“On May 20, 2017 New York Times writer, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, published a feature piece entitled, “Pregnant at 18. Hailed by Abortion Foes. Punished by Christian School.” The Christian school’s crime? Not allowing a visibly pregnant and unmarried eighteen year old student, Maddi Runkles, to “walk” in her high school graduation ceremony.”
This headline has been widespread by The New York Times and the national media, but if our readers haven’t seen it yet, this is a good video explaining it from Michael Matt:
We now see groups such as Students for Life of America and Life News(not to be confused with Life Site News) siding with the media regarding this issue. But as Remnant writer Chris Jackson asks, does anyone else see a problem with this story?
Excerpt from this excellent article(with additional commentary below):
“First, there is hardly any recognition that conceiving a child out of wedlock is a terrible tragedy, especially, as in this case, when the mother and father have no plans to marry. Here, both parties choosing to commit the sin of fornication has created a situation where the child will be most likely deprived of a father and won’t be born into a stable family unit. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that the mother is barely graduating high school and now must find a way to support herself, no doubt placing a burden on her own family to care for her child. And these are only the consequences to Miss Runkles’ immediate family and the child. Further lost in all of this, is the bad example it gives to Miss Runkles’ siblings, if she has any, her classmates, and the Christian community at large, not to mention society.
For these reasons, conceiving a child out of wedlock used to be accompanied by both the parents and the families involved feeling a natural and healthy sense of grief, guilt, and yes, shame. These are the emotions tragic situations are supposed to create. In the past, the parents of the young woman involved would most often keep the situation discreet and private, withdrawing the girl from school and sometimes sending the girl out of town to live with relatives or to religious sisters at convents who cared for unwed mothers during pregnancy after which the girls would give the child up for adoption.
This is often sneered at by moderns who accuse these parents of abandoning or punishing their daughters. In reality, the parents were attempting to save their daughters from the public humiliation, disapprobation, and hardship that would ensue if she were to continue at school or in the community obviously pregnant and unmarried. The other option, of course, was a quick marriage between the mother and father as soon as the pregnancy was discovered if that was, in fact, feasible.
Of course there never was or will be a perfect solution to such a situation as the situation is in and of itself, a tragic consequence of sin. But this is a fact that has apparently been lost on many in the pro-life movement, as well meaning as they are. For example, Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life president, said “She [Miss Runkles] made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed.”
But is the school really choosing to “shame” Miss Runkles for choosing not to slaughter her unborn child by not allowing her to walk in a graduation ceremony? The notion is absurd.
The article goes on to say, “The anti-abortion group, which took her to a recent rally in Washington, argues that she should be lauded, not punished, for her decision to keep her baby.”
Yet, the pro-life group confuses the issue. The decision not to let Miss Runkles walk had absolutely nothing to do with her decision not to get an abortion. It seems like some pro-life groups are so obsessed with the good end of preventing abortions that they will use any means necessary to accomplish the goal, even if that means lauding and holding up as a hero, a poor teenage girl who is in a very tragic situation due to her own choices. Does it not show to what level we have sunk as a society when one is honored as a celebrity for conceiving a child in sin as long as they refrain from murdering it?
Is this the bar we want to set?
But besides all of this, I found one thing most interesting and it is something I have seen discussed almost nowhere amongst the many stories out there including the comment boxes. Notice that the narrative is that an evil Christian school “shamed” Miss Runkles for getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Instead, why aren’t we asking Miss Runkles herself, or her family, why they are apparently not feeling any shame about their daughter being in her current situation? Why would Christian parents insist that their visibly pregnant daughter proudly walk across a stage at a Christian school drawing attention to the fact she is pregnant out of wedlock? Why would Miss Runkles want to do this? Why would Christian parents go to the left wing media and press to publicize the fact that their daughter conceived illegitimately to the entire world in order to “shame” her high school?
In a saner time, you could not have paid parents of an unmarried and visibly pregnant teenager to have their daughter walk across a stage in front of her classmates, much less publicize the affair to the media.. That is because the young girls in this situation, and their parents, used to have a healthy and completely natural sense of shame. They didn’t need a school to impose it upon them. They already felt it deeply.
Parents also used to have a healthy sense of discretion about so sensitive a matter and would try to minimize any scandal that might ensue over the affair. And so they would not even so much as asked the school if their daughter could make a spectacle of herself by walking at graduation as the entire notion would have been absurd and damaging not only to the child and family, but to the community at large. Ironically, if schools in those days had forced unwed and visibly pregnant teenagers to walk in high school graduating ceremonies they would have been rightly accused of shaming these poor girls and the practice would have caused a just uproar.
But in our day and age, there is no sense of shame. Far from it. Instead, a poor girl who conceived a child out of wedlock is not encouraged to keep a low profile, but instead encouraged by a pro-life group and her parents to proudly demand that her school celebrate this tragedy. Why? Because she could have legally murdered the child, but chose not to. This is the very definition of shameless.
As evangelical Christians, the Runkles are no doubt familiar with the Bible, especially the Gospels. In the Gospel of Matthew we see how St. Joseph treated what he believed to be a similarly tragic situation, before he was enlightened by an angel.
When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.
Notice that St. Joseph, far from publicizing the event and daring anyone to “shame” himself or Mary, wisely chose not to make the matter public and instead kept the matter as private as possible out of love for Mary. This is the path of virtue and charity we have so far strayed from. As the Haydock Commentary confirms:
Joseph her husband, knowing her strict virtue, was surprised at this her pregnancy, but “being a just man,” and not willing to expose her, by denouncing her, or giving her a bill of divorce, he had a mind to dismiss her privately, committing the cause to God. Let us learn from Joseph to be ever tender of our neighbor’s reputation, and never to entertain any injurious thoughts, or any suspicions to his prejudice.
Yet in today’s world we are so proud that even St. Joseph’s response of dismissing her privately would be seen as “shaming.” The only answer the enemies of the Faith give is to flaunt the sin and tragedy and demand that society being accepting of it and celebrate it. And sadly at least one pro-life organization as well as most conservative news media have swallowed this poisoned premise in order to allegedly influence mothers not to kill their children.
However, promoting the pro-life cause by normalizing illegitimacy is like cutting off ones nose to spite ones face. Normalizing illegitimacy encourages more illegitimacy and thus a higher chance the final “choice” will be abortion and not life.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia states:
[W]here the parents [of illegitimate children] fall but slightly in social esteem the public regard for chastity is deplorably lax..[T]he presence of illegitimacy in a community always tends to weaken the popular appreciation of chastity, and the popular disapproval of its violation. “
If I might add a point to Mr. Jackson’s article, let us also remember how God treats one who has fallen into sin, but has asked for forgiveness. When the sin is confessed, Our Lord is overjoyed to pardon the sinner and forget the sin as only He can. However, we often still owe a remaining “debt” to Him, especially in regard to grievous sins. This temporal punishment is a consequence of the sinful action, even if the sin itself has been forgiven. This is why we are obliged to do penance and, if necessary, be purified in Purgatory. God is both infinitely merciful and just.
Yes, we are certainly happy that Miss Runkles has chosen not to abort and that there will be a new life to grace the Earth, but consequences must still exist for the action done. It is unfortunate that some groups calling themselves “pro-life” are siding with the vile, anti-Catholic media on this issue, but there has been a creeping compromise in the Pro-Life movement for a long time. For example, the common Protestant acceptance of contraception is now prevalent in a large number of groups. This is why we published a post against the contraceptive mentality, which readers may find here: https://damselofthefaith.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/being-truly-pro-life-a-rebuttal-against-the-contraceptive-mentality/
Other groups will go even further and declare themselves secular. While their fight against abortion might be praiseworthy in many respects, how can one win his battle if he does not recognize the One who is the Truth? The same goes for this new emerging group of “pro-life feminists”(!), an oxymoron. It can be very dangerous to only partially affirm the truth, even out of an apparent “prudence”. This is why, with a few noble exceptions, those who will most earnestly fight for Life will be found in the traditional Catholic communities.
~ Steven C.