As I prayed a Rosary on the sidewalk that frigid morning in downtown Louisville, I saw something that will be forever burned into my mind. A young girl, 12 or 13 years old and who looked a lot like one of my sisters, was being escorted by 3 men down the street. One was her father, the other 2 men may have been brothers, I couldn’t tell. The girl had tears in her eyes. One of the women praying next to me called out to the girl “you don’t have to do this.” And the little girl looked at us, started crying, and screamed, “I don’t want to do this.” She probably thought of running, but knew it was useless and the wall of men continued to funnel her forward, past the policeman, and into the abortion facility.
The prophet Isaiah tells us today that “The Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb” How does our mind not go toward abortion?
Abortion. No word in the history of words is more charged and carries more emotion. In college, I took a speech class. One day we were told we had to give a persuasive speech on any topic under the sun…except abortion. The professor had allowed the topic the year before and a fight broke out in class.
The word divides families, it divides friendships, it divided a supreme court right down the middle, it divides nations,…and it divides Churches- and it divides our Church as well.
So why talk about it? Why in Church? If it divides us, why not ignore it? Hope it will go away? There are reasons to confront it – in a good and healthy relationship there is no fear about clarifying key issues. The second reason to talk about it is to think about what we can do about abortion, and another reason is to take an opportunity to say to the people in our community that have been involved in an abortion, as a mother, father, doctor, or friend, to say to them – “The Church doesn’t judge you!” It works tirelessly to destroy the evil of abortion in our country PRECISELY because the Church is also there along side you, the victims of abortion. It is often assumed that the Church’s outspokenness on the issue of abortion comes from some lofty philosophical realm, that the Church’s teaching is made by old men who don’t know what it is like to live in the real world. In reality, though, the Church is the number one entity working with women before and after abortions. I worked for a year at a crisis pregnancy center in Louisville that counseled women and provided women with formula, heating payments, diapers, cribs, clothing, and support. It is the millions of people that work and volunteer at these places, the millions who pray outside abortion facilities, the millions of Catholic doctors around the world, the nurses, the nuns who work with the poor daily, these people compile the evidence that gives flesh to the Church’s teaching. We know that women and men everywhere are hurting because of this devastating plague, and the Church wants to help!
One third of all abortions are obtained by Catholics, and Catholics abort at essentially the same rate as the rest of society. One of the myths about abortion is that it is mainly utilized by the poor, when, in actuality the statistics don’t bare that out at all. From my Saturday mornings in Louisville I can tell you that the majority of women walking into that abortion facility were not poor folks. There were young women from nearby Louisville University, there were affluent and middle class women as well. It affects all of us.
Abortion has been shown to have a devastating effect on many men as well. I worked last year with a young man at Ritter who was absolutely destroyed by the fact that his girlfriend had aborted their child. Men and women affected by abortion – the Church stands up and says that while it will continue to fight the sin – it wants nothing but reconciliation and peace for you. The Church knows your hurt and through the sacrament of reconciliation, the Church wants to ease your pain.
Because of this, everyone agrees on one thing – abortion is a terrible evil in our midst. 52 million dead since Roe v. Wade is an incomprehensible number. The tragedy of Tuscon has rocked our nation this week, and rightly so, but it is important to realize that since I began this homily, the Tuscon tragedy has already repeated itself twice, because an abortion happens in the U.S. every 24 seconds.
Everyone wants to reduce abortions, the rub is the how. Some say that we can’t make it illegal, but if we work for greater access to contraception then the abortion numbers will go down. However, a statistic was just released by Planned Parenthood this week (the largest provider of abortions in our country, so no bias here) that 54% of women getting an abortion report using contraception in the month leading up to conception of their child that was aborted. 54%!!! Contraception doesn’t reduce abortions, it increases them.
The Church, contrary to saying let us throw contraceptives at the issue, has put forth a different message. If a child’s right to be born is not recognized by law, the Church says that to speak of any other right, the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, etc. is a farce. The Church’s Social Teaching is very clear on something – THE fundamental right is the right to be born.
Some here bemoan the political ramifications of this discussion and say that the Church is getting to political and they bemoan the fact that abortion has been made a political issue. But of course it is a political issue – any important issue in the history of humanity has been politicized, that doesn’t mean we ignore it. Does the fact that people on both sides of the debate have sought to use it to gain power mean that the Church should go silent on the issue? Of course not. Do people fault Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for preaching about the sin of discrimination and racism when it became a political issue? Of course not! Furthermore, as Pope Benedict has said, what good is a religion if it DOESN’T speak on the difficult topics?
I will always remember in 1994 when Mother Theresa was invited to give the address at the National Prayer Breakfast. She was this iconic figure who, for various reasons, all of America thought of as holy. And she stood up and said the following in her speech: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.” She went on to say contraception is not the answer, we must be a culture of life. Here was the woman who worked with the poorest of the poor, her sisters and her worked in areas torn by war, famine, AIDS, disease, and starvation, but what does she say is our biggest issue – legal abortion. We celebrate Mother Theresa’s every word, but those words were swept away so that the Church’s teaching could continue to be portrayed as coming from out of touch men completely devoid of any pastoral experience, as the caricature goes.
This week begins Respect Life Month in our Church, the highlight of which is next Monday’s March For Life which commemorates the Supreme Courts decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Interestingly enough, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of the landmark case entered the Catholic Church and has become an outspoken opponent of abortion in our country.
At the March For Life you will see that the SIDE OF TRUTH is winning. 250,000 youth pour in to the annual event, sleep on gym floors, eat less than stellar meals, wait in long lines, and stand out in the cold, and yet there is an electricity in the air everywhere you go. A priest friend of mine is coming from Tulsa OK, driving 25 hours on a bus, and yet when he posted the sign up sheet he had 150 students signed up. Young people from all over the Archdiocese and all over the nation descend upon our capital and bring enthusiasm and hope and a positive spirit. If abortion proponents had a rally, I wonder how many youth would show up?
We are winning. The Church’s message is slowly getting out. Women who once felt condemned for a past abortion are seeking healing in record numbers. The Rachel’s Vineyard retreats for mothers of aborted children offered in our Archdiocese several times a year are packed. The youth of this country and this Church are standing up and saying enough – the age of destroying our future is over, but the work continues.
What can we do? The Church asks us to do several things – first of all to reach out to those considering having abortions and get them help and counseling. Archbishop Dolan of New York, in wake of learning that 41% of the pregnancies in his Archdiocese end in abortion, offered to take any unwanted child. We can also encourage women to instead consider adoption as an amazing opportunity.
We can fast and pray. The Old Testament is very clear that fasting and prayer on the part of entire nations brings healing to those nations. Our Blessed Mother is a great spiritual ally as well in this battle to drive evil from our land. Is Christ asking you to keep a vigil outside an abortion facility nearby once a week or once a month? Have you thought of attending the Mass for Life at our Cathedral next Monday at Noon. There is also a prayer vigil following Mass as well. Our Knights are heavily involved in pro life ministries continually and our pro life committee here at Malachy is very active. There are opportunities if you are looking for them!
Isaiah says in todays reading that the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb. May all the children the Lord continues to form in the womb be given the opportunity to be His servants.