Forty years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. It is such a long time — an entire generation. We might wonder at God’s quiet, when for 40 years — a true desert of waiting — our country is burdened and grown jaded over the sin of abortion. We have not only endured it as a culture. We have exalted it; we have made abortion seem necessary; we have made the direct taking of life seem right; made it appear merciful. It is as though we are covering our eyes and ears over abortion, determined to justify its stain, its toxic seepage into broken hearts and empty homes. Abortion has tainted the history of our country. It brands us all. What will our generation be known for? How will we explain “what we have done; and what we have failed to do?” Has God been silent for 40 years? Or have we been silent?
We have tried to make a difference for human life. God knows our efforts. We hear in the Letter to the Hebrews, “Brothers and Sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for His name. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish…” Even when it seems there is no progress; if it appears that we cannot succeed, we must “be eager for the fulfillment of hope, to the end.” This is truly a spiritual battle. Your sacrifices and prayers are doing more than you can know.
And so we come as witnesses to life. We come again and again. Ours is not an annual remembrance. No day passes that we don’t think on this tragic loss of life that marks us. And we do not — as some cynics claim — fail to care about the state of the world at war; or about the hatred of brothers and sisters because of color. We know firsthand about the fear of the migrant, and our charity is second to none in providing the working poor with a meal, job training for those out of prison, education in city neighborhoods. From this place we call Church, we champion these God-established rights and the value of every life, and we do something about it.
We cannot give up and we do not give up. This is the messy human world that Jesus embraced and for which He lays down His life. You and I — imperfect as we are — we want to make an offering too. On this our Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, we pledge to be eager for the fulfillment of our hope to the very end. I thank you for being here today. I thank you for walking in the streets prayerfully and peacefully, with zeal for life and enthusiasm for the truth about human life.
How did the value of the unborn get discarded? How is it that we don’t care about these tiniest and most defenseless babies? We are generous to help victims of storms and natural disasters. We are moved to action when we hear the report of violence in malls and theaters, and — God forgive our twisted world — in schools. But right here and now a forty year death watch marches powerfully on: now 50 and 60 million lives taken, just in America. This disgrace flushes itself on us with poison and blood — unstopped, still protected and justified in law: a silent genocide.
The perpetrators of this crime are people of all colors; even moms and dads. The consenters are of every age group and social strata: professional — doctors and nurses, lawyers and judges, politicians; from the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor; protestant, Jew, atheist, and to be sure, Catholic.
Catholic — this hurts the most. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. It was an extraordinary and grace-filled moment in the Church. But some have twisted its message. Some have exchanged its authentic spirit for a personal license to do what they please and call it conscience. To say that each person may freely decide what is right and wrong, merely as his or her conscience determines, is a false teaching. It is a distortion. It might rightly be called heresy, particularly when it is preached by a priest — or, God help us, a bishop. Friends, there is no freedom of conscience apart from the truth. The Church’s teaching and the truth about abortion has not changed. Its evil is renewed thousands of times a day, as every new life is snuffed out. Its painful destruction is real for that tiny human person beginning to live exactly as each of us began; who is loved by God; who is as dignified as any person, and destined for life here and for eternal life. How did we lose sight of this? America, let us open our eyes.
I thank you for not forgetting. If we are not to forfeit hope, we have to come to the altar. We have to take to the streets; we must often remind each other. Why? – because our culture, our politics, our media, our laws have not just forgotten. With a vengeance they wish to quiet us. We cannot be silent. While our first act is prayer, and our source of strength is prayer, and our last anthem is prayer; we also must act under the impulse of law and freedom and responsibility. Let me pass on to you these words I have recently heard:
“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set his country’s course.
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”
These are the words of President Barack Obama in his second inaugural address. He spoke them yesterday (Monday). We have the power as citizens to set the course for our country. We have the obligation to vote and to lift our voices in defense of ancient values and enduring ideals.
Now, dear friends, I make these words my own: We have the power to change the course of our country. Forty years is too long. We have the obligation to vote in defense of life. We have the obligation to lift our voices in defense of human life, the ancient value and enduring ideal; the self-evident truth – we are created equal and endowed by our Creator with life.
Mary, Mother of Life, pray for us. Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.