Bishop’s October Reflection: Let Us Stand Up for the Life of Every Person

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by Bishop Michael G. Duca

When I was rector of Holy Trinity College Seminary in Dallas, I would regularly warn my staff that it was important that we stay sane and clear about the teachings of the Church – because if we are sane, then when someone in the seminary acts crazy, it will look crazy. BUT if the faculty is crazy, then crazy will look normal.

On September 12, 2016, a group who called themselves Catholics for Choice (CFC) put a full page color ad in many of the nation’s largest newspapers supporting the right of every woman to have an abortion funded, if needed, by the government as a part of essential healthcare. The ad placed in the Dallas Morning News pictured a young man with the caption:

“Denying someone abortion care, or any healthcare, simply because they cannot afford the procedure is an assault on their God-given dignity” Catholics for Choice.

Cardinal Tim Dolan, archbishop of New York and the Chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, responded:

“As the U.S. Catholic bishops have stated for many years, the use of the name ‘Catholic’ as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse.”  CFC is not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. It has no membership, and clearly does not speak for the faithful. It is funded by powerful private foundations to promote abortion as a method of population control.

The organization rejects and distorts Catholic social teaching – and actually attacks its foundation. As Pope Francis said this summer to leaders in Poland, “Life must always be welcomed and protected…from conception to natural death….”

The Catholic Church’s core belief in the sanctity of life is a central teaching on which all social teachings for the care of humanity are founded. It is a belief rooted in the fact that we are created in the very image and likeness of God, and that each life is sacred from the moment it begins in the mother’s womb. In all the discussions concerning abortion, the question has never been answered legally as to when life begins. Or maybe a more secular and legal way to state the question is, “When does the human life in the mother’s womb gain the full protection of the law as any other person alive?” 

The problem with this question is that it always begs another.  If someone says life begins at three months after conception, then why not three months less one day?  Why this day is it life, but not the day before? The answer is always an arbitrary choice unless you accept the TRUTH that human life is sacred from the first moments of life in the womb and abortion is morally wrong.  To keep abortion legal, you cannot answer the question as to when life begins, because to name a date is to limit choice.  In fact, the pro-choice movement MUST always respond to the question of when human life is to be valued with an arbitrary, relative and vague response.  So, as a result, we live in a schizophrenic world where if the mother wants the life in her womb it becomes a child who is loved, and if she does not, it is a fetus and not a human being worthy of value.

This arbitrary and relative way of thinking is a great danger to our society.  Life has always been one of the inalienable rights.  This means that our “right to life” is given to us by God, not created or given to us by the state.  The state, the government, is required to protect that right.  In Roe vs Wade the right to life became an arbitrary right depending on the choice of a society of those already alive over one not yet born – a decision of the powerful over the vulnerable, the haves over the have nots. And if life is arbitrary in one stage of life, then what is to keep our society from deciding a person’s right to life as they age or become sick, or for the powerful to make more decisions over the vulnerable.

Abortion is not healthcare. Healthcare seeks to restore the integrity of the human body to its natural order, whereas abortion is a fundamental disruption of the most natural and beautiful process of creating new life. Protecting abortion rights is not social justice, but in fact abortion strikes at the foundation of social justice in denying a person their very right to life, which is the beginning point of all social justice.

Cardinal Dolan sums up the issue in his statement beautifully.

“CFC’s extreme ads promote abortion as if it were a social good. But abortion kills the most defenseless among us, harms women, and tears at the heart of families. Pushing for public funding would force all taxpaying Americans to be complicit in the violence of abortion and an industry that puts profit above the well-being of women and children.

 Finally, the CFC pits the needs of pregnant women against those of their unborn children. This is a false choice. Catholics and all people of good will are called to love them both. Consider supporting local pregnancy help centers, which do incredible work caring for mothers and children alike in a manner consistent with true social justice and mercy.”

I sometimes feel like crazy is starting to look normal. Let’s not lose our way. In all ways let us stand for the life of every person already born and every child in the womb waiting to be born. Let us be instruments of God’s mercy and keep ourselves clear on the truth so that crazy will look crazy, so that life is valued as God intended.  •

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