Interaction with the Vampire
There’s a difference between condemning an act and judging the guilt of the actor.
Bloodthirsty vampires in literature often symbolize selfish exploitation. In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas Foster writes: “Using other people to get what we want. Denying someone else’s right to live in the face of our overwhelming demands. Placing our desires…above the needs of another. That’s pretty much what the vampire does, after all. He wakes up…and says something like, ‘In order to remain undead, I must steal the life force of someone whose fate matters less to me than my own.’”
Revelers costumed as vampires, witches, and goblins don’t usually appear until Halloween, but the Church sets aside this entire month to call attention to the real danger of exploitation that literary vampirism symbolizes. Respect Life Sunday is October 7; the Church’s theme for the year is “Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent.”
American bishops first designated time in October for the sanctity of human life in April 1972—a year before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized abortion. They observed that “one of the dangers of a technological society is a tendency to adopt a limited view of man…and to overlook the source of man’s dignity—the fact that he is made in the image of God and that from the moment of conception, he is worthy of the full support of the human family of which he is a member.”
A society that denies someone else’s right to live or decides that some lives are not of sufficient quality to merit concern and protection is more frightening than any haunting figure in the gothic novels of Bram Stoker or Anne Rice. A culture of death is scarier than fiction because it’s contrary to natural law, to a self-evident reasoning in us that human lives are not simply at our disposal. Some would argue that Catholic clergy are hardly in a position to preach to people about abortion in light of the exploitation of minors and others by Church personnel. Most priests today accept the reality that negative and illegal behaviors by individual priests tarnish the priesthood as a whole, while the good behaviors of particular priests often remain identified with the individual.
Nevertheless, the Church calls people to divine precepts, even as some of its members—priests and those who’ve had abortions—fall short. Here, Helen Alvaré—advisor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—makes a crucial point in the Catholic Update titled: “Abortion: What the Church Teaches”: “While the Church teaches that the act of killing an unborn child is intrinsically bad, it does not teach that the mother who seeks an abortion is also intrinsically bad. There is a difference between condemning an act, and judging the guilt of the actor. Only God can judge these women.” She adds, “To the woman who has had an abortion, the Church says instead: ‘How can we reconcile you? How can we help you, first, to face honestly what happened, repent, and be reconciled to the child, to yourself, to your family, and to God?’”
When the church loves the sinner but hates the sin, it demonstrates the kind of respect that every life deserves.