Since I’ve retired from serving as an employee of the University of Illinois at Chicago, I’ve been working on the same campus in the St. John Paul II Newman Center, the Catholic campus ministry, directing the Integritas Institute for Ethics and the School of Catholic Thought.
There are two Catholic chapels on the UIC campus. The main church-owned facility on Morgan St. serves the East campus, where undergraduates predominate. A much smaller rented, catacomb-like Newman chapel and office resides in the lower level of Student Center West on S. Wolcott St. on the West, or health care, campus, which is within the Illinois Medical District, one of the largest concentrations of health care colleges, hospitals, clinics, and research facilities on earth.
Just across Polk St. directly to the North of the Wolcott Street St. John Paul II chapel is the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Illinois. Directly to the East of the chapel is the UIC College of Medicine Research Building. All are linked by Wolcott St.
Presently, the Thomas More Society is awaiting the response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to determine to what extent human body parts obtained in abortions at Stroger Hospital are sold or transferred to other institutions. The information initially connecting Stroger Hospital, or Cook County, as it is still called for short in Chicago, to the body parts trade came from the recordings released by the Center for Medical Progress, which also separately released information showing the distribution of body parts to Harvard, to UCLA, and to UIC, which tracks via separate searches of publicly available information to the medical research facility across Wolcott St. from the St. John Paul II Newman West chapel. All of these institutions, Stroger, the Newman West Chapel, and the UIC medical research building, are within a two minute walk of each other, connected by Wolcott St.
So you might say that the 800 S. block of Wolcott St. in Chicago is a hotspot, or even a Ground Zero, of the abortion body parts controversy. It is somehow fitting, therefore, that if body parts did travel from Stroger Hospital to UIC, the most direct route would be down Wolcott St., a few dozen feet past the little, catacomb Newman chapel in the basement nearby, where we pray for all those who work, live, and die in the several nearby hospitals.
Stroger Hospital is named after a Catholic African American, the late John H. Stroger, Jr., and serves a predominantly minority population. Abortions at Stroger were blocked for many years by the late, and Catholic, Cook County Board president George W. Dunne, and then were later approved by the Cook County Board and by his successor, a former Catholic seminarian Richard J. Phelan, who remarked that he consulted with his daughters before approving the start of abortions. John Stroger, Richard Phelan’s successor, did not end the abortions. Embryonic stem cell research in the University of Illinois system was approved by university trustees and by the former university president B. Joseph White, also a Catholic, who said at the time it was the right thing to do. The Catholics involved in the decisions leading up to the abortion-body parts scandal apparently thought their own personal decisions were good ideas at the time. Because this Cook County hospital serves a predominantly minority population, the chances that the body parts in question are minority body parts are high.
The abortion controversy continues to fragment social solidarity, so in order to keep civil society going, something of a great silence on the topic of abortion has descended on everyday life. It is not usually brought up in day to day conversation, unless there is a controversy like the recent abortion-body parts recordings.
I’ve previously written at length on how the abortion controversy has led public and even ecclesiastical discourse away from the language of rights in favor of the language of interests, in order to keep the public peace. People can keep their jobs, get elected, get laws passed, run their businesses, raise funds for their cause or their religion, belong to their union, their political or their social organization, do all of their everyday activities – provided they avoid the language of rights, especially the language of the right to life.
But sooner or later, however, when we avoid the language of rights, the rights go away.
The Catholic Church, through its Social Teaching or Doctrine, calls us to a more transcendent form of solidarity with one another than can simply be defined by the language of interests.
There is an admirable line from Leviticus that calls us to consider the right to life and that won’t let us rest so easily —
Nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake
“My hope is that people will see that the Church is calling for a consistent ethic of solidarity that aims at making sure no one, from the first moment of life to natural death, from the wealthiest community to our poorest neighborhoods, is excluded from the table of life.”
Each day at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center, we pray for all those at the nearby hospitals. Personally, I also pray that none stand idly by when their neighbor’s life is at stake.
I suspect that what happens on Wolcott St. won’t simply stay here.
© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved
The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.
PS: Dr. Alexander Wolcott (d. 1830) came to Chicago in 1820 as what was then called an Indian Agent. His marriage to Ellen Marion Kinzie was the first in Chicago of record. Source: Don Hayner and Tom McNamee, Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names, Loyola University Press, 1988, pg. 137.