What brings this to mind now is a conversation I had with a friend about Theology of the Body, which both of us love. In fact this friend and I met because I used to sell TOB products, and she was one of my customers.
She is preparing to give an age-appropriate retreat on TOB to her parish's middle schoolers, and she wanted my input. I suggested using lots of stories, and I gave her the example of a scene from the 1999 film Felicia's Journey starring Bob Hoskins (why that man didn't win an Academy Award for that performance, I don't know, but his performance is chilling).
So dumbfounding and, more importantly, so illustrative is this scene, I thought it worthwhile to share it with you.
Here's the context for the scene. Hilditch is the serial killer played by Hoskins. Ada is his late wife. Felicia is an Irish lass impregnated by her boyfriend Johnny. Abortion is illegal in Ireland. If girls want an abortion, they must travel to England to obtain one. Felicia doesn't want an abortion, though. She just wants to find Johnny, have their baby, and begin their lives together. In the scene, Felicia and Hilditch are having dinner in his house (he, seemingly a gentle, kind man, has given her a place to stay until she gets on her feet). She has just told him she thinks she'll be moving on so she can look for Johnny elsewhere. This alarms Hilditch.
Hilditch: Well there's no doubt that Johnny loves you, dear. Nothing you said to me contradicts that. Now, the point I'm trying to make to you is, a situation like you and Johnny and it, can all too easily be affected by misfortune. Ada said that, Felicia. Ada had a considerable insight into matters of the heart. The thing is Felicia, you're over here now. This isn't Ireland. And we have -- certain facilities available. What I'm saying to you is what I'd say to any daughter Ada and myself might have had. We're giving you the benefit of long experience. There isn't a doubt in my mind, Felicia. I thought of nothing else since I rested poor Ada in the ground.Isn't that just the most demonic, chilling thing you've ever read? And yet it's the rhetoric of pro-"choice," isn't it? It's phenomenal. My friend agreed with my assessment, but applied it only to the 5th Commandment, "Thou shall not murder/kill" (commentator Dennis Prager says the Hebrew in the commandment is not as simple as "kill," that the context is more like "murder").
Felicia: Some would call it murder.
Hilditch: Murder? We're not in this world to cause pain, dear. Of course you have to think of yourself on occasion. I'm not saying you don't. But there are other people, too. Which is something you're daily more aware of as you grow older.
Felicia: What are you talking about?
Hilditch: I want you to know when you've been through it, Felicia. But so has your dad. And your great-gran. Imagine them -- trying to hold their heads up. There's that to think about, too. We all have to do terrible things, Felicia. We have to find the courage sometimes. And you're a young girl. When you find Johnny again you can both make the choice to have a child. But the circumstances have to be right. A child needs to be surrounded by all the love it can. The love of the mother -- of course you have that. But the love of the father ... and the grandfather ... and the great-great grandmother. Why deprive this baby of that? I put by a little that I'd gladly donate in order to do the decent thing by your family.
This scene goes beyond the 5th Commandment, though, doesn't it? Isn't it simply a modern-day updating of the discussion we see between the adversary and Eve in the Garden (see Genesis 3)? "'Did God say you would die? You will not die. You will be as gods. ... And so she took of the fruit and ate it."
It's the lie, the seductive, appealing, "no worries, no remorse" lie that has caused the fall of so many since the dawn of time. It allows us to deceive ourselves that something wholly evil is all right in just this one instance. We can say with great bravado but little certainty, "Aye, this is good. It is evil for others, but not for me." And from this wretched womb is born so much misery.
Is there a solution? Yes, and its most basic level, we find it in the Act of Faith:
O my God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that Your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because You have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.This isn't asking anyone to be a mindless automoton. Indeed, it requires great thinking and formation on our parts, precisely because the lies of the age are so exceedingly seductive. But if I'm walking a path for the first time and someone who has walked that path their whole life tells me, "At the fork where you see the waterfall, under no experience take the left fork. It will spell your doom," I'm listening to that person. I don't need to say, "Oh, that's just an old, patriarchal male (or whoever) trying to spoil my fun" or "Hmmmm, that may be true, but I have to experience this for myself and make my own judgment." Absolutely not. I'm listening, because I know I'll be happier in the end. If the person is wrong, what do I really lose? Anything? If the person is right ... and as long as I'm convinced of their good will and wanting the best for me, and thus have no reason to doubt them ... then I have everything to gain, no?
Anyway, don't fall for the lie. Easier said than done sometimes, I know, but always keep your vigilance. As 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." Don't let that someone be you.