I have said it before and I say it again. There is one thing we all have in common, my brothers and sisters. Regardless of our race or place of natural origin; regardless of our religion or absence of it; regardless of our age or status or station in life: God gave us the gift of life which our mothers carried until the day of our birth. We were allowed to live!
Every human being who has ever walked the face of this earth shares that one thing in common. And from the moment of our conception until the day of our natural death, we celebrate with gratitude our God-given right to life. Nothing is more fundamental and more precious than that one basic human right.
We must remain conscious of and vigilant about this basic human right, we must remain committed to that basic human right in the face of those who seek to deny that basic human right to the most vulnerable in our society: the unborn child in the womb.
There are those – our fellow human beings who themselves possess and enjoy that basic human right thanks to the God who gave them life, thanks to their mothers who decided that they should have it – there are those, our fellow human beings who seek with everything in their power to deny that basic human right to life to children in the womb because the Supreme Court of the United States made it possible through their infamous decision “Roe v. Wade” 46 years ago, the beginning of a “national nightmare” that continues to this present day.
Nightmares, however – although terrifying – are not real. “Roe v. Wade” is very real. Since its pronouncement in 1973, over 53 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States – that is, over 53 million human lives! For our perspective, that number is larger than the population of any state in our country. “Roe v. Wade” was and ever remains a one of the darkest days in the history of our nation. And other nations were quick to follow.
Thomas Jefferson said it well: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government (“Address to the Republicans of Washington County, Maryland,” March 31, 1809).”
The basic human right to life is not simply a religious right as some often suggest, no. It is a basic human right without which no other human rights can be, no other human rights can exist, no other human rights can prevail no matter how clever or deceptive we may disguise our opposition.
We who are religious, however, we who are people of faith, who believe in God who created us, embrace that basic human right to life in the deepest parts of our very being first, as humans, and right behind that, as Catholics and people of faith.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis, as his predecessors before him, has spoken clearly:
Human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right is based on the recognition of the first, fundamental right, the right to life, which is not subject to any condition, of a qualitative, economic and certainly not of an ideological nature (Pope Francis, “Address to the Italian Movement for Life,” April 11, 2014).
It is “necessary,” he continued,
… to reaffirm our solid opposition to any direct offense against life, especially when innocent and defenseless, and the unborn child in its mother’s womb is the quintessence of innocence. Let us remember the words of Vatican Council II: “Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”
Less than a month ago, Christians everywhere celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, long anticipated in the writings of the prophets of old. We believe that Christ was/is the plan of God for us and so he entered and assumed our humanity! And he did so to save us from our sins, to save us from ourselves and the human judgments and decisions we make – human judgments and decisions against human life, human judgments and decisions against Christ, human judgments and decisions for death.
Jesus’ own words, “I have come that you may have life (John 10:10),” Jesus’ own reason for being, must become our own as his followers. They are the banner we carry as we March for Life; they are the banner we will lift high in this Diocese, in Washington, DC, and throughout the world this January.
“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:10).” We must continue to bring “life to light” in every choice we make, every decision we uphold, every right we claim and affirm as human beings not only on January 18 or January 22, but every day!
Light pierces darkness; death gives way to life. Christ’s light is love. And love saves lives.
There will always be those who mock or denigrate us; those who ridicule or seek to dismiss us as “culture warriors” though warriors against a culture we may be: a “culture of death;” those who try to shame us as “anti-woman” in the name of so-called “reproductive rights” or “rights over their own bodies.” Much more is at stake than their opposition.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I call upon all parishes and all the faithful to join thousands of our Catholic sisters and brothers throughout the country to pray for the respect of human life during the “9 Days for Life” sponsored again by the United States Conference of Bishops, January 14 through 22, 2019 (www.9daysforlife.com).
It is in Jesus’ name that we pray as we prepare to go on our March for Life, that we pray for the most vulnerable at the beginning of human life “unique from day one” and for the legal protection of the unborn. We cannot surrender to the “culture of death” in our nation, not for one day more.