On the Overturning of Roe v. Wade: Child Sacrifice Then and Now
Commentary: Why It's Long Past Time for Abortion to End
On this Feast of the Sacred Heart, the Supreme Court of the United States has overturned Roe vs. Wade, which for so many years has claimed that there is a right to elective abortion in this country. Roe v. Wade was heralded as a movement of modern freedom and feminism; yet it is tied to a long, dark history of child sacrifice.
During the Ancient Rome’s Second Punic War with Carthage, Rome suffered numerous defeats and almost countless losses of men and destruction of Italy. In spite of this, they held on, stubbornly refusing to surrender despite Hannibal’s apparent near invincibility. It is well they did, for Carthage’s defeat eventually ended a Carthaginian practice that was as brutal as it was common: human sacrifice, specifically, infant sacrifice.
Roman historians gave detailed descriptions of these sacrifices:
There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus, extending its hands, palms up and sloping towards the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.
Long dismissed as Roman propaganda, the archeological evidence shows that Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children, boys as well as girls, in massive numbers. Often this was done to express either gratitude to the gods for favors given or favors hoped for.
Carthage was not alone, many, perhaps most, of the world’s ancient cultures practiced human sacrifice in greater or lesser amounts, including child sacrifice. Human life was offered to the gods in gratitude or exchange for favors. The principle of sacrifice was typically simple: take him, not me. The gods were cruel, and if it took the blood of children to appease them well, better them than me.
If the Romans did not directly sacrifice children to the gods, they practiced a kind of child sacrifice of their own: infant exposure. It is a horrible thought, but a real fact that the Romans committed infanticide in remarkable numbers, leaving unwanted children to simply die in the streets, gutters, or sewers. Girls were more likely to be unwanted. One Roman, away on business, wrote to his pregnant wife with instructions. If his wife should deliver the child and it was a boy, she should keep it, if a girl, she should “discard it.” Rodney Stark, in The Rise of Christianity, explains the drastic problems that Rome’s aversion of children, especially girls, led to. It was perpetually underpopulated and the desperate attempts of Roman emperors to encourage larger families had little effect.
People simply did not want to have children. They were expensive, especially girls, and in a pagan culture, not seen as worth the trouble. And so rather than sacrifice for their children, the Romans (and many other ancient peoples) simply sacrificed their children, not to the god Moloch, but to gods of their own egos and self-will, which was, practically speaking, the same thing. In essence, the same thought existed in Rome as in Carthage: “Take him, not me.”
While the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire ended infanticide and changed attitudes toward marriage and children, a return to paganism and secularism in the modern world has brought with it the return of child sacrifice. Our world sacrifices children in numerous ways, sacrificing the good of the child for the desires of the adult. Same-sex adoption forces children to give up a mother or father; commercial surrogacy forces children to give up their birth mother; school closures during covid forced children to sacrifice friends, milestones, community, education, and even mental health. “Take them, not us,” adults said for two years.
Even before covid, children were (and are) often brought into the world, spend 6-12 weeks with their mother, and then left in daycare and school for the rest of their childhood. Contraception allows parents to try even more to avoid even having children, and most directly, abortion sacrifices children at the altar of adult desires. “Take him/her,” not me. Don’t let a child ruin my life. Adults no longer wish to sacrifice for the child, so they simply sacrifice the child.
This modern child sacrifice rests on a particular view of children: children are a burden, an obstacle to self-realization and self-fulfillment. This leads our modern society either to avoid having children or, once it has them, to try to minimize their impact on adult life.
Along with Roe v. Wade, this view of children has to go. Bishop Sheen once asked in an episode of his Life is Worth Living, “Are Children Burdens or Joys?” We must recapture the idea that children are joys rather than burdens. Of course, it is true that raising children can be difficult, but it is difficult in the way that training for a favorite sport, building a Cathedral, or doing any other worthwhile thing is difficult. We tend to treat children like they are threats to our self-fulfillment and self-actualization. But this is wrong, for, at the natural level, they fulfill and do not destroy our natures. And at the supernatural level, there is a further benefit, for whatever the temporary challenges in raising a child, one is raising a permanent good, a future citizen of heaven.
Child sacrifice, whether in the ancient form of direct sacrifice to Moloch, the indirect form of infanticide, or the modern form of abortion, rests on a particular view of children: that children are a burden rather than a joy. That view of children, as obstacles to self-realization, must now end. Children must no longer be sacrificed at the altar of adult’s desires, fears, or egos. This will require not only the permanent rejection of Roe v. Wade, but the rearrangement of many of our social ideas, assumptions, and attitudes. It is long past time to do so.