I concelebrated a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Sept. 12. A huge statue of St. Dominic sits high on a wall overlooking the Altar of the Chair. A statue of a large dog sits at attention at the saint’s feet. The dog holds a large lit torch in its jaws. It is a pun on the Latin word for Dominicans, God’s dogs, guardians and illuminators of divine truth.
In the Scriptures and in the writings of the fathers of the Church, pastors are likened to dogs in this: one must bark loudly when danger and falsity approach. Otherwise, one is useless and even malicious.
Here in Respect Life Month, I affirm our knowledge that abortion on demand is an evil. It is a mistake to think that it’s evil simply because the Catholic Church says so — any more than robbery is evil because we teach it is. When someone has an abortion on demand or aids it willingly, not only is a human being killed, but the actors sin. If a person who professes to be Catholic does this sin, he knows now that it is a mortal sin.
Over the years I have believed in and taught the sanctity of life. I believe and know that there are audiences to reach long before pregnancy becomes real for any individual girl or woman. Over the past two years I have begun to bark about our young men who seem, from a public point of view, to have been excused from responsibility for chastity and for unborn human life.
I know also that we can do more to teach our boys and young men about good character, about respecting the gift and responsibility that our sexuality brings. Some people assert that the Church speaks too much about sex, but I agree with Father Ronald Rolheiser (The Holy Longing: the Search for a Christian Spirituality) that we do not speak enough about this powerful human reality. We wonder why our young men drop out, why they are a minority in colleges, or why they remain sexual adolescents far too long. We fail to offer them a mature set of expectations, fail to be good examples to them, or both.
Part of me knows that some think I am being awfully obvious for a bishop. I do this while expecting that the rest of us can be obvious life advocates among our children, our students and our young adults.