Archbishop Alexander Sample told a conference of pro-life advocates today that their cause has gained momentum because of the objective truths of science and technology. But, the archbishop said, objective moral truth must be embraced, too, lest the world swing from one damaging cultural fad to another.
"The grave problem in our society and modern culture today is the lack of recognition of a moral law which transcends the human person," Archbishop Sample told hundreds of pro-lifers gathered in Portland from all over the state.
The day-long conference, organized by Oregon Right to Life, included talks covering the links between Planned Parenthood and the Girl Scouts and discussion of pro-choice influence in public schools. Other speakers examined Obamacare, advance health care directives, the stem cell debate and the great potential of adoption. Continued opposition to assisted suicide was also on the agenda. But abortion, which has ended the lives of 55 million unborn children in the U.S. since 1973, was the main issue.
In his mid-day address, Archbishop Sample pointed to genetic advances showing that at conception each human being is already utterly unique and complex. He lauded ultrasound imaging, which shows the "fragility and beauty of life in its most nascent form."
But moral natural law is just as objectively true as any physical law, and the truth is independent of whether a certain individual recognizes it, he said.
Some people say there is no objective moral law, but logic and experience tells us otherwise, the archbishop explained. He urged listeners to "use the light of human reason to discover."
The decline of reason and recognition of moral truth has brought society to the point at which there is not even agreement on the essential nature of the human person, the archbishop warned.
Many young people attended the conference, including a contingent from Marist High School in Eugene called Marist for Life. Some 20-somethings wore shirts that said, "I survived Roe v Wade."
Molly Reed, a 25-year-old special education teacher in Eugene came to today's conference to help hone her skills of persuasion in a city where she feels like an anomaly.
"I wanted to get more empowered, to get more tools," Reed says. "I want to be able to defend this position better and better serve."
London Henry, also in her 20s, attended and is trying to find supporters to print her two pro-life novels, which are now e-books. Henry intentionally seeks out pro-choice people from her generation to have conversations. She thinks 20-somethings, religious or not, have the potential to be more pro-life because they accept the science about when an unique life begins.
Kassi Sedgwick, a young mother of seven from Newport, wants to pass on pro-life teachings to her children, two of whom attended.
"In a narcissistic world, I feel they need to have tools to combat what their peers are saying," explained Sedgwick, a member of St. Mary Church in Siletz.
Father Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life, told listeners they need not be ashamed about focusing on abortion as their cause.
"When we defend the right to life we are defending the rights of the creator," Father Pavone said. "We never have to apologize for focusing on one issue."
He told pro-lifers they will meet opposition at all times, even from within their churches. He did offer tips for making parishes more pro-life.
"The first thing the church needs to do is stop the killing in its own ranks," Father Pavone told the crowd that filled two ballrooms. "Many people in the congregation are pregnant and don't know what to do. Many have children or grandchildren who are pregnant and don't know what to do."
He said Catholics should help their parishes announce the alternatives to abortion by putting pregnancy resource center announcements and phone numbers in the bulletin, on the parish website and even on signs in front of the church. Catholics should know addresses and phone numbers of the centers by heart to give to pregnant women in need. Some may even want to give such women a ride to the centers.
He urged pro-lifers to build up relationships between their priests and the centers.
To priests who hesitate, Father Pavone said the pro-life issue needs to be more truly framed as an issue of healing and help, not a political debate.
"We are not taking away people's rights; we are trying to take away their despair," he said, citing abortion healing ministries like Rachel's Vineyard and the website abortionhealing.com.
He told pro-lifers that if a pastor lacks courage to take on the pro-life cause, then "maybe God sent you as a prophetic witness to him."