By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann urged pro-life leaders from around the nation to use the gifts outlined in the Wizard of Oz — wisdom, courage and compassion — to advance the pro-life cause.
And as the Year of Mercy approaches, the archbishop especially urged compassion.
“Mercy and compassion have always been central to the church’s pro-life ministry,” Archbishop Naumann told the 70 leaders from 51 dioceses assembled at Kansas City’s Plaza Marriott Hotel July 27-29.
That compassion is apparent, he said, in the number of ministries devoted to helping women in crisis pregnancies and reaching out to heal women and men who have experienced the tragedy of abortion.
“Birthrights, crisis pregnancy centers, pregnancy resource centers, Project Gabriel, residences for pregnant mothers, etc., have sprung up all over our nation, attempting to surround with love and compassion women contemplating the abortion of their unborn child,” he said.
“It is part of our mandate to change the law, the public policy in the United States that sanctions the killing of unborn children. The law not only permits abortion, but it teaches, particularly to the young, that abortion is an acceptable choice,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“Yet, whether we can restore legal protection to the unborn or not, we have the responsibility to do our best to rescue unborn children with love and surround their frightened and overwhelmed mothers with compassion,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann had special praise for Project Rachel, a ministry active in both Kansas City dioceses, as well as around the nation, to bring healing after abortion.
“This ministry of mercy needs to be initiated, highlighted, renewed and strengthened during the Jubilee of Mercy,” he said.
“It is important that we have the proper resources in place to serve individuals who have had an abortion or have assisted in an abortion, and now deeply regret that choice and desire earnestly to receive God’s forgiveness as well as the grace to forgive themselves and others,” the archbishop said.
“If you do nothing else as a pro-life director this year, I encourage you to pray about and explore opportunities on how you can strengthen the post-abortive outreach and ministry in your diocese,” he said.
“Pope Francis challenges the church to reach out to those on the fringes, which certainly includes the post-abortive women and men in our communities,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“There have been some remarkable conversion stories — Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade), Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Beverly McMillan, Carroll Everett, and former Planned Parenthood directors Abby Johnson and Ramona Trevino,” he said.
“These Paul-like conversions reveal the power of God’s grace,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“The Jubilee of Mercy is a time we should offer special prayers for the conversion of those involved with the performance of abortions,” he said.
But that also demands a continuing conversion of those in the pro-life movement.
“We cannot understand the Gospels if we have not experienced God’s mercy in our own lives,” Archbishop Naumann said, urging the pro-life leaders to make frequent confessions.
“Each time we go to confession, it is a unique opportunity to have the Gospel proclaimed to us in the unique circumstances of our own lives,” he said.
“Each experience of this sacrament provides us with an opportunity for a profound encounter with the unconditional love of God revealed in Jesus. The Sacrament of Reconciliation has the power to give us more grateful, more loving, more merciful, more compassionate hearts,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“We also need to use the brains that God has given us,” he said.
“Our goal is not winning the debate with the advocates of abortion. It is about reaching minds and touching hearts to save lives,” he said.
“However, we must not only be scrupulous about the truth of our educational efforts, but we must also be aware of how they are received. We have to evaluate our effectiveness in reaching particular audiences,” Archbishop Naumann said.
He recalled serving on the founding board of the Vitae Foundation, which uses mass media to promote the pro-life cause.
“Our initial target audience was women who evidenced some sympathy to some pro-life values, but labeled themselves pro-choice,” the archbishop said.
“We discovered that showing this audience gory pictures of aborted children did not motivate them to be appalled at abortion, but made them angry at the person showing them this disturbing picture. Nor did they like to be preached at and they wanted no part of the culture wars,” Archbishop Naumann said.
What worked, he said, were the Vitae Foundation’s “Think about it” advertising campaign which featured “strong, capable women” proclaiming messages such as: “I used to be pro-choice, but then I had a baby of my own. It got me thinking. Why when I wanted a baby, it was a baby but when I didn’t, it was something else? Think about it.”
“We have to be careful not to create messages that appeal to us, but are ineffective with those whose minds and hearts we are trying to reach. We cannot waste money preaching to the choir. Think about it,” Archbishop Naumann said.
The archbishop also urged the pro-life leaders to continue to have courage, because they will need it.
“The pro-life apostolate is not for the feint-hearted,” he said.
“We have to be prepared to be ridiculed as narrow-minded, hateful, waging war against women, and accused of bigotry. In our efforts to defend innocent children, we will be accused of wanting women to die in back alley abortions,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“Since abortion is a profitable industry, the advocates of legalized abortion are willing to spend a portion of their profits to fund slick promotion campaigns and to purchase political influence,” he said.
“Obviously, our greatest resource is prayer. We need to persistently ask the Holy Spirit to endow us with his gifts of fortitude and perseverance,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“We also have the motivation advantage,” he said.
“Our motivation is not making money, but saving the lives of innocent children and protecting women from having to live with the terrible emotional and spiritual burden that they authorized the killing of their child,” he said.
“We are fighting to give mothers and fathers dignity by challenging them to live responsibly and calling forth from then what is noble in their hearts — love for their own child,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“We are fighting for the most innocent and vulnerable in our society,” he said.