Good and Evil, Life and Death

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Remember Rocky? Not the cartoon companion of Bullwinkle the Moose, but the streetwise South Philadelphia tough guy turned heavyweight boxing champ—the Rocky of the Hollywood movie set who, in film after film, overcomes insurmountable odds to triumph over a towering opponent in the ring. Though Rocky appears to be finished at some point in almost every fight, and even loses his first match against Clubber Lang (you might remember him as “Mr. T”), in the end the Italian Stallion always emerges the victor. (Yes, of course, Rocky is denied the decision in his first match against Apollo, but everyone knows that he was robbed by the judges.) Despite his setbacks, he never gives up.

The same is true of goodness itself. Like Rocky, goodness is relentless. It can’t be subdued for long. The opportunity for greater good arises even at evil’s prompting. In fact, sometimes the persistent character of goodness is made most evident from the greater good that stems from among the most horrific evils. Consider the following.

Recent comments by U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akins have brought a great deal of attention to both rape and abortion in the past couple of days. Buried in the pundit commentary on the affair (much of which focused on ways that President Obama might seize an advantage from Akins’s remarks), one finds the story of Shauna Prewitt.

Ms. Prewitt is a lawyer in Chicago. A year or two ago, in The Georgetown Law Journal, she published a note titled, “Giving Birth to a ‘Rapist’s Child’: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape.” (You can view it here.) In the piece, Prewitt identifies and discusses the lack of legal protections available in many states to women who become pregnant from rape and decide to raise the rape-conceived child. While Prewitt argues persuasively that negative stereotypes have contributed to the legal deficiency that she identifies, what really caught my attention was the last sentence of the introductory footnote. It reads,

This Note is inspired by and dedicated to Isabella, who has always been worth it.

Shauna Prewitt is a rape victim. She is also a single mother. Her daughter has been with her since the day of her rape.

In the aftermath of the wide dissemination of Akins’s rape/abortion comments, Prewitt penned this public letter to Akins. Here’s how she describes her pregnancy in the letter:

Although I would not be able to articulate it for months, I was experiencing a most curious emotion toward the life growing inside of me, an emotion that both enlivened me and caused me to experience an intolerable shame. You see, to my surprise, I did not altogether hate the life growing inside of me. Instead, I felt a sort of kinship, a partnership—perhaps the kind that only develops between those who have suffered together—but, nevertheless, I felt a bond.

Prewitt does not explicitly address abortion in her letter. I am unaware of her professional opinion concerning the outcome of Roe v. Wade. But her story and the life of her child are both a testimony to the power of God to produce a greater good from an appalling evil.

Prewitt’s testimony exposes the error that lies behind the exception that purports to justify abortion in the case of rape, namely, that “damage” to the victim necessarily flows from bringing new life into the world. Yet perhaps even more troubling is the exception’s implicit denial of the power of good to triumph over evil. The great saints, St. Thomas Aquinas among them, have affirmed that God would not permit evil unless it were to provide the opportunity for a greater good. Prewitt’s comments reveal for us that the greater good that emerges from the horrible crime of rape might very well come in the form of new life.

It’s been a number of years since Rocky last laced up a pair of boxing gloves on the silver screen, but we need not look to Hollywood to remind us that good is unrelenting in its triumph over evil. We just need to look around. Shauna Prewitt’s story is one poignant example, inspiring us to trust in God and confidently hope for the good that He has in store for us, especially when we fall victim to malice and injustice. We need only remain open to the promise of Christ, through whom hope overcomes despair, good triumphs over evil, and life has its ultimate victory over death.

Image: Tintoretto, St. Mary of Egypt

By | 2015-02-11T14:23:19+00:00 September 4, 2012|Politics, Virtue & Moral Life|

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