This article was previously published in Envoy Magazine.
Diplomatic Corps Erin Broestl
How to be a Man for the Lord
What do you get when you cross a sincere smile and a love for people with the no-holds-barred attitude of a corporate lawyer? You get a man for all men named Chris Aubert (pronounced Oh-Bear). He will go anywhere, and do anything to reach one heart to stop abortion. And his mission is to meet people where they are, especially men, and help them to “fight the good fight.”
What an uphill battle it is, too, speaking about the man’s role in abortion and its devastating effects on him that can still be evident decades later. This is a very personal issue for Aubert, and one that he has decided to talk about so that other men know they are not alone. A father of 5 living children, Aubert knows about the joys and fears of parenting. He wants his sons to understand that their role in future relationships will be significant; abortion is not just about a woman’s body or a woman’s “choice.” Abortion also involves a man, whether he knows it at the time or not. Recent studies have shed light on the fact that men suffer from abortion just like women. Men that learn about the death of their baby often struggle with depression, guilt, shame, and trauma — sometimes soon after the baby’s death, and sometimes many years later. Reaching out to men, Chris Aubert bridges the gender gap and provides a path to the truth: it is a baby, and it is wrong to kill it. In other words, what you don’t know can hurt you.
You might say that Aubert can empathize with survivors. His father, Henri Aubert was a Jewish child violinist who survived both Auschwitz and Buchenwald because he could entertain the SS Troops. Forced to lead a procession of victims from the barracks to the crematorium, he played violin in the death march that included his own father, mother, and sister. After Henri was freed, he emigrated to New York and married a Catholic woman. In Aubert’s words, “My father was very concerned with another holocaust, and he wanted nobody to know of my Jewish roots as his son, so my Jewish father urged my Catholic mother to name me Christian Joseph. They settled on Christopher Joseph.” It took many years for Aubert to realize that he became an unknowing participant in the American holocaust of abortion, which he points out is no different in content or substance than the Jewish Holocaust. “It’s not really about ‘pro-life’ versus ‘pro-choice’ decisions, it is about abortion. Calling it something else does not change the actual procedure, the dismemberment of a baby in the womb.” He pulls no punches during what he terms “confrontational evangelization.” Aubert wants to get people to think, to wake them up out of their lethargy and their moral relativist soup.
There is perhaps no better person to do this than the man who describes himself as “the former pope of the Church of Relativism.” Aubert used to go along with anything. “Whatever I feel like doing, let’s do that, it’ll be fine. I thought I was the center of the universe, the number one guy…but I was ignorant, and I was ignorant of the fact that I was ignorant.” His youth was very peaceful compared with his father’s childhood. Born in Manhattan in 1957, Aubert moved to the green suburbs of Scarsdale at age 11. His parents divorced, and his mom remarried another Jewish man and converted to Judaism. Aubert was bar mitzvahed in 1970. “Sad to say, I never went back to temple after my bar mitzvah. It’s just kind of the way that it was.
“In 1975, I graduated from high school, and moved to New Orleans to go to Tulane University. New Orleans is very Catholic, and where I came from about half the community was Jewish, and the other half Catholic. We used to divide up sports teams using Jews against the Christians. True story!
“I was a typical college kid in the 1970s. Frequent, indiscriminate sex with anyone who wanted me, drugs, partying, you name it. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is. That’s because I came from a very relativistic place. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents —they are fine people. I just didn’t have a faith grounding. It wasn’t that important to them.”
In 1984, Aubert graduated from Tulane Law School and went to work at a big law firm in downtown New Orleans. A year later, he was dating a girl and she became pregnant. He freely admits that he had no intention of marrying her. She told him that she wanted an abortion, and he told her that he had no problem with it. After all, it was a woman’s right to choose, and it was just an unviable tissue mass, right? Simple surgery. The day of the abortion, he went to play softball, and then went to her house and put a rose and a check for 200 dollars on her front porch. He never saw her, or talked to her again. The whole abortion was a non-issue for him.
The same thing happened again in 1991 with another girlfriend, only this time, Aubert went with her to the clinic. He sat in the waiting room and read a magazine while his child was killed in the next room. He still didn’t quite understand what was going on, and was not ready to make a commitment to marriage. After paying the clinic bill, he took her to lunch, and both of them had little to say to each other. They broke up soon after. Looking back on this tragic event now, he minces no words when he says, “I was reading Sports Illustrated while in the next room, they were pulling the arms and legs off my child.”
Aubert recalls that at the time, something seemed wrong, but he couldn’t quite figure out what or why. He was still steeped in his own relativistic attitude, and pummeled by the rhetoric around him that spouted the big lie: abortion is a woman’s issue. Men need to keep quiet and stay out of the way. Aubert candidly admits that he had everything going for him; he had a good job and lots of money, but still hadn’t really reached manhood. And he still hadn’t met Jesus Christ.
In October of 1992, he met his future wife. “Rhonda was a ‘cradle Catholic’ from New Orleans and I started learning from her a little more about Catholicism, Jesus Christ, and all the things that go with it. Rhonda is a wonderful and beautiful woman inside and out, but at the time she was also, unfortunately, what many lukewarm Catholics are: “C.W.C. – Catholic When Convenient.”
“Rhonda and I married in June 1994, and she got pregnant about two months later. A watershed day in my faith journey was seeing the first ultrasound when Rhonda was about eight weeks pregnant. I vividly recall pointing at the screen excitedly and saying, out loud, ‘I want to meet the person who says that is not a baby.’”
Aubert recalls that the ultrasound, along with a poster of prenatal development in the doctor’s office really opened his eyes to what happens in a woman’s body. The baby’s growth is progressive, and visible through the miracle of modern medicine. Aubert, like many people today, wondered why he wasn’t taught these basic lessons of anatomy. Why did he never see a poster like that before? One reason is that the abortion movement has been incredibly vocal and widespread, riding on the heels of feminism and advertised everywhere. Wanting to spare women pain might be a good goal, but unfortunately it has taken almost 40 years for the public to start hearing about the incredible pain of post-abortion.
Although he is direct, he is not harsh. Aubert knows that for people who understand what abortion is, it’s a tough decision for most. He has heard from hundreds of women who still proclaim this as a woman’s issue, as if a man has no right to speak on something he has been a partner in, but he says, “We must be kind. These women need validation, and they have a need to be militant, but most of them are dealing with post-abortion trauma. They are hurting deeply. There are probably only about two degrees of separation out there between strangers that have been involved with abortion, and we need to overcome the seemingly invincible ignorance about it, and especially about contraception.
This is where men can step in and help not only women, but themselves as well. Men who view ultrasound pictures of their baby are more likely to understand that it is not just a “blob of tissue.” Aubert’s stepfather came to the same realization when he actually met his fourth grandson. Born early, and in the NICU for 53 days, the baby boy was as small as the size of his hand. His stepfather said, “How could anyone want to kill it?”
This question seems obvious, but people have been so deluded into thinking that their own selfish desires outweigh the needs of a baby. The abortion lobby has twisted all language regarding the murder of innocents. They de-stress anything involving personal responsibility, seeking other alternatives like adoption, and working to end one of the main causes of abortion: domestic violence. Many women are abused and coerced into having an abortion. To correct this problem, Chris Aubert wants to reach men with the message that in order to be a man, you have to defend family and children. He paraphrases J.C. Watts, Jr., recent Congressman from Oklahoma when he says, “Character is what you’re willing to do when everybody’s looking.”
He adds, “To reach people, we have to meet them where they are. I’m not much for flowers and feelings, but I’m good with tools, mathematical equations, linear thinking, and logic — it works for me. The tug-on-the-heartstrings arguments of the pro-life movement don’t really do much for me. I understand them, intellectually and academically, but they don’t really move me to action.”
What does move him is the wrestling match with logic, the arguments and counter-arguments, one person at a time. Logic brought Aubert the truth about abortion, and also the truth about the Catholic faith. Both of these journeys intertwined to give him the tools to equip men to embrace the truth. “Objective truth is what God tells us is true. The Supreme Court doesn’t make something true just by saying it. God tells us that abortion is gravely contrary to moral law. Logically, society and God cannot both be right.
“Either life begins at conception, or at some later date. It can’t be both, and it is not arbitrary; it cannot be a battle of experts. We need certainty, clarity, and consistency on the subject of when life begins. Life cannot depend on who you ask, and when you ask. Abortion has this ‘elephant on the table’ — this thing you can’t ignore, and the elephant is the question of what, exactly, is being aborted. Pro-life and pro-choice people can’t even agree on this, and this is the problem.” He points out that life cannot be a blob of tissue on day thirteen, at the twenty-third hour, fifty-ninth minute, ninety-ninth nanosecond, and then turn into a baby on day fourteen. That doesn’t make any sense, and it leaves the argument wide open for anyone to pick a random day or time. Life begins at conception, because that is when all life starts to grow.
Aubert concedes that many Catholics know this truth, but the hard part is changing their lifestyle. “If two people debate what lima beans taste like, and one has tried them and one hasn’t, you’re going to listen to the person who has actually tried them. You can argue with an opinion, but not an experience.” And the experience that men go through after an abortion is life-altering. More men need to speak up about the impact of fatherhood, and what happens to them when they find out that they are fathers. Changing a lifestyle may be hard, but dealing with the profound pain of loss is much harder. Men often have a tough time dealing with things that stem from post-abortion trauma: job loss, relationship loss, despair, even suicide.
Aubert says that going to confession and taking responsibility for his actions helped him deal with the trauma of aborting two children. “Confession is an amazing thing. We can know that we are right before God, and that we have complete and divine forgiveness. The priest’s words are very powerful. Talk to your priest, and your wife, and/or your counselor. There can be a lot of steps to go through, but find people to talk to, and forgive yourself after you receive God’s forgiveness.” One other thing Aubert has found helpful is to try to make amends with the women in his life, but he knows that this is not always possible for everyone.
What is possible is for the bishops to be stronger, to present a consistent message. Aubert would remind them, “Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:15-16) For priests, he says, “We need to seek unity through truth, not unity through compromise. Truth is on our side.” Like many, Aubert has heard priests give nineteen homilies on social justice, and maybe only one on abortion or contraception. This needs to change, if only for the simple reason that most people struggle with these big issues in their lives. The pain and shame from abortion can also be linked with the pain from abuse, abandonment, and the widespread, utter desolation of porn use. Many people have one or more of these issues in common. Aubert guesses that perhaps three-quarters of all men might be porn users, and porn and abortion both disregard the sanctity of human life. They both wreak havoc on a man’s relationships, and can ruin his future happiness. In speaking to young men about their future, he asserts, “Football games have four quarters. You have to think past the first quarter, the first inning of your life. Try to take a 30,000 foot view of things. Picture yourself in an airplane, looking down on your life. If what I do winds up on the front page tomorrow, how would I feel? What would happen next? Perspective, you know?” He laughs, and his laugh is from a man who has joyfully found and accepted God’s forgiveness.