Firstly, Hugh of Avalon on Twitter asked for 'that chilling Newman quote.' (NB, for the pedants [well, really for myself in that role], I have now amended my original with 'quotation' for 'quote').
This is the one I had in mind:
"The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse."Of course, Newman says 'without excuse.' But does that clause apply only to the stealing of one poor farthing (and we do have a clear Catholic understanding that a starving man may steal a loaf of bread for his family) or to all the preceding clauses?
The main thrust, however, is clear: that sin is a far worse evil than death or suffering, and I think it is easy to lose sight of that perspective. But for Catholics it is foundational.
A second consideration: in the comments, Sig Sønnesyn raised the very important issue of the impact of telling a lie on the one who does so. Sin does not leave us unchanged. We all (I assume) know from bitter (and in my case, repeated) experience the easy progression from occasion of sin, to venial sin, to mortal sin. And as St Peter warns us: 'Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.' We may be quite sure that the devil is keen to exploit our legitimate anger at the evil of abortion to our own destruction.
As an inveterate and habitual liar, I am particularly sensitive on this point.
And I think that there is a real risk that we end up, to justify both our anger and our tactics, demonising those whom we oppose. We see the almost unthinkable evil being committed by abortionists, and (understandably) characterise them as evil people. For example, if we use just war theory (an interesting proposal by the estimable Ttony in yesterday's comms box) to justify our tactics, then we see them as the enemy waging war on the unborn and indeed on civilisation (and we are right, in one way). But we have clear commands about how we are to deal with our enemies: we must love them.
And really, that is the third consideration that was in my head as I awoke this morning. It is easy to see the unborn as the victims of abortion; it is not a great stretch to see their mothers (at least in many instances) as the victims, too. But what we should never lose sight of is that the primary victims of abortion are the abortionists: it is their eternal souls that are at most risk.
This paper by Anthony Ozimic of SPUC is well worth reading, about the effects of abortion on the abortionist.
So at least a secondary goal of all (Catholic) pro-life activity should be the conversion and salvation of the abortionists: it is our duty in charity. The work of Abby Johnson et al seems exemplary in this regard.
Quite how that informs this debate, I remain unclear; but we lose sight of it as a consideration to our great peril.
At the very least, we should pray for the abortionists as fervently as we do for the other victims in this terrible business: for our real enemy here is the devil, and it is his work, both through them, and in us, that we must oppose.
Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio,
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute, in infernum detrude.