Last night at Hyatt West Shore hotel, a tremendous group of more than 450 women and men came to a “gala” dinner sponsored by and for the Diocesan Foundations for Life. MC’d superbly by Gus Lloyd, for many years the voice of morning drive time on Spirit FM- 90.5 and now serving in the same time slot on the Catholic Channel, an offering of Sirius-XM Satellite radio. We heard two talks of women who had recently given birth to two beautiful children rather than abort them precisely because they found their way to our diocesan women’s centers and there found mentors, assistance, love and support to bring their children to term. I was asked to give the keynote address but I might as well have just been a part of the audience for my remarks paled in comparison to the brief witness these two heroic mothers gave. It made all of us proud to be Catholic, proud to be pro-life and proud to support this important outreach of our local Church. All in attendance were asked make an on-the-spot donation to keep these centers running and give them the tools they need to help pregnant mothers in distress bring their children to term and to life. I know I was an easy hit and looking at my own and surrounding tables, despite the economy, people were filling out their gift cards, young and old alike. I will share with you my remarks for the occasion, but there were no scripts for the two mothers’ talks, just an outpouring of gratitude from the hearts of two who chose life.
As most of you are aware, we gather this evening on the first day of our annual Respect Life Month, several days into our now annual “Forty Days for Life” witnessing and on the first day of the second month in the year devoted to our Blessed Mother, protectress of all human life, under the title, “Our Lady of the Rosary”. You and I are here tonight because we share a special passion, a passion for all of human life from its earliest moment at conception till and through natural death.
I clearly recall and remember in great detail major moments in seven decades of life. I still remember where I was and what I immediately did when I heard of the shooting in President Kennedy. Closer to this moment, I remember those horrible hours slightly more than ten years ago when the attack on the World Trade Center occurred. I remember well the night the first President Bush announced our military engagement with the Iraqies to regain the independence of Kuwait. And I also remember that day soon to be thirty-eight years ago when our Supreme Court said that they had found a right previous apparently hidden in the constitution of our nation which legally ushered in the era of abortion-on-request.
I was a layman working for the United States Catholic Conference and I ran into a colleague and friend, the late Bishop James McHugh who headed the Pro-Life Office of the Conference who asked me with a long and sad face, “did you hear what the Supreme Court did to human life this morning?” Having just previously worked on an initiative by the bishops of the United States to secure tuition tax credits for children in non-public schools, similarly struck down by the court on a case arising from Pennsylvania, I understood perhaps better than others in the building that day the depth and disaster of Roe.
But I also with to admit publicly to having been wrong about something that day! I was convinced then that the matter likely was settled and America would soon get used to living with Roe like it had every other decision of the Supremes save Dred Scott. I was mistakenly certain then that the “educative force of law” would slowly but certainly override the consciences and concerns of pro-life people and America would slowly but surely learn to live with Roe.
The very fact that more than four hundred and fifty of you have gathered here this evening in defense of human life gives the lie to my mistaken thoughts on that occasion some thirty-eight years ago. This is one law with which a large segment of U.S. society remains uncomfortable and determined to reverse.
In the early years it was lonely out there. But over the decades this cause which we espouse and believe in so clearly has gained support from people of other faith groups: evangelicals, Southern Baptists, Mormans to name a few. What was first a response has given birth to a movement. And the mantra which Nancy Reagan gave to the use of illicit drugs has become the motto of our belief – as long as we live we will “JUST SAY NO” to anything which challenges the sanctity of life.
But the voices of those who do not concur with our respect for life also have minds and voices. They are losing the battle and they know it but we remain far from winning the day even though we are making progress. Ultimate success depends on two realities or so I believe:
1. Changing the political climate, and
2. Witnessing to the pro-life commitment
First, political change, is in many ways the toughest challenge. How often have we been disappointed with or disillusioned by candidate for public office who promised their support of our efforts for life? Those elected who promise help sometimes though not always disappoint. They measure their support by testing the winds of votes to be won or lost – not doing what they know in their heart is the right thing to do.
But we can never give up on the political process as it is one of the two paths to pro-life success. Involving ourselves as individuals in elections, debates, op-eds, can gain as we have seen recently the attention of the elected. Logic always trumps hysteria and courtesy accompanies rhetorical compromise. There is a great debate coming next year which will define the stance of the public square on the life issues until almost the next decade. Observe, judge, and then act pro-life. Pope Benedict XVI as Blessed John Paul II before him has reminded you that as lay women and men, you have the special task of carrying this message to and throughout the body politic.
The second catalyst to our ultimate success is in large part why we are here tonight and I know I am tonight surrounded by dedicated pro-life people and perhaps preaching to the proverbial “choir”. What we do for and with women who are experiencing unexpected and challenging pregnancies is the best witness to our commitment to the pro-life cause. Pro-abortionists claim that we are only interested in pre-born life, saving the baby. Well serving in our diocesan and affiliated pregnancy centers, advertising the outreach to pregnant women of our diocesan Catholic Charities, and bringing clothes for newborns and other things to those places offering shelter and hope to women who might more easily and quickly have chosen to terminate their pregnancy is awesome witness to the contrary.
Prayer is important. I sometimes pray the rosary when I am alone in my car and one decade is always for those women facing that critical decision between the life or death of the pre-born. I have even trained the woman on my GPS who tells me what an idiot I am when I make the wrong turn to say the second half of the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary, mother of God.” Even she is “recalculating.”
Women who choose to bring their children to term often need post-birth assistance in caring for their newborn. Got an old car that will bring nothing on the resell market but still has some life left in it – women who give birth out-of-wedlock often need transportation to work and that old car can still make a huge difference, for example.
Share the story of tonight, four hundred and fifty-nine women and men came together to support one of the best kept secrets of our local Church “Catholic Charities Foundations of Life Pregnancy Centers.” Make us the first responder to a desperate woman who thinks there is no where else to turn but to those terribly misnamed “Women’s Clinics.”
We are not callous. We are not contentious. We are for human life and while the political and legal system works more to protect human life, we support it through our witness, through our gifts, through our time, and through our talent. We are people of conscience and we will not allow the government through legislation or regulation to deprive us of our freedom of conscience.
At the core of our conscience is human life, a gift from God, who alone has the first and last word on when it begins and ends. I love and thank you all for your glorious witness to the sanctity of life.