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Obsession

February 4, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

What does “obsession” mean? When Calvin Klein uses the term he is thinking of a perfume that “set the world on fire with its powerful sensuality” and “revolutionized the prestige fragrance business with its feverish intensity and irresistible appeal.” Mikhail Baryshnikov confessed: “Dancing is my obsession. My Life.” For Claude Monet, “Color is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment.” Eugene Delacroix saw obsession as continuingly drawing from a bottomless well: “What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”
At the same time, the dictionary defines “obsession” in terms of “addiction,” “fixation,” “mania,” “fetish,” and “hang-up.” Like many words, “obsession” occupies a position tantalizingly close to words that have a strikingly different connotation. The term “obsession” can also signify “determination,” “commitment,” “dedication,” and “passion.” Thus, Elie Wiesel can use the term honorifically when he states: “I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.”
Pope Francis created a storm of controversy in September of 2013 when he commented that the Church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods” nor be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.” The Holy Father did not exactly criticize pro-life people for being obsessed. He did, however, denounce any approach that is obsessive. Nonetheless, his use of the term “obsessed” ignited a firestorm.
Reflecting on the words of Pope Francis, New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan, in advance of the national March for Life in Washington, told National Review that it is the “other side” that is “obsessed” with abortion, not pro-life advocates.
Referring to Andrew Cuomo’s bill that seeks to expand abortion, the cardinal had this to say: “But who is really obsessed with things here? I mean, the proponents of this bill are the ones who are obsessed with it. They’re not willing to say, ‘Now we’ve got abortion almost on demand. We’ve got abortion now that is often financed by the government. Let’s at least leave it alone.’ Are you kidding? They’re so obsessed with it that they want to expand it even more! They’re so obsessed with it that they are willing to sacrifice all of the good things the bill could do to try and expand abortion!”
Despite the severe cold on January 22, 2014, tens of thousands of pro-life people joined the March for Life. If the Holy Father’s September comments contained any ambiguity about his view of pro-life people, they were completely dispelled when he praised those taking part in the U.S. March for Life in a letter to Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., calling the march an “outstanding public witness to the right to life of the unborn.” “I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable,” the Pope said from his @Pontifex feed.
Pope Francis also offered special thanks to youth “for their willingness to show solidarity with the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family.” “Solidarity,” which brings to mind the heroism of the Polish workers at Gdansk, is a virtual antonym of “obsession.”
One is not obsessed when using rational arguments to defend innocent life. In this case, words such as “dedicated,” “committed,” “faithful,” “responsible,” and “unwavering,” are far more appropriate and just than “obsessive.” On the other hand, Gov. Cuomo’s “Women’s Equality Act” is designed to expand abortion to the detriment of women. This is not rational, but counterproductive. It does not defend life; it attacks it. Abortion kills the child in the womb, harms the mother, alienates the father, and fractures the family. The campaign to expand abortion, as Cardinal Dolan notes, is a clear example of an obsessive attitude. On the other hand, fidelity to purpose is the pro-life movement’s badge of honor and path to victory.

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(Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.)

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