During the pontificate of John Paul II the world began to hear about “structures of sin.” In paragraph 12 (Chapter One) of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the late pontiff described structural sin as a pattern of institutional evil that rendered society hostile to solidarity and to life itself. Here is how John Paul puts it:
In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death.” This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.
One of the words from this luminous paragraph that jumps out at me as I reread it today is “distorting.” Over the past month I have had the opportunity to experience, anew, how distortions of the truth about the human person, even when not stated outright—even, indeed, when intentionally concealed—warp our societies and perpetuate worldwide structures in which human love is shunted aside in favor of a cold economic, environmental, or political logic.
These blueprints for twisting truth and providing ready-to-hand vocabularies for sophistry about human beings, so prevalent in the modern world, are perhaps best called “structures of spin.” I would go so far as to argue that structures of sin would be impossible without structures of spin. Without techniques for obfuscating reality there could be no chance for any structure of sin to be built or for it to succeed.
As has been brilliantly explicated in the pages of the Human Life Review by Stella Morabito in her analysis of the writings of French philosopher Jacques Ellul, propaganda is the necessary condition for any anti-human scheme to be pulled off. No structural spin, no structural sin.
My most recent encounter with structural spin came during last month’s March for Life in Tokyo. Usually marches for life in any country are met with all the usual structural spin of the media and the political establishment pretending that prolifers don’t exist or are dangerous extremists, that abortion doesn’t harm babies and their families (and society as a whole), and that the pro-life movement is misogynistic and racist. But this year, the March for Life in Tokyo brought me and my fellow prolifers up against a much, much bigger structure of spin. And it was thanks to the daring idea of one of the most active prolifers in all of Japan.
I did not attend the March in person this year because of coronavirus travel restrictions and my personal proximity to at-risk populations. But I was able to take part in the post-March online session organized by Masa’aki Ikeda, the indefatigable prolifer who is also the March for Life-Tokyo’s full-time organizer. During the online session Ikeda-san shared with us his new idea: an 18th Sustainable Development Goal.
Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, are part of a project launched by the United Nations in 2015 (UN Resolution 70/1, the 2030 Agenda). They are, according to the UN’s own literature, “a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” But if you read the seventeen SDGs you will find that there is nothing about protecting unborn human life. There are plenty of fine-sounding phrases about the environment and peace and equality and so forth, but not a word about babies in the womb. Ikeda-san thought that was odd, so he decided to do something about it. He came up with an 18th SDG: “Life Unborn.” And then he had an even bigger idea: to take this message directly to the United Nations itself.
Readers may not be aware that Tokyo is home to the United Nations University, one of the hubs of aggressive globalism and therefore also a clearinghouse for anti-human spin. It may not be a coincidence that Japan was also the abortion capital of the world in the early postwar period. What better place to house the propaganda GHQ of the globalists. But in this island nation, which has had more than its share of destruction in the past hundred years, a few brave souls such as Mr. Ikeda are addressing directly the globalists who deny the intrinsic value of all human life.
Mr. Ikeda, Fr. Thomas Onoda, Mr. Paul de Lacvivier, our Filipina colleague Dr. Ligaya Acosta from Human Life International, Mr. Neil Day from Ireland, and hundreds of other friendly prolifers who live in or travel often to Japan, are teaming up to ask that Life Unborn be made the foundation of all sustainable development. Without a commitment to life, as Ikeda-san points out, all the talk about sustainability means nothing. Indeed, by not protecting unborn babies we are sinning gravely against human dignity—aided in our sin by the hive of buzzwords generated by the United Nations—and embracing ever deeper structures of sin. True internationalism does not come from the United Nations. It comes from people of all races and nationalities joining together, as we are in Japan, to declare that all human life is precious, unrepeatable, and exceeding by sheer dignity any arguments that might be advanced against it. That is the truth—everything else is spin.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are postponed, and possibly cancelled. The 2020 Tokyo March for Life was just a fraction of its size last year. For most people these things would be a setback. For Mr. Ikeda they were a gift from the Holy Ghost. Marching with a sign in his hand and a smile on his face, he declared to anyone who would listen that this was to be the Pro-Life-Olympics year, the “Prolympics,” and that its one event would be a loving, two-week siege of one of the headquarters of anti-human globalism. Mr. Ikeda’s goal was to spend the two weeks during which the Olympics were to be held hosting online conferences, posting videos, and appealing directly to the UN through various fora to share his idea of the 18th SDG and to garner support for putting the human person—in every stage of his or her development—at the heart of all human interaction, local, global, and everywhere in between. Speaking the truth in love to a godless institution arrayed against true human flourishing—now that’s fighting back against a structure of sin, and a structure of spin, at the same time.