“I feel that abortion is often the moral, ethical choice. There are many situations where an abortion is an unselfish, loving, motherly act that prevents the child from a short or long life of pain and suffering, abuse, and even rejection, fear, etc.” 

This was a comment I received on Facebook during an intense debate about abortion and the value of human life, including when life begins and what “quality of life” entails.  Initially shocked, I had to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on in our society.  The biggest attack against the beauty we, as Catholics, carry in the concept of redemptive suffering is regarding innocent suffering – that of children not yet at the age of reason.

When Sarah was born with Apert Syndrome, and Ben and I immediately learned that her first surgery would entail cutting open her skull and inserting a distraction device, I was faced with anger.  Why would God permit a baby to suffer in such a horrific way?  I couldn’t answer that question at the time.  But now I can.

Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, an Italian priest who volunteered to become a military chaplain during World War II, wrote an entire treatise on this concept, entitled, “The Pedagogy of Innocent Suffering.”  Because he witnessed the horrors of war, especially among the young boys he cared for, he developed this theology that beautifully and carefully explains why suffering children are essentially living icons of Christ crucified.

Bl. Gnocchi begins to lay the foundation by sharing that all of us are called to suffer for two basic reasons – to cancel the debts we owe because of our sins (and Original Sin) and to participate in the redemptive act that leads us to “an indefectible life.”  Children especially are “called to suffer,” he continued, because “their suffering is in relation and proportion to the capacity and purity of their sacrifice…”

In likely his most poignant point in this treatise, Bl. Gnocchi wrote that “if suffering, according to the Gospel, reveals the presence of Christ in a man, in no one is this made more transparent, clear, evident and immediate, than in the child…Therefore, to a child who suffers from a disability, deficiency, mutilation, poverty, sickness, ignorance, abandonment, or from any other cause, our internal disposition or external attitude should be dominated by a profound feeling of respect and veneration.  I would almost say that it should be of worship.”

Read the entire article here.

Text Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.
Image Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, created via Canva.