They battled wits on the bench but were, as Justice Ginsburg remarked in a statement after Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, “best buddies” who once sang a duet on stage in an opera inspired by their decades-long friendship. News accounts of her death this past September duly noted the “unlikely” bond, an amusing aside in otherwise adulatory catalogs of Ginsburg’s legal-ceiling smashing. Senior editor William Murchison, however, “miles away from the fans and encouragers of the Notorious R.B.G.,” is looking to understand this close relationship, which, he suspects, was sustained by more than a love of opera. “Mr. Justice Scalia,” Murchison writes in “The Not-So-Notorious R.B.G.,” our lead article, “wasn’t around to emote over the death of his friend Madam Justice Ginsburg, but it has occurred to me that he may have found in her something more than a Marilyn Horne fan; to wit, a colleague of intellectual depth comparable to his own, capable of discerning points others might miss in the hurly-burly of legal conflict.”
As I write, the hurly-burly attending Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension to the so-called Ginsburg seat is subsiding, no doubt to surge again when the Court hears another abortion case, perhaps as soon as next year. What will it take to overturn the mother of all abortion cases? It’s not often a gem comes in over the cyber transom, but that is an apt description of Lyle Strathman’s “A Case for the Revocation of Roe v. Wade.” The controversial 1973 decision, our new contributor begins, “virtually dismantled the customary social standards by which Americans lived, and ushered in an era of social divisiveness.” And he should know. Mr. Strathman is an 85-year-old retired electronics engineer; his multifaceted argument—that “legalized abortion under the guise of Roe v. Wade is an aberration of human reason, of biological science, of philosophical analysis, and of the Constitution of the United States”—is presented here with the kind of elegant economy and interlocking logic even Steve Jobs could have admired.
Rev. Canon Victor Lee Austin, another new contributor, is Theologian-in-Residence of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. In “On Twinning” he sets out to answer this question: “What, then, is known about ‘embryological development’ that would make twinning no objection to a claim that we have a human individual from the fusion that creates the initial zygote?” In other words, is there a scientific answer to the pesky challenge—“But what about identical twins?”—familiar to those who insist individual identity is assigned at conception? Rev. Austin’s indispensable guide—and ours—is the esteemed neurobiologist Maureen Condic, whose new book Untangling Twinning he elucidates with humility and grace: “The science is crisply presented and graspable by a non-scientist who has done little reading in the field since college (e.g., yours truly).” In a sublime exploration of science and theology, Rev. Austin in turn presents readers with graspable answers to existential questions posed by twinning.
Science, in this case “ectogenesis, the possibility of gestating human life outside the uterus,” also figures in non-scientist Diane Moriarty’s eye-opening essay “Artificial Wombs and the Awkward Moment of Truth.” While still “a largely theoretical proposition,” technology proceeds apace, and, as Moriarty reports, every time an advancement is announced, “politically correct denizens of our modern culture” claim artificial wombs could one day be used “to deny women their constitutional right to abortion.” Back in 2017, for example, when researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia introduced a “bio-bag” in which they had “succeeded in bringing to term lambs delivered by caesarian section at the gestational equivalent of a human fetus at 22 to 24 weeks,” one feminist conjured dystopian scenarios of` “women being forced to have their fetuses extracted and gestated outside their bodies.” Moriarty, a freelance writer whose curiosity leads to unexpected connections and unconventional considerations, envisions a far more likely, and frightening, use of artificial womb technology, should it ever become a reality.
As the 21st century unfolds amid feminist “woe is me” chatter, the figure of a 20thcentury “woman’s woman” is coming into sharper focus. This fall PBS aired the documentary Revolution of the Heart, The Story of Dorothy Day on stations around the country. “But even before hitting the airwaves,” writes William Doino Jr., “it became a best-selling DVD,” attesting to heightened public interest as Day’s cause for sainthood advances. In “Finding Dorothy Day,” Doino reviews the well-received film—featuring commentators like Martin Sheen and Cornel West, and voiceovers by Susan Sarandon reading from Day’s writings—and completes the comprehensive profile he undertook in “Searching for Dorothy Day” (Summer 2020). Each is a stand-alone article, with precious little overlap and plenty of insight into why the formidable co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and her “heroic witness” have such appeal today—and not just to Catholics.
Unlike Dorothy Day, who was an adult convert, Peter Pavia is “a baptized Catholic” who “for most of my young life dabbled in a casual faith, except when I had other stuff to do.” In “My Pilgrim’s Progress,” Pavia relates how his own faith has matured even as “[s]cores of born Catholics have turned their backs on the Church calendar, the liturgy, the sacraments, which are their inheritance.” Why, he wants to know, “at a time when the moral authority of the Church is deeply needed, . . . is [it] nowhere to be found”? Can demographic changes explain it? Ongoing revelations of priestly sex abuse and clerical coverup? Or, he wonders, “Could the unraveling of Church authority actually have begun centuries ago, as some scholars today argue, in the cultural upheaval known as the Enlightenment?” Pavia, who is working on his second novel, chronicles his layman’s attempt to answer the latter question with self-deprecating humor—and in his “progress” discovers unanticipated avenues of . . . enlightenment.
Cultural upheaval—specifically the kind of civilizational destruction advocated by Black Lives Matter—is the subject of our final essay “Recycling Marxism for the Continuing Assault on the Family” by longtime contributor Edward Short. While most of us are seeing for the first time its anarchic rage in the nation’s streets, the Black Lives Matter movement, with its Marxist pedigree and Bolshevik playbook, has been infiltrating academe and other institutions for years, largely ignored by press hounds sniffing out “white supremacists” under the nation’s bed. “Regardless of who wins the White House,” Short tells us, “it is important for Americans to understand the actual character of the ideology that Biden was tapped to conceal, for at its heart it is profoundly hostile to the family; it is hostile to the respect for liberty at the very core of the country’s constitutional order; and it is most decidedly hostile to the cause of life that the Human Life Review defends so unflaggingly.”
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“Film/Booknotes” is especially packed this issue. The “impetus,” writes Jason Morgan, for Philip Ball’s How to Grow a Human: Adventures in How We Are Made and Who We Are, came when an experiment using tissue from inside Ball’s body resulted in “a brain made of arm flesh growing outside of his body,” prompting the renowned cell biologist and author “to begin to ask the deep, often disturbing questions that quite naturally follow from this wresting of the reins from Mother Nature.” Ball’s new book, concludes Morgan in his highly informative review, “is a must read for “those who want to know what scientists are doing in their laboratories, and what they are saying about their research.” The Coming Good Society: Why New Realities Demand New Rights by William F. Schulz and Sushma Raman is not a must read—according to Wesley J. Smith it’s “a shockingly shallow book” and “an insipid mess” (courtesy of Harvard University Press). The authors are Kennedy-School-affiliated liberals, who, Smith writes, advocate “policies that comport with their own progressive secular moral views . . . which is convenient because it excuses them from making any concentrated effort to convince readers that their vision of what constitutes a ‘good society’ is actually good.” Meanwhile, evidence mounts that progressive secular moral views make for a rather bad society, one where it is now acceptable, as we learn in Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa’s review of the recently released Unpregnant, to use teen films to expose young girls to “straight up propaganda” about abortion.
“From the HLR Website” features four columns, which in tandem make the point that good societies require a hefty measure of healthy families—formed by men and women who, as Ellen Wilson Fielding puts it, are open to the idea of “offering their lives unreservedly to one another and to the family that could emerge from their love.” Cecile Thompson considers the importance of siblings: “Sometimes,” she says, “when I listen to young women recounting their experiences at the hands of ill-behaved men, I wonder where their brothers are.” Mary Kay Barket was moved to write after hearing Amy Coney Barrett talk about how “thankful” her children are for their brother Benjamin, who, like Barket’s youngest daughter, has Down syndrome. “In our family, Maggie is also the most beloved sibling—my other three children will do anything for a ‘Maggie hug.’” And Tara Jernigan, who often writes about family for us, describes leaving her freshman son off at college during the pandemic, knowing “there will be no long weekends home” or “drop-by visits” this semester, but trusting that he “will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
This is the third issue the Human Life Review family has produced from home, one of us, Christina Angelopoulos, also responsible for shepherding her 11-year-old twin daughters through Zoom-school. And all of us trusting in whatever the Almighty has planned for the future.