With every passing year, the public assault on human life from conception to natural death seems bolder and more blatant. Although research studies indicate that there has actually been a decline in surgical abortions since 2014, the alternative choice of medical abortions in which the mother takes a drug to cause a miscarriage has risen dramatically, by 75 percent in the last 10 years according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Whether surgically performed or medically induced, abortion is abortion. If we truly believe that life begins at conception, then neither “choice” is morally acceptable.

Contrary to this national trend, there has been a 9 percent increase in the surgical abortion rate in the state of New Jersey between 2014 and 2017, which represents 5.6 percent of all abortions in the United States. At the present time (September 2019), the state of New Jersey does not have any of the major types of restrictions – such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly funded abortions – often found in other states (“State Facts About Abortion: New Jersey,” Guttmacher Institute, 2019).”

Another “pro-life concern” surfaced this year – despite the strong opposition of the New Jersey Catholic Conference and the Medical Society of New Jersey – when the State Legislature passed an assisted suicide bill called the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.” Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law April 12, 2019, and it officially took effect Aug. 1, 2019. This new law will allow terminally ill patients to request aid in dying in certain clearly defined situations. 

October is “Respect Life Month.” This year, the theme chosen for this annual observance is “Christ Our Hope in Every Season of Life.” As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I am pleased to share with you this reflection from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

From the time we are knit together in our mothers’ wombs until we take our final breaths, each moment of our lives is a gift from God. While every season of life brings its own challenges and trials, each season also gives us new opportunities to grow in our relationship with God.

Today the gift of life is threatened in countless ways. Those who are most vulnerable, rather than receiving the protection they deserve, are all too often seen as a burden and as expendable. As new attacks on human life continue to emerge, we can be tempted to despair, but Christ instead offers us unfailing hope.

Hope is not false optimism or empty positivity. Christian hope is something much more profound and goes to the very depths of our identity as followers of Christ.

Hope is the virtue “by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1817).

Like us, Christ entered the world through the womb of a woman. He willingly experienced the fullness of human suffering. He breathed his last on the Cross at Calvary in order that He might save us. Therefore, “God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end” (Spe salvi 31).

Christians know “they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness” (SS 2).

For this reason, a woman experiencing a difficult pregnancy can find the strength to welcome her precious child into the world. A man facing a terminal diagnosis can see that the end of his earthly life is only the beginning of eternal life with Christ.

The Church teaches us that “the one who has hope lives differently” (SS 2). Christ’s promise of salvation does not mean that we will be spared from suffering. Rather, the promise of salvation ensures that even in the darkest moments of our lives, we will be given the strength to persevere. By virtue of this Christian hope, we can face any challenge or trial. When the seas of life swell and we are battered by the waves, hope allows us to remain anchored in the heart of God. May we hold fast to Christ our hope, from the beginning of life to its very end.

I urge all Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton to never lose sight of the conviction of our faith that Christ is, indeed, our hope in every season of life. Together let us continue to pray, to speak out boldly and to witness and work without hesitation or pause to support and respect life in all its stages. Despite the obstacles that may be placed in our path here in New Jersey and throughout our nation, we must strive to build that “culture of life” of which Pope St. John Paul II spoke. 

As Catholics, it is our task to transform the “culture of death” and not to be transformed by it. “We “must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope (“Address in Washington, DC,” February 6, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)  And the Lord Jesus Christ is our “infinite hope” now and “in every season of our life.”