Blessed Margaret of Castello: Patron for Legislation Protecting the Disabled Unborn

A travesty it truly is to be abandoned by one’s own parents because one is not the perfect child. Such was the fate of Blessed Margaret of Castello. Forsaken in her childhood by her own mother and father, she nonetheless taught the value that all human beings, even those who suffer from disabilities, are made in Imago Dei. The sin of abandonment can come in many forms, even in the so-called modern world of tolerance. Many who suffer from genetic disabilities are not only unwanted, but their very existence is threatened while they live within their mothers’ wombs. Abortion is the leading cause of death for those within the womb who have disabilities. Legislators who wish to pass initiatives that show the dignity and respect for the disabled unborn have found a patron in Blessed Margaret.

Blessed Margaret was born in 1287. At the moment of her birth it was discovered she suffered from the genetic disorders of blindness, dwarfism, and an excessive curvature of the spine. Her parents were so horrified by their daughter that they tried to hide her from the public eye by keeping her in a secluded part of the castle. When that eventually failed, they walled her up in a room next to the family chapel where she had a small window so she could hear Mass and participate in the Sacraments. At the age of 16, Margaret was taken to a nearby town where it was rumored that the sick were being miraculously cured. When it became obvious that no miracle was going to occur, her parents cruelly abandoned her to fend for herself. Soon she became a tertiary Dominican and when she proved to be too pious for the convent she was forced to leave. By the grace of God she was essentially adopted by the poor townspeople and there she lived amongst the poor of Castello where she aided those who were sick or dying until she died herself at the age of 33.

margaretThere should be little doubt why she is considered a patron for the pro-life movement. She herself directly dealt with the issues of being unwanted and abandoned, much like those children who are aborted. No doubt, if her parents had the opportunity hundreds of years ago, it seems likely they would have chosen to abort their daughter. But Blessed Margaret presents a unique opportunity to the pro-life movement as well. Not merely as a general patron, but as someone who the pro-life movement should seek to intercede on behalf of some current legislation that desperately needs to be passed by state legislatures and signed into law by various governors. As a patron for the disabled, Blessed Margaret would gladly intercede to help pass legislation such as the Prenatal Non Discrimination Act. Furthermore, advocates should also ask for her intercession on behalf of legislation that would prohibit wrongful birth suits and prohibit wrongful life suits.

Firstly, as mentioned in a previous article, these kinds of legislative initiatives recognize the dignity of the disabled unborn. All human beings are created with dignity precisely because mankind is made in the image and likeness of God regardless of physical or mental capabilities. As a result of this inherent dignity, every child ought to be welcomed into the world. Failure to do this is contrary to the virtue of justice.

But how does each of the aforementioned initiatives help restore dignity to the unborn? Briefly they can be summarized as follows: The Prenatal Non Discrimination Act would prohibit the abortion of an unborn child for the reason that the child has a genetic disability. A prohibition on wrongful birth suits would prohibit parents from suing doctors who do not advise for an abortion because the child has a genetic disability. The prohibition of wrongful life suits would prohibit the person with the genetic disability from suing the doctor because he/she may believe that his/her life was not worth living. It should be plainly obvious how each of these initiatives can contribute to a Culture of Life. Each initiative shows that disabled people also have value and that the destruction of their lives is contrary to the good of the community.

It is in this way that one can see the life of Blessed Margaret as having contributed to the understanding of the value of the disabled. It is clear that Margaret’s parents embodied a culture of death by walling her inside a room and then abandoning her. Her parents’ callousness showed the depths of depravity. They wanted a “normal” child, at least whatever they considered normal and rejected the gift that God had graced them with. No doubt Blessed Margaret’s parents did not wish to deepen their love for either God or their child by embracing a Culture of Life which is proper for human nature. Blessed Margaret shows the world just how the image of God can be seen in the disabled. The poor of the town loved her and provided for her since no one else would. They truly practiced what her parents failed in.

No doubt, Blessed Margaret looks upon these legislative initiatives as a way to help teach society the value of all human life. When enacted these types of laws let each individual know that society ought to cherish the lives of the disabled and justly participate within the community. As a person who suffered the indignity of rejection and abandonment, Blessed Margaret worked to break down barriers. These types of proposals seek to break down these modern day barriers as well. As a result, these measures have a patron in Blessed Margaret.

Joe Kral has been involved in the pro-life movement since he has been in college.  His MA in Theology was completed at the University of St. Thomas where he specialized in bioethics.  From 1996-2003 he was the Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life.  During that time he was also a lobbyist for the Department of Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.  From 2004-2007 he consulted the Texas Catholic Conference on pro-life legislative initiatives.   In 2006 he was awarded the “Bishop’s Pro-Life Award for Civic Action” from the Respect Life Ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  He currently serves as a voluntary legislative advisor to Texas Alliance for Life, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, taught as an adjunct professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, teaches as a Forward Toward Christian Ministry instructor for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is doing doctoral studies at Harrison Middleton University where he is specializing in the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 2004 and they have 2 children together. They attend St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
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