January 23, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

Pray for an end to the unspeakable crime of abortion

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinIn his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis writes, “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us.” He laments that “nowadays efforts are made to deny the unborn their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. 

“Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative,” the pope says. “Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.

“It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development,” the Holy Father said. “Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be” (#213).

We know that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful. A woman who takes this desperate action is often under great duress, and is encouraged by social structures that are patently sinful.

As Pope Francis says, it is important to do more to “accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty” (#214).

But the pope also makes it clear: “The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question.” And he adds, “I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations’ ” (#214).

As important as it is to always be merciful, compassionate and sensitive to the suffering of the individuals involved, we can never justify the deliberate killing of an unborn child no matter what the extenuating circumstances.

As St. John Paul II writes in his encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), “Abortion is the deliberate and direct killing of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence. The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize we are dealing with murder, and in particular when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor. He or she is weak, defenseless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defense consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb” (#58).

As individuals and as a society, our solemn obligation is to defend the innocent and helpless unborn child.

Sacred Scripture repeatedly affirms the value of human life, reminding us that “from their mother’s womb” all human beings belong to God, who searches and knows them and who forms them and knits them together with his own hands (Ps 139).

The deliberate killing of an innocent human being in his or her mother’s womb is never permitted. “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (“Evangelium Vitae,” #62).

“Given such a grave situation,” St. John Paul II writes, “we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception” (“Evangelium Vitae,” #58).

We must speak about this unspeakable crime. And we must use plain language—sensitively and compassionately, but without compromising the fundamental truth that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to the experience of natural death.

As we observe sadly yet another anniversary of the terrible anti-life decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, let’s join Pope Francis, the entire Catholic community, and people of good will everywhere in praying, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, for an end the unspeakable crime of abortion—now and always. †

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