The expression “culture warrior” is used in contemporary conversation, even in some Catholic circles, to describe people who fight for those causes that run counter to prevailing cultural values and preferences, chief among those causes, the protection of human life in all its stages, from conception to natural death. 

It is rarely spoken or used in a positive way, however.  I believe that it can, and even should be.  Those who are “pro-life” are, indeed, engaged in a significant battle to convince their opponents and critics that, as Pope St. John Paul II once affirmed, “When some lives, including the unborn, are subjected to the personal choices of others, no other value or right will long be guaranteed (Pope St. John Paul, encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 1995).”

We know that respecting life is a human imperative that cannot and must not be limited to a single month or a single day.  It is an “every day and always cause” that is not unique to any one religious belief or denomination.  Pope Francis has stated that “abortion is not a religious problem in the sense that just because I am a Catholic, I must not seek an abortion.  It is a human problem.  It is a problem of eliminating a human life. Period (Pope Francis, “Interview with Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki” May 28, 2019).”

For Catholics, however, respecting life, especially the unborn, is intrinsic to our identity as people of faith. It admits no denial, no exception, no compromise. Every life is cherished, chosen, and sent.  “Abortion is never the answer. … Human life is sacred and inviolable (Pope Francis, “Address to Vatican Conference ‘Yes to Life!’” May 25, 2019).”

“Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of the human person, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her age or stage of development (Pope Francis, Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, June 25, 2018).” 

As the 48th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court approaches on January 22, 2021, each Catholic — indeed each human being — has the opportunity to focus special attention, effort and fervent prayer on the conviction that every human life is precious and worthy of protection, from conception to natural death.  “Every intentional abortion is gravely wrong (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2271).”

In the United States, the notion of “rights” is particularly strong in our national conversation.  Any honest discussion, however, must begin with the assertion that the right to life is the first among human rights – “preeminent” as the U.S. Bishops recently declared – one that even the Founding Fathers affirmed. “Protecting human life is one of the noblest tasks of the state.  If a state evades this responsibility, it undermines the foundations of the rule of law (YouCat, no. 383).”

St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed it well: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love but to use violence to get what they want ... it is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish ... if abortion isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong.”

This coming year, here in New Jersey, legislators are contemplating the promulgation of what is being called the “Reproductive Freedom Act.”  Our state already has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the nation.  To proceed further down that road is one more indictment of the total disregard of contemporary culture for human life, taking place in our state. 

Sadly, some Catholics in public office in New Jersey are among the most vocal proponents of the “culture of death” in our state.  And they are receiving broad support from the citizenry.  Pope St. John Paul II, continuing the constant teaching of the Church, reiterated many times that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to opposeany law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, no. 4, 2002).

Make no mistake about it.  Abortion kills children, hurts women and destroys society.  I read somewhere that life offers no guarantees, but abortion offers no chances.  Fighting against the “culture of death” while fighting for a “culture of life” is a battle worth fighting in today’s world.  The unborn have no voice.  We do.  We may be mocked as “culture warriors,” but the first, last and most important cause we can pursue is to respect life in all its stages.

We are called to be warriors.  And we might draw inspiration from these oft-quoted words of wisdom, “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘you cannot withstand the storm.’  The warrior confidently whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”

In this year, dedicated to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church and guardian of the Blessed Mother as she bore the Son of God in her womb, Catholics should pray for his intercession that the tragedy of abortion might come to an end and that the life of the most innocent and vulnerable among us might always be guarded and protected.