Unpleasant Truths

I’ve known for a long time that I should lose some weight.  So, last week, I visited my doctor, and he showed me a gross, disgusting, dripping ball of yellow wax.  “This,” he said to me, “is what ten pounds of fat looks like.  This is what you’re carrying around in your body.”  Was it upsetting?  Unnerving?  Sobering?  You bet it was.   It was also true, and it was effective, as it strengthened my resolve to get my weight under control.

Being confronted by the truth can often be unpleasant.  That’s why those who fight so hard to eradicate world hunger will show us what hunger does, with a picture of a starving child, covered with flies and sores. Does it disturb us to face that truth, an image we’d rather not see or think about?  It should, even as it spurs us to action.

It’s the same with smoking.  I’m sure you’ve seen those television commercials that graphically portray the effects of smoking.  It’s unpleasant to look at open heart surgery, or a pair of diseased lungs, or to see a person who has lost fingers, toes, or the esophagus, all due to smoking.   The ads are nauseating, even hideous, to see.  But the New York State Department of Health, among many others, sponsors these kinds of ads because they know that they can help to save lives.

Another ad has been generating some fierce reactions.  Here in New York, a billboard was recently displayed, that simply stated “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” This message was accompanied by a photograph of a young, African-American girl.

Is that message unpleasant?  Is it upsetting?  Does it get our attention?


Because the message is somberly true. The City of New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently released its vital statistics from a year ago which showed that 59.8% of African-American pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion. That’s even higher than the chilling city-wide average of 41% of pregnancies ending in abortion. (I joined other community leaders from a diversity of religious and ethnic backgrounds at a press conference sponsored by the Chiaroscuro Foundation about this a few weeks ago.)

So why has the billboard suddenly been taken down? What was it that moved many of our elected officials to condemn this ad and call for the gag order. Are they claiming that free speech is a right enjoyed only by those who favor abortion or their pet causes? Do they believe that unpleasant and disturbing truths should not be spoken? Or are they afraid that when people are finally confronted with the reality of the horror of abortion, and with the toll that it is taking in our city, particularly in our African-American community, that they will be moved to defend innocent, unborn, human life?

Perhaps I’m more saddened by this intolerance right now because on Monday I will be celebrating the funeral mass for Doctor Bernard Nathanson, that giant of the pro-life movement, who died earlier this week. If you don’t know Dr. Nathanson’s story, you should. At one time, he fought hard to promote and expand abortion on demand in this state and in our country. He was one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League.  He ran what he called the “largest abortion clinic in the Western world,” and bragged about personally performing thousands of abortions. But, when Dr. Nathanson was confronted with the undeniable truth, when he could see the unborn baby in the womb through the use of ultrasound technology, he abandoned his support for abortion and became a crusader for the protection of the life of the baby in the womb.

His courage and bravery should be an inspiration to us, especially when we have to face unpleasant and sobering truths.

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31 Responses to “Unpleasant Truths”

  1. Andrew Piacente says:

    Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, RI has forcefully placed his money where his mouth is and took on one of the powerful Kennedys. It was a brilliant stroke of sheer courage by a true Prince of our Church.

    His Eminence Cardinal Burke from St. louis did the same and was elevated to higher and higher posts in the Vatican.

    Will the new President of the USCCB really lead the way and show the sheep in the sheepfold that he really means what he says?

    I prayerfully hope so. Otherwise the words are empty vessels.

    HOSEA 4:6

  2. Andrew Piacente says:

    Our good Bishop MUST listen to these two short treatises. He must hear what is being said out here.


    Protestantism Contraception Abortion


  3. Miriam says:

    I hope you are researching the correct diet for you. So many people stick to conventional wisdom and end up not losing fat, but muscle and not correcting symptoms.

    Here is a great site:


    This is a man who had a lot to lose and how he did it.


    Good luck and God bless,

  4. walden says:

    This is one of the best columns of the Archbishop. It is appropriate A mass for Dr. Nathanson. I plan to attend The Mass on Monday.

    Another problem of great concern is the Pedophilia scandal by priests. The latest is the 37 cases with credible evidence,and 3 that were actually charged, in Philadelphia. At this time we thought that The Catholic Church in US, was an example to the rest of the world on how to handle this unplesent truth. It seems that to deal by “drip, drip and drip” is very frustrating and unfair to our good priests, and to catholics in general.

    In this hour of shame we look up to you and pray.

  5. Yvette says:

    Thank you Archbishop for speaking out about this and for everything you do. God bless you and your work.

  6. Mary says:

    I grieved when the billboard came down. How many mothers and fathers would have looked at that beautiful little girl and seen an unbearably painful reminder of the children who are no more. Abortion is the deadliest deception of our times and that billboard went right to the heart of the tragedy that it is.

  7. thereserita says:

    Andrew, Let me ask you specifically what have you done this week to put your money where you mouth is? How many pregnant moms have you helped? How many abortuaries have you prayed in front of? Before you chastise the Archbp for this wonderful column, I’d like to know your credentials.
    For my part, my daughter was aborted in one of Dr Nathanson’s clinics in 1972. I prayed for his conversion & for the conversion of the Lutheran minister who told me she was “just a clump of cells” for many many years. I am so happy the doctor died in God’s arms.

  8. Lyn Malone says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,

    Thank you for your integrity in acknowledging the weight issue. It has always seemed to be at odds with your discipleship, ebullience, and love of God that your body, expanded to that proportion. It suggests a lack of respect for the temple of the spirit, possibly a lack of discipline, or even the presence of unconscious gluttony.

    Your body sends a message as much as the light that pours from it.

    I know the treacherous waters of the weight path well.

    We love you and what your service to the Lord brings to New York. We don’t want to lose you prematurely.

    Thank you once again for your honesty.

    Lyn M.

  9. Colleen says:

    Archbishop Dolan reiterates again the importance that truth be SHOWN. I pray Bernard Nathanson will become a heavenly advocate for the scourge of abortion. So many of our pro-life heroes have gone to God (John Paul ll, John Richard Neuhaus, Fulton Sheen,Cardinal O’Connor). I pray that these communion of saints will reach hearts.
    God bless you in your weight loss,Archbishop. We need you to live a long life.

  10. I am glad you favor technology.

  11. Brad Shorr says:

    Dr. Nathanson was a modern day St. Paul, in a way. Let’s hope and pray his example lives on. Thank you, Archbishop, for tackling this subject head on.

  12. Rob says:

    The number of pregnancies ending in abortion is truly alarming. The question is how are we called to respond? What are the institutional realities that are making abortion seem like the best option for so many women and men? Will our church speak up and take action for the needs of those facing the decision of abortion, or will we simply condemn (and rightly so) this most tragic decision. I long for the day when we spend as much energy, prayer and money trying to help men and women in this position as we do crying out for legislation.

    Thank you for this post. I too regret that the billboard was taken down.

  13. Katie Hanley says:

    I think your doctor is mean! :)

    Seriously, the scare tactic disguised as truth confrontation may be extremely effective at achieving some goal or another, but only if done extremely carefully and gently. I don’t think the medical community has perfect enough knowledge about how the body reacts to stress hormones and other chemicals, both those produced by and consumed by the body, to warrant recklessly broadcasting the photo to you. It depends, I suppose, on whether the goal was to deter the behavior blindly and absolutely, or to assist you in internalizing your own response to the very real need to care for yourself. (My parents are both Lutheran pastors, so I apologize for the tone of pastoral care – I do not intend to undermine you at all – I am simply accustomed to protecting clerical authority!)

    As far as the connection to abortion is concerned, I think that the true pro-life mandate from Christ is to help our confirmed young people and our adults to grow in their faith. They should not be choosing NOT to abort a pregnancy because it is evil or forbidden. The claim of its evil nature opens the door to a whole host of philosophical, theological, sociological, economic and scientific conundra, such as the origin of sin and sinful behavior, or whether someone’s whole soul can be truly and irrevocably evil, or whether it is better to bring a child into a situation in which (s)he may starve to death or be abused, or whether the unequal distribution of wealth within the current capitalist system is truly just (deserved) and equitable. In addition, the decision to persuade a person who is immature in either biological OR spiritual/psychological age to carry a pregnancy to term (and to properly care for her body and fetus during the pregnancy) only to place the child up for adoption is also ethically fraught with tension and pitfalls, such as the rights of parents to contact their children later in life, if only to convey genetic medical information.

    Instead we must isolate the decision to carry a child as an act of choice, ensconced in several other choices (such as the choice to engage in naturally motivated sexual activities) and embedded in a mature conscience. In order to ethically form consciences that will reliably choose not to abort or to support abortion, one MUST help them to encounter the subject, rather than indoctrinating compliance.

    I think examining and discussing the ELCA social teaching statement on abortion is an excellent activity, if constructed and continued over time, is an excellent way for high school students who have already made their confirmation vows to continue exploring their faith and their expectations of their political and theological communities.

    The entire subject of funding is a separate framework for me.

  14. Lisa says:

    I think the reason why they would have removed that billboard is because someone out there most likely took it racist.. and it’s stupid if they did. But I’m sure one person took it that way.. and made a big fuss about it. To me, if you are old enough to have sex and know what you are doing… you shouldn’t be able to kill a innocent life. Now I’m sure there are exceptions because there are women that CAN’T take care of a child and did try to use protection.. but it failed. Not saying it is ok for an abortion.. but would you rather see another baby on the street with out food or clothing.. or that mother hoping she is doing a good thing by not letting that happen?? It makes you think…then there are some women that get raped and get pregnant.. imagine having a baby from a man who raped you?? That child would suffer because of how the mother thinks of it. so there are cases in which I see are fit to get a abortion.. BUT I do agree with everyone else and think there should be more to it when getting a abortion. Make harder rules or jack the price up real high so no one can really afford it… that way maybe people will think before getting pregnant. Sorry if I offended anyone… I didn’t mean to.. just figured I would put my 2 cents in.

  15. Paul Bennett says:

    “Why did I take it down? Yesterday, somebody came into the restaurant harassing the waiters and waitresses. I don’t want any violence to happen around the buildings there.”

    They took it down because one person entered the nearest restaurant and threatened the workers. Are our plans so easily upset?

    The ad was simple and tasteful – I’ve seen much worse, believe me, as have you I’m sure, and as far as “Unpleasant Truths” go, nothing can match the power of seeing an aborted child. I certainly don’t think anyone would permit that, and I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to the sight.

    The shrill rhetoric from the culture of death should never let us forget why we must always fight them. Their crimes are far worse than anything we could possibly do.

  16. Chris says:


    While the cases you pointed out are very difficult cases, they cannot justify an abortion. As you mentioned, killing an innocent life is wrong. Aborting a child is not saving it from these rough situations–it’s denying that child the chance to break free of those difficult situations and to live a more full life. Having an abortion simply takes away all of the options, and does so by killing the innocent life. However, even if the child will not be able to break free of a situation in which he/she is not loved properly by the mother because the child is a product of rape, or a situation in which the child is hungry on the streets, killing the child is unambiguously wrong. The way to save a child from a difficult life is not and cannot be to take away its life altogether.

  17. Saddened says:

    Think about your arguments and how you have bought into Anti-Life propaganda.
    1) Abortion as a method to keep children from ending up on the street? Your logic seems to be that if a kid might end up on the street and hungry, we should kill them before they are born. Following that logic, then we should round up kids who are hungry and on the street and kill them! That doesn’t make sense.
    2) Your logic is that a baby conceived by rape should be killed. Why punish the baby for the actions of another.

    What we need to continue to pray for is that people in general will be able to live chaste lives. As I see the problem, the culture has disconnected sex from its primary purpose, the creation of new life. So many people see sex now as the way to show “love” and do not want to deal with the consequences. Abortion in America is last ditch birth control. We need self control to become the birth control choice in this country. Men and women do have a choice – whether or not to have sex. After that the choices are gone.

  18. Irene says:

    I am very concerned about the proposed House budget; it plans to cut food programs for poor women and children and childcare assistance for low-income families. I hope the Church speaks out on strongly against this budget and in defense of children!

  19. Brian Cook says:

    I just found a clip of George Carlin ranting about pro-life activists. I invite you to look for that clip and then address the allegations that he makes against pro-life activists. Does he promote straw-man distortions? Then what are those distortions?

  20. Brian Cook says:

    P.S. I’m sorry for spamming, but I forgot to add this in my original post. He and people like him fancy themselves as revealing unpleasant and uncomfortable truths about pro-life activists and the Right. Are they truths, or are they distortions?

  21. Bill says:

    Thank you Roman Catholics for speaking the truth and having it in your doctrines. Thanks for marching and picketing.

    Thank you Protestants for voting for Life in the last presidential election, and some picketing.

    Light and Dark do not combine, wake up people !

    The unborn are people, not like the 3/5 person like the slaves in our past. Jesus help us.

    Blacks, did you know you are wiping out your race in the US by abortion percentages? Did you know you voted for abortion with Barack (Haman) Obama. Did you know that Planned Parenthood locates in the hood. Did you know that? I’d like a Black president also but not one who supports wiping out a race, or killing the unborn. Think again, you will have a vote again shortly. Is BHO really born here? Why doesn’t he just put his birth certificate in public view, all other candidates would.

  22. Life says:

    How is this racist? Every year my kids hear about slavery during black history month, Martin Luther King Jr and other black leaders. Feb is Black History Month, this is part of History, what is wrong with letting people know the truth so we can change the future? We need to find ways to help women so they don’t feel this is their only choice. I grew up really poor, dig in the trash for food poor. I’m glad my parents didn’t kill me, my brothers and sisters! When I was pregnant with my first child I was poor, a family planning clinic worker tried to pressure me to abort her, even after I told her that abortion was NOT an option Id ever consider. She’s 16 years old now, NOT poor, being poor can be a temporary situation aborting an unborn child is permanent. My daughter has been a blessing, I’m so glad I didn’t give into the pressure! At the time I was really bad off my iron was so low that when I had seen the doctor I was prescribed to take a prenatal pill with 150% iron plus 3 tablets of iron a day,150% iron each. I thank God for giving me the strength to say no! There is help out there; we need to share with those in need no matter the race!
    It is a tragedy that so many black unborn babies have been killed through abortion, what is racist about wanting them NOT to be aborted? There is nothing wrong with helping someone through the hard times! If someone has problem with receiving help when they need it, just think of it as I accept the help and when able to, pay it forward to someone in the future. Some charities that help the poor are Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Loaves and Fishes.

  23. Frank says:

    I think that Dolan is malnourished. I suggest he stop drinking all alcohol. Cut back on sugar about 100%. Increase veggies. No bread ‘n butter. Down carbs. Exercise daily. Begin walking daily and weight training. Swim daily. Finds ways to reduce stress. Get adequate sleep.

  24. Frank says:

    Make sure that you are monitored closely by an MD. Dolan is obese and is at risk for heart attack/stroke as he begins to lose weight. Also, if there is an untreated depressive core, get ready to experience mood swings, problems with sleep, craving sugar and alcohol, and a shifting mental status. Read up on neurotransmitters & alcohol so that you understand how alcohol has affected your brain chemistry and know what you have to do to stabilize.

    Meet with a nutritionist so that you understand what your body needs to remain stable. If you need to take time off, then take it. Just do it.

    Like they say, if you can’t sleep and you can’t die make coffee!

  25. Frank says:

    Correction: If you can’t live and you can’t die,make coffee!

  26. I have, and I will make sure that I do, show my prolife stance on abortion in my writings on the website I have provided. Since the times of Margaret Sanger, many lives of African-Americans have been lost due to abortion. In fact, the human race is headed for extinction. I will speak out.

  27. Steve Harper says:

    “59.8% of African-American pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion”.

    We have become so BLIND. We read things like this and then turn the page to see who won last night’s game. How the above statistic does not make us all go into the streets and protest is just incredible. That’s 6 out of every 10 African American Babies is killed in NYC. What have we become?

    I believe the global figure each day is 120,000, or 45 million babies a year. That’s about how many people were killed in 6 years of WW2, including extermination camps.

    Dear Lord, please open our eyes.

    Please continue to bravely speak the truth Your Excellency.

    God bless you all.

  28. Frank says:

    More folks die from obesity related illnesses than anything else and you’re worried about abortion.

    obesity = malnutrition

  29. Andrew Piacente says:

    With the tough editors here (at least with me anyway), how do clowns like Frank get posted.

    Comparing self created obesity with the innocence of nascent life is insane.

  30. Frank says:

    What’s so bad about being honest, trying to save Dolan’s life?

    Yup…the Archbishop needs medical help…he needs everybody’s it. What’s so bad about caring about his health?

    Please try you best and stop the name calling. ta-ta!

  31. Gerard says:

    Thank you, Katie Hanley, for trying to bring some intelligent discussion into the mix. Unfortunately, most Catholics will bemoan abortion and the destruction of “an innocent life” but will do nothing about those who are already alive in this world. Catholics who voted for George Bush are guilty of the deaths of millions of “innocent lives” in Iraq and Afganistan and in other places that we aren’t even aware. Catholics who invested with and supported the Wall Street Bankers who destroyed our economy are guilty of sliding more poor souls into poverty. Catholics who echo the uninformed lies and opinions of Cardinal Ratzinger are responsible for the deaths of young LGBTQ catholic boys and girls who have had enough of the pain and torture and condemnation from their catholic communities. It is time for Catholics to grow up and use their God given brains to look at the bigger picture in order to have intelligent discussions and make right decisions for themselves. And, above all, Love God above all things, and love their neighbors as themselves.