerful advisory positions in the Vatican, despite being warned of McCarrick’s perverted past. Thankfully, McCarrick is finally being defrocked, it seems, after enough pressure was brought to bear on Pope Francis.

These times cry out for a true shepherd of the flock to advocate for those who would be slaughtered under these Democrats’ bills. Our degree of civilization should be measured by the level of respect we accord the most helpless among us, and who is more helpless than these innocents? But if the shepherd does not appear, are we absolved for not acting on behalf of the silent lambs?


William F. Marshall has been an intelligence analyst and investigator in the government, private, and non-profit sectors for more than 30 years. He is a senior investigator for Judicial Watch, Inc. (The views expressed are the author’s alone, and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.)

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