January 20, 2023

In his annual meeting with the worlds’ Vatican diplomatic ambassadors on January 9 of this year, His Holiness Pope Francis spoke powerfully to the gathering representatives about “the defense of life,” threatened as he stated, “by the ‘alleged’ right to abortion.”

The defense of life is "jeopardized not only by conflicts, hunger and disease, but all too often even in the mother's womb." No one, he said, "can claim rights over the life of another human being, especially one who is powerless and thus completely defenseless."  Pope Francis called on political leaders to "safeguard the rights of those are weakest and to combat the throwaway culture that also, tragically, affects the sick, the disabled and the elderly," and insisted governments have a "primary responsibility to ensure that citizens are assisted in every phase of human life until natural death."

We have heard this idea before.

During his September 10, 2007 visit to Austria in 2007, the late Pope Benedict XVI rejected the concept that abortion is a human right, stating that “The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right – it is the very opposite. It is a deep wound in society.”

At the conclusion of his September 1987 apostolic visit to the United States, Pope St. John Paul II urged our nation, “America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.  The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person …Every human person - no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society - is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.”

Today, in Washington DC, here as a Diocese and throughout our many parishes, we affirm those same ideas.  One need not be a Catholic to express and believe them. One needs only to be a rational, honest human being.  But one cannot, however, BE a Catholic without those sentiments rooted deep in our souls.  

We are – all of us – created by God, created by God as we are.  That is truth.  “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you,” the Prophet Jeremiah proclaimed this truth.  “Before you were born, I set you apart for my holy purpose (Jeremiah 1: 5).”  Our creation, our very lives, therefore, are no mistake, no accident and admit of no exception.  That is truth.  That is why we are here together “standing for life!”

As Catholics, we are “pro-life.”  How can a Catholic be otherwise?  And, yet, we see in our day people – even some who identify as Catholic, some who hold the highest offices in our nation and here in our state – who not only are NOT pro-life but who work against that conviction, who vigorously support a contrary position, who tragically seek to make even more restrictive legislation that enables the destruction of life at its most vulnerable stages in the womb the law of the land, the law of our state.

There are those who think imposing a medicinal, canon law penalty on these individuals will change that.  If medicine doesn’t cure, if medicine doesn’t work, what good purpose does it serve? Will it save the life of a single child in the womb. Hearts have become so hardened.  God will be their judge.

Fifty years and 64 million abortions later, the Supreme Court at long last has overturned its tragic decision Roe v. Wade. Sadly, that reversal has not ended abortion in our country. It simply “passed the buck” to the states.  Here in New Jersey, we have on the books the most permissive abortion laws in our nation thanks to the hardest of hearts.  The fight is in our hands.

There is no doubt our presence marching on the front lines, our persistence, our prayers have made a difference as Roe v. Wade fades into one of the saddest chapters of American history.  Now is not the time for us to fade with it, to diminish our presence and persistence, to weaken our witness, to minimize the constancy of our prayers.  

That is why it so important for us to stand up together as Catholics and be counted together as pro-life.  It is not simply one of many labels applied to us.  It is, as the bishops of our country have reminded us, our “pre-eminent priority.” Let that conviction strengthen our voices … and our votes.

Today, I do not wish to focus time or attention on those who oppose us, including those who hold the highest offices in our nation and state, those who labor under the banners of “pro-choice,” “reproductive rights” or “reproductive freedom” as their rationale for advancing a “culture of death.” Again, Almighty God will be their judge.  Let us continue, more than ever, to up our pro-life cause to foster building a “culture of life,” for the born and unborn.

We “stand together for life.”  We come together here in our state and in Diocese in prayer and solidarity to proclaim the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.

The saint of the streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, once reminded us:

“The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has shown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts – a child – as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. … Any country – or state – that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. ... If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Today, as we stand together in the greatest of all prayers, the Eucharist, let us ask the Lord Jesus who gave his life for all of us, born and unborn, to give us the grace to protect the innocent, most vulnerable child in the womb; to love and support and encourage their mothers and fathers to let them live; to walk with mothers and fathers, to work with renewed strength to build “a culture of life” and a “civilization of love.”  Together, let us give thanks to God as “we stand together” for the gift of human life!