By Tim Von Dohlen

Crucifixion, The Cross, Faith and American Culture

April 21, 2015

Happy Easter!  This was the best Lent I have ever had.  Clearly, it was because of the book by Marcellino D’Ambrosio (Dr. Italy) 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent.  You will do yourself a spiritual favor if you go ahead and purchase the book so you are ready for Lent next year.  The daily reflections were powerful and the intensity built through Good Friday to Easter Sunday.  Spending less time in front of a TV and more time in the presence of our Lord at Mass was valuable.

Also, when in the car, my wife Pat and I listened to Relevant Radio and its wonderful and inspirational programming.  This was helpful in causing us to reflect on the times in which Jesus lived and the conditions which the Jewish people lived under and the influences of the Romans over them.  When we watched Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ the brutality of Roman crucifixion and its intimidation and humiliation were clear.  Then Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus historical perspective of how rumors were spread, the role money played in the actions of Caiaphas, and the gamesmanship to stir up the crowd before Pilate to force Pilate to send an innocent man to be crucified were alarming.

According to Dr. Italy, the Romans copied the work of the Assyrians who lived in the cradle of civilization now known as Iraq.  The Assyrians developed the technology to produce the maximum amount of pain for the longest amount of time prior to death.  It was called crucifixion.  For the infamous terrorists of antiquity the Assyrians used crucifixion as a terror tactic.  The Roman Empire found crucifixion an excellent tool of intimidation.  The humiliation of being stripped naked to die in a public spectacle was particularly loathsome to Jews, for whom public nudity was an abomination.  However, under Roman law crucifixion was deemed so horrible that crucifixion could not be carried out on a Roman citizen, even a traitor.  It was reserved only for slaves and conquered people.*  (Each paragraph taken from 40 Days, 40 Ways will be followed by an asterisk.

St. Anselm in the 12th Century answered the question of why Christians use a symbol of abasement, terror and torture–“the cross”—in churches, homes and around their necks.  Adam and Eve (considered to be mankind’s original parents) fell from God’s grace and their sin was all about pride, disobedience and self-love.  And so each human, weakened by the impact of original sin, has followed its pattern refusing to obey God and love our neighbor.  Anselm pointed out that sin constitutes an infinite offense against the goodness and honor of God.*

The problem is, our wounded race could not begin to attempt to correct the effect of original sin.  So the Father sent his Eternal Word to become man and accomplish the task in our place, to substitute for us.  For the immortal, infinite God to empty himself and unite himself to a limited, vulnerable human nature was already a feat of unimaginable love and humility.  But for redemption to be complete, the hero would have to withstand the greatest fury that hell and fallen humanity could hurl against him: The cross.*

Jesus was love to the end.  (See John 13:1)  His death was the clear and undeniable manifestation of the triumph of obedience over disobedience, love over selfishness, humility over pride….  So the cross is not only victorious, it is fruitful.  It bears the fruit of salvation in the loving act of Christ, but has kept bearing new fruit throughout the ages.*

How might we apply the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus to things that are being encountered in American society today? 

Some of Jesus’ teaching like that on the Eucharist caused some disciples to leave him and go away.  They were “heretics”.  The word “heresy” means “choice” – picking and choosing only those doctrines that fit into one’s comfort zone and don’t threaten one’s idols.  The Canaanites had their fertility gods.  The Ammonites had Moloch, the god who demanded the sacrifice of infant children.*

Today in America, we have the abortion holocaust.  Mostly women who want the “choice” to choose abortion with the false expectation that it will give her freedom and comfort.  Thousands died by Roman crucifixion.  More than 54,000,000 unborn children have died by abortion in America.  It could be said that abortion is the new form of crucifixion.

Crucifixion conducted by the Romans was most often done to men and the impact of crucifixion was to terrorize, humiliate and control the conquered people under their dominion.  The crucifixion of abortion is mainly self-imposed by the woman on herself.  It is an effort to (1) preserve availability of access to basic needs (fear of reprisal by parents or boyfriend when they find out she is pregnant taking car, cell phone, clothing and even the roof over her head), or (2) she must pay the price because of the selfishness of the male partner.  She was seeking the right to have a choice when the choice should have been between her and her partner not to have sex.  Once that choice was ignored, the natural consequence is a new human life with its own unique genetic code from the time of conception.

Unfortunately, people today are seeking freedom to do what they want, when that is not freedom at all. As St. John Paul II said, “freedom is NOT doing what you want, but having the right to do what you ought.”

Jesus crucifixion showed the depth of His love for mankind.  For love, as St. Paul says in Romans 8:28, has the power to make everything work out for the good.  And that is the reason that the crucifix is the central image of the Catholic faith.  It is a symbol of faith, hope, and love.  Yes, it demonstrates how much Christ loves us.  But it also demonstrates that we have nothing to fear from the tragedies and calamities that have happened or could happen, because if God can bring glory out of the shame of the cross, he can bring good out of anything.*

So too for our sisters wounded by the crucifixion of abortion and its humiliation.  There is hope and forgiveness.

At the St. John Paul II Life Center, our doors are open to post-abortive women in need of love and understanding.  We cannot change the past, but we can show Jesus’s love through the care and comfort one receives when at our  Center.  If you know someone stung by the crucifixion of abortion and pregnant again help them reach out to the St. John Paul II Life Center ([email protected]) and she will be received with warmth and compassion.

I believe as a Catholic layman and businessman, I have an obligation to do what I can to end the scourge of abortion in America.  Abortion is the greatest catastrophe in the history of America.

I find the remarks of President Ronald Reagan on January 22, 1988, to still be fitting:

“And yet our opponents tell us not to interfere with abortion.  They tell us not to impose our morality on those who wish to allow or participate in the taking of the life of infants before birth.  Yet not one calls it imposing morality to prohibit the taking of life after a child is born.  We’re told about a woman’s right to control her own body.  But doesn’t the unborn child have a higher right, and that is to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”



Timothy Von Dohlen is the founder and president of the John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic in Austin, Texas. (  For a more robust bio, click here.  –


View Articles If you’ve met Tim, you know that his life was shaped by good values that were imparted to him by his parents and he... MORE »