It was a freezing January afternoon in Washington D.C., and I was strolling through the Holocaust Museum with 20 of my 7th and 8th grade students.
We had traveled to the nation's capital for the annual March for Life, and we spent some time touring the major sites. As we walked through the Holocaust Museum, I was more focused on how my students were responding to the portrayed horrors of this genocide than on the content itself. I was aiming to make sure they were alright, after all, it's a lot to handle for a 13 year-old.
But one display in particular caught my eye and made me stop in my tracks. The written display was relaying the terrible act of forced sterilization that the Nazis carried out upon Jews, blacks, those with learning impairments, and those with physical disabilities.
The Nazis deemed that these people were so despicable that we didn't need more people like them, so they took away their ability to procreate. The display went on to explain that the world was aware that this act was going on, and they supported it.
It continued with the words, "All major religious institutions accepted this practice, except the Catholic Church."
My God, I thought. Except the Catholic Church.
I cried right then and there. Tears of mixed gratitude and sorrow and pride and prayer flowed down my cheeks.
While the rest of the world affirmed the destruction of the dignity of these human persons, the Catholic Church stood alone in her defiance.
You see, the Church, under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit, always seeks to defend the dignity of people. We love people. Every last person. And just because someone is deemed "below" or "inhibited" or "worthless" by society does not make the Church retract in disgust from them one bit. In fact, Mother Church reaches her arms out even farther to those who are outcast. In the midst of the tragic Holocaust and the pressures of the times, the Church was unmovable.
Looking back, it's easy for us to see how horrific was the Holocaust.
We hear about these forced sterilizations and we cry "injustice!". As we should. But what about those people who were living in it? What about all the institutions that ok'd this practice? What were they thinking? Did they get caught up in what everyone else was believing? Where was their sense of truth?
Today, we find ourselves in a comparable circumstance.
The winds of a different kind of persecution are pounding against the sails of the Church. We find ourselves in a culture that has accepted so many acts against the dignity of the human person: abortion, euthanasia, homosexual "marriage", in vitro fertilization, pornography, just to name a few. All of these things harm our God-given dignity.
And people are pissed at the Church.
Those who champions these actions and these attitudes are demanding that the Church "get with the times", "change its teachings", and "be more open". When in reality, the Church is seeking to guard and defend the dignity of the very people who accuse her of hatred.
So many other religious institutions have caved under the pressure of society, permitting acts that they, too, once deemed as offenses against the person. Once again, the Catholic Church is standing alone.
I wonder if, in 60 years, people will look back on things our society is cheering for, like abortion, and hang their hands in shame and regret. I wonder if people will be walking through a museum detailing our great failures as a global people and wonder, "What were they thinking?". I wonder if they will come across a display relaying the horrors society is supporting and read, "All major religious institutions accepted this practice, except the Catholic Church."
Throughout the centuries, we have fought, sometimes solely, for the dignity of the human person, and we will continue to stand for the Truth no matter what the tides of change bring. I love being a child of the Catholic Church because the Church is courageous enough to stand alone.
Special thanks to my sweet friend, Patty, for letting me share my love for the Catholic Church! She is a gem and one of the Church's great blessings.
Olivia lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She’s a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. She spends her time changing diapers, exploring the crunchy side of life, organizing anything she can get her hands on, and dancing in the moonlight. You can come along for the adventure at To the Heights.